Difference Downloading, Uploading and Installing?

Difference Downloading, Uploading and Installing?


I have customers tell me they downloaded a program when they mean they installed a program.  Some also say they are trying to install a program when they mean they are trying to download a program. It can be confusing. So….

Q: What is the difference between Downloading, Uploading and Installing?
A: Downloading – This is moving a file that’s on the Internet on some web site (or over a network), onto your computer. For most of us, downloading is just a matter of clicking a download link on a web site and saving the file to disk. But sometimes it not that easy. You start to download the file but then don’t know what to do or don’t know where it is when it has downloaded.

I have customers who have downloaded the same file 4-5 times because they didn’t know where the file was saved to.

It is usually saved automatically to a folder on your computer called ‘Downloads’ by your web browser. [Internet Explorer, Firefox or Google Chrome etc]

But where is the download folder?

In Windows 7 click on the start button/orb –


To find a file you have downloaded

  1. Open your personal folder by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking your user name at the top of the Start menu’s right pane.
  2. Double-click the following folder

    • Downloads

    • In Windows 8.1 right click Start Button and select File Explorer, left click on Downloads in left hand column towards the top.
    • You can also make a shortcut to the desktop so you can open it quickly.

When downloading documents or program files from the Internet, your browser will ask if you want to run or save the file. Which option should you choose and what is the difference?


File Download dialog box

    • Run/Open – If you choose to run the file (for some file types your choice will be “open” instead of run), the file is saved to a temporary folder on your computer and it will run [begin to install], or open [begin to install], automatically.
    • Save – If you choose to save the file, you will have the option of deciding where the file is saved on your computer or it may automatically download it to your ‘Downloads’ folder.
      You might use run when you want to download something that you will only use one time. Say minutes of a meeting that you have received as a PDF or a bill or a Word document attachment. You only want to read them and don’t have a need to save them on your computer. You might use Save if you want to be able to refer to them to read over and over.

You have more control over the file by choosing the save option. Besides having the option to install the program or open the file when you want to, you give your anti- virus program a chance to scan the file and check if it’s clean and safe. Some files which could actually be viruses or malicious software can stop your anti-virus from working if you select run instead of save.

Also if you save it and you need to install it again or it’s a program you think a friend might like etc, you don’t have to try and remember what site you got the file from.

In general though, you shouldn’t accept or download files or programs from sources that you don’t trust. And even if you think you know the source of the file (for example, you may have received a link from a buddy in an email or someone on Facebook), it can still be a disguised attempt to infect your computer with a virus. So choosing to save the file, rather than running or opening it directly, provides an extra layer of security.

Uploading – This is the opposite of downloading. With uploading, you take a file from your computer and send it to a server/computer on the internet or to another computer across a network. Usually this happens when you send an email or you send an error report to Microsoft for example or maybe you upload some pictures to facebook.

Installing – This is often confused with downloading, but it’s a different animal. When you install something, you are putting all the files of that program onto your computer so you can use it. Normally this is done via a setup program or “wizard” to make installation easy. Once you’re finished installing a program, you can usually find it from your Start Menu, Programs or from a shortcut on the desktop.