Downloading Explained

   We were all new users at one time or another. Many users I talk to have asked to have downloading explained. I shall try to answer a few of the questions about downloading here.

   Have you ever been to or and others and seen some of the neat programs, games, or other great stuff available but not known quite how to successfully use downloading to get these programs? Or would you like to get a new update to one of your software packages like the Microsoft Office 97 service pack or download music or get the latest list of viruses for your virus scanner? Here is how.

First we need to understand how a program or update package is stored on an Internet server. The person or company who wrote the program probably used a version of PKZIP to prepare the package. PKZIP is a program that compresses one or more modules of data to a single file. The file name ends with “.zip” or “.exe”. They then upload the single file to a server with file transfer capability (FTP). You can then download this file to your PC for your personal use.  BUT HOW...

   We need to understand and do a couple of things next. Let’s create two new directories (called Folders in Windows) on your hard disk. We will call the first “download” and the second “work”. If you use Windows 95 open “my computer to the C: drive”. Select “file then new then folder” and name the first directory “download”. Repeat the process for “work”. Now we have one location to download into and second location into which we may extract (or unzip) the program's modules.

   Most downloadable files come in one of three forms: zipped (.zip), self-extracting zipped (.exe), or self-installing zipped (.exe). A .zip file must be manually extracted (unzipped) by the user. A good program for this is “WINZIP95“ available at Click on “download evaluation version.” This program is of the type “self installing”. What this means is that, after you download the file to your “download” directory, and you execute it by double clicking on the icon, it will automatically install the WINZIP utility program. When the installation is done, you are ready for about 95% (or more) of all files available for downloading.

Let’s say you just found what looks like a great little program called at and you would like to get it and try it out. If you click on the file on a Web page like, you will probably be presented with some locations from where it may be downloaded. Choose the closest one to you or, if you are not sure, guess. There probably won't be any problem. 

   After a while you will begin to have some preferences for sites to download from, but for now just choose a site that has the program you want. Click on your choice. Next you will probably be given a choice of where to save it on your PC. Choose the “download” directory. Select OK and you will see the download begin. After the download is complete, the file should be in your “download” directory. 

   If the file was a .zip file, double clicking on the file will start WINZIP. WINZIP will give you a list of the modules included in the file. One will likely be named README.TXT or something similar. One useful thing about WINZIP is that you don't need to break apart the .zip file to look in the text files that you download. You may click on the TXT files review any notes and instructions. If you decide you don't need the program, just exit WINZIP and delete the .zip program from the “download” directory. If you decide you want to uncompress the download, select the WINZIP button called “extract.” 

   You will be given a choice of where to extract the modules. Select your “work” subdirectory. Select the “all files” button and click start. The .zip file will be uncompressed and broken apart into the “work” directory. Then you simply follow the installation instructions that you learned about from the README files.

If the file is of the “self-extracting” type, it should be downloaded into the “work” directory or moved there from the “download” directory. When it is opened, a “self-extracting” (.exe) file will automatically extract (break apart) in the same directory where it resides. WINZIP is not needed, but the file must be where you want your unzipped program files to reside (probably the "work" directory). After automatically extracting, you may read the README type files for installation instructions.

   A “self-executing” (.exe) file may be executed from whatever folder you download it to. Double clicking on the file will automatically begin the installation process. Any instructions will be part of the process. Easy! WINZIP is a good example. So is the Netscape Navigator browser and e-mail package, although it is much larger than WINZIP.

After extracting the program's modules the original .zip or .exe file will still be there. If you like the program and want to save it, you should MOVE it to a more permanent directory such as “My Downloads” or “shareware” that you setup up. Make the directory the same as above for “download” and “work”. 

   Work with “download” and “work” as temporary storage areas. Clean them out frequently. They tend to get cluttered up and confusing. “Work” should only have ONE set of program modules in it at any time. Not only can you become confused if there is more than one download there, but also the new program may get confused and cause problems in the installation.

   One final note...keep track of which programs you download and where they all are. Delete the ones that don't pan out by uninstalling them per their instructions. Also delete the originals from your drive. In the last few years, hard drives have become MUCH larger and faster. As with most things, there is usually a downside to any improvement.  It's great to have loads of room. But this leads to clutter and confusion since most of us tend to be less careful about saving space! Also keeping your recycle bin cleared of old files will save space. By the way, this is also true for your “trash” E-mail folder. Get rid of the old junk and spam messages.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion regarding downloading for our newer users. As always, don't hesitate to ask for help. 

For some great downloads, try entering “top ten downloads” (without the quote marks) in the search engine at or just click these links: ZDNet or Top Ten List Search.

Have fun,

Chris Mayer


  This PC information provided for you by:
  C&C Computers  Chris Mayer (Owner)
  Edited and updated by Thomas F. Eason