How to download an app, file, or program from the Internet

Updated: 04/01/2018 by Computer Hope

DownloadThe following article contains information on how to download a multitude of files from the Internet including audio clips, documents, PDF files, programs, pictures, and many more. The directions in the following sections work in all modern browsers.

What is a download?

To download is to receive data from the Internet that is to be opened and stored. Downloading should not be confused with copying or saving, which are used to handle files that are not on the Internet (e.g., copying files to another drive). And finally, a download is also not the same as an upload, which is sending a file from a computer an online storage medium.

Warning: Files on the Internet may contain viruses or malware. The best way to protect your computer is to ensure that you have an anti-virus and anti-malware program installed and that it is up to date.

How to download using different browsers

  1. To initiate a download from a website, you must first click on a download link. A link is usually denoted by different-colored text with an underline, but it may also be an icon or button. If you want to download an audio file, picture, or other media that does not have a link, skip to our download examples for further help.
  2. After clicking a link to a file, the browser should either start the download or ask what you'd like to do with the file depending on the which one you're using. Below is additional information how each modern browser handles downloads. Once you've opened your download with the appropriate program, you may save it.

ChromeGoogle Chrome

  1. After the download has completed, a prompt will appear in the lower left-hand corner of the browser window.

The prompt that lets you know a download has completed in Google Chrome.

  1. Double-click the download to open it.

FirefoxMozilla Firefox

  1. After the download has completed, a prompt will appear in the center of the browser window; click Save File.

The prompt that asks users if they'd like to save a download.

  1. Once the download has been saved, it may be accessed through the Downloads section of the Library folder by pressing Ctrl+J.

A list of recent downloads in Firefox.

  1. Double-click the download to open it.

Internet ExploreInternet Explorer

  1. After the download has completed, a prompt will appear at the bottom of the browser window in the middle. Choose Run or Save to open the downloaded media.

The prompt in which users choose to save or run a download in Internet Explorer.

  1. Press Ctrl+J to view your downloads.

The run button on a download in Internet Explorer.

  1. Click Run to open any of them.

EdgeMicrosoft Edge

  1. After the download has completed, a prompt will appear at the bottom of the browser window in the middle. Choose Open or Save to open the downloaded media.

The prompt to run or save a download in Microsoft Edge.

  1. Press Ctrl+J to view your downloads folder.

The Downloads folder in Microsoft Edge.

  1. Double-click the download to open it.

OperaOpera

  1. Upon clicking the attachment, you'll be prompted to choose a location in which the download should be saved. When you've decided, click Save.

Selecting where to save a download in Opera.

  1. When the download completes, press Ctrl+J to open the Downloads folder.
  2. In the window that appears, locate your download and click the Run button to open it.

How to run a recent download in Opera.

Examples of popular download types

Apps or programs

One of the most popular types of downloads is downloading an app or program that can be installed on your computer. For PC users these files are .exe files, on Apple computers they are either .dmg and .app files.

Note: Many programs may also be included in a compressed file. If the download file or link ends with a .arj, .zip, .tar, or .tgz see the next section for steps on how to download and extract compressed files.

Below is an example test executable file to run on your computer. This executable file will display the message "Congratulations you've successfully downloaded an executable program file from the Computer Hope Website."

Download download-example.exe

Hardware drivers

Today, most drivers are either included in a compressed file or are contained within a self-extracting executable file. Below is an example of a text executable file to run on your computer as well as a compressed file containing the download example file.

Tip: If you're having trouble figuring out how to install the drivers you have downloaded, look for a readme file that has this information. For additional help, use the link below on how to install drivers on a computer.

Compressed files (e.g., .zip and .rar)

Compression techniques are used to reduce file size or package several files together. Typically, compressed files end with .arj, .zip, or .tgz. After they've been downloaded, these files must be decompressed before they can be run.

Below is an example compressed file called example.zip. Once this file is downloaded, you'll need to decompress the file that contains a readme.txt and a download-example.exe file.

Download example.zip

Audio files

Downloading an audio file (e.g., an MP3) from a link is just like downloading any other basic file from the Internet. For sites that utilize streaming audio or have the audio embedded into a web page, different downloading techniques must be used, some of which are detailed on the page linked below.

Movie files

Downloading a movie file (e.g., an MP4) from a link is similar to all other file downloads. However, you can also right-click on the link and choose Save link as, Save target as, or the Save linked content as. If the movie is embedded in the web page with an arrow pointing down next to the audio controls, you can use that link to download the movie. Other streaming movie services that do not have a download link may require additional software to capture the video; the link below has further instructions.

Below is an example link to an MP4 video file. To download it, right-click the file and select Save link as, Save target as, or the Save linked content as.

Download the computer-hope.mp4

YouTube videos

Steps on how to download a YouTube Video or its audio can be found on the pages linked below.

Pictures or images

Computer Hope LogoAny picture or image on the Internet can be saved to your computer (downloaded). As an example, the following steps will show you how to download the Computer Hope logo that you see to the right.

  1. Right-click on the image.
  2. From the drop-down menu that appears, select Save image as... or Save Picture as.
  3. Choose the location in which you want to save the image.

Tip: Once an image has been saved, you may open it with an image editor or another program that supports the image's file format.

Tip: You can also choose to copy the image in the image and then paste it into any document or graphics program.

PDF files

A PDF file can be downloaded like most programs. Upon selecting a download link to a PDF file, most browsers open the contents in the browser window rather than downloading them. Below are the steps on how to download a PDF to your computer instead of only viewing it.

  1. Right-click on any link that opens a PDF.
  2. Click the Save link as, Save target as, or the Save linked content as option.
  3. Choose where you want to save the PDF file.

You can follow the steps above with the link below to download our example of a PDF.

Download example.pdf

Word processor documents

Example docA document, such as those found in Microsoft Word, can also be downloaded by clicking any link pointing to it. To see the process in action, click the image to the right and our example.doc file will be downloaded to your computer.

Tip: If your browser is trying to open the document or the link isn't working, you can also right-click on the link and choose the Save link as, Save target as, or the Save linked content as option.

Spreadsheet or CSV files

A spreadsheet can be downloaded by clicking any link pointing to the spreadsheet file (.xls, xlsx). To see the process in action, click the link below and our example.xls file will be downloaded to your computer.

Download example.xls

Tip: If your browser is trying to open the document or the link isn't working, you can also right-click on the link and choose the Save link as, Save target as, or the Save linked content as option.

Note: Many websites that grab information from a database do not save the data as a .xls, .xlsx, or another spreadsheet file format. Instead, the files are saved as a comma separated value (CSV) file. These files can also be downloaded in the same way and then imported into a spreadsheet program like Excel or Google Sheets.

Text files

By default, any link that points to a text file is opened in the browser. To save a text file to your computer for later use to change in a text editor, right-click on the link and choose the Save link as, Save target as, or the Save linked content as option. You can try this now by clicking the link below to download a readme.txt file.

Download the readme.txt file