How to install software

Updated: 07/13/2023 by Computer Hope
Microsoft Excel

The installation process for software or apps depends on your operating system (Windows and macOS), device (computer, smartphone, or tablet), and the program you are installing. As a result of these many combinations, we have created the steps below as a general guideline. The following does not cover errors during the installation process, as they are too vast for one page. Search our site for further information on specific errors during the setup.

General tips

  • Ensure your computer meets the system requirements of the program, game, or utility you are attempting to install.
  • The manual, or a readme file, usually contains instructions on how to install a program. Find it online at the software website or in a text file in the same directory as the installation files.
  • If you have problems installing software or it takes a long time, close or disable any other running programs.
  • After installing a new program, if it prompts you to reboot the computer, do so.
  • Many computer games are downloaded and managed through digital distribution platforms like Steam.

Microsoft Windows users

How to install from a CD or DVD

Many software titles (like the Microsoft Office suite), games, and utilities have an AutoPlay feature. This feature automatically starts a setup screen for the software when the CD (compact disc) or DVD (digital versatile disc) is inserted. If your program contains this feature, follow the steps that appear after inserting the disc into the computer.

If AutoPlay is disabled on your computer or unavailable on the software disc, follow these steps.

  1. Open My Computer.
  2. In the My Computer window, open the drive containing the installation files. For example, if the files are on the CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory) drive, open the D: drive or letter of your CD-ROM drive.
  3. In the drive containing your files, locate either the executable setup (e.g., "setup.exe") or the install file. Double-clicking this file starts the installation process. If there are multiple setup or install files, locate the executable file or double-click each setup or install file until you find the file that starts the installation.

Often, the icons associated with the installation files have the same name.

Install a CD on a computer with no disc drive

Many new computers no longer have disc drives. If your computer does not have a disc drive, try finding the software online. Computer drivers, software for hardware devices, games, and other programs are available for download and installed from a download. It doesn't matter where you get the program if you have the product key.

If the program is unavailable for download, copy all the CD or DVD contents to another drive on another computer. For example, you could copy the disc's contents to a USB flash drive and then install the program from the USB flash drive.

How to install from a Download


If you need help with downloading a program, see: How to download an app, file, or program from the Internet.

  1. Download the program from the website providing the program.
  2. Open the download folder.
  1. If the file you downloaded is executable, double-click the file icon to start the setup process. If the downloaded file is compressed (e.g., .zip), you must extract the file's contents before setup can begin. Fortunately, this function is built into most versions of Windows.
  1. Once the files are extracted, double-click the setup or install file to install the program.

How to install from a distribution platform

  1. Download and install the distribution platform required for the game. If you're unsure which distribution platform is required, Steam is a good starting point.
  2. Once installed, search the store for the game you want to install.
  3. If the game is not free, it must be purchased.
  4. Choose the option to install the game.

Once a game has been installed to your digital distribution platform account, it remains part of that account. If you need to recover disk space, any game and installed can be uninstalled and reinstalled as often as you desire.

How to install from a USB flash drive

  1. Open Windows Explorer or My Computer and find the USB drive that is often the last drive letter.
  2. Once the drive is opened, find the setup or executable file, and double-click the file icon to start the setup process.

Installing from MS-DOS or the Windows command line

Users installing a program from Microsoft DOS should have a basic understanding of the MS-DOS commands. If you're unfamiliar with any of the commands listed below, click the link to get additional information on that specific command.

  1. Before installing an MS-DOS program, you must switch to the drive or directory containing the installation files. If you're installing a program from a CD or diskette, switch to that drive. If the installation files are located in a different directory, use the dir command to list directories and the cd command to switch directories.
  1. Once you are in the directory or drive containing the installation files, run the executable setup file. Often this can be done by typing setup or install at the prompt to start the installation. If both commands give a bad command or file name error message, type dir *.exe or dir *.com or dir *.bat. These commands list any executable files found in the directory or drive. If any files are listed, execute these files to run the installation or setup of the program. If no files are listed when typing all three commands above, you're in the incorrect directory or drive letter for that program.

How to install on a Mac

Modern Apple computers, like the iMac and MacBook, don't have CD-ROM or DVD drives. Consequently, the following section shows you how to install it from a download.

How to install from a download

  1. Click the Finder icon on the Dock at the bottom of the screen.

Finder icon in the dock

  1. On the left side of the window that appears, under the Favorites section, click the Downloads selector in macOS. selector.
  2. Locate the program you'd like to install and double-click it.

Downloads on a Mac

  1. Follow the guided instructions to install the program.
  2. Once the program is installed, drag it to the Applications folder and delete the installation file (in this case,

Moving a program to the Applications folder.

  1. Click the Applications selector selector to see the program you installed.

Applications in macOS