Getting the lowdown on downloading

FI-Log-On-With-Larry-SchneiderDear Larry,

Whenever I click to download a program from the Internet, I am confronted with two choices: Save or Run. Which one should I choose?

A. S.

Dear A. S.,

First of all, the choices you’re actually presented with when downloading something from the Internet depend on which browser you’re using to surf the Internet as well as the version of that browser.

For example, you might be using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, or AOL. As a result, your choices might be Save and Run or Save and Open or some other combination of selections that mean basically the same thing. In some cases, you may not even be prompted at all.

Let’s say your birthday is next Tuesday, and I stop by today to give you a beautifully wrapped present. I ring the doorbell and when you come to the door, I yell, “Happy Birthday! Open or Save?” What that means is that you can either open your birthday present then and there (What? Another Label Baby Junior label maker?) or you may choose to save your birthday present with all your other presents until the big day actually arrives.

If you choose to open your present on the spot while I’m looking on, you’d better be excited or at least feign excitement. So you pull off the bow, tear open the paper, and look, it’s a Label Baby Junior! “I love it!!!” you say as you rip open the packaging and admire its fine lines and fulgurating luster (while you experience fulgurating pains as you realize the ripped packaging prevents you from re-gifting this thing to someone else).

On the other hand, by choosing to save the birthday present for another day, you also save yourself the trouble of the phony display of excitement. When you’re all by yourself, you can very carefully take apart the wrapping paper and peek inside to discover it’s another lousy present. As a result, it’ll be a piece of cake to give this to Uncle Morty when his birthday comes around next month.

Of course, the key to saving is knowing where you’re putting it so you’ll know where to look for it later.

But enough of the analogy. If you choose to open (i.e., run) the item you’ve downloaded, you’re effectively choosing to open and run it on the spot. You might do that because you know it’s perfectly safe, and it’ll be a quick and easy download. Maybe you’re downloading a user manual or something simple like that.

So if you choose to save the download, you’re electing to save it on your hard drive. Why? You might want to open it later when you have more time. Or you might have paid for the item you’ve downloaded and therefore want to save it in case you need it again weeks, months, or years later.

In that case, I recommend you save it in a folder where you’ll be able to locate it again if you need it. Your “Downloads folder” would be the perfect choice!

In any event, Happy Birthday, and enjoy your label maker.

This is Larry Schneider, logging off.


Larry Schneider is the owner of Accent on Computers, a Greenwich-based consulting firm — now in its 15th year of business — catering to individuals, businesses and professional offices. PC and Mac services include computer setup, training, troubleshooting, virus resolution, networking, Internet, database and programming. Call 203-625-7575, visit or send email to [email protected]

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