What is a download?

A download is a computer file or set of files designed to be transferred from a server to an individual user. Downloads can take many forms, from individual music files distributed by artists as free samples to their loyal fans to complete trade journals packaged for electronic distribution. Many people use downloads regularly, and there is a thriving trade in providing hubs where people can access a wide variety of downloads.

Software programs come in the form of Internet downloads.

Some downloads are designed to be used offline, with people simply going to the internet to get what they need. Others must be used online. For example, one could download an instant messaging program to chat with friends on the Internet, or one could download a multiplayer game that would allow people to interact and play together on the Internet.

Unauthorized downloads of movies to friends is a form of copyright piracy.

Many software programs come in download form. Free software can be downloaded and used instantly, while products that people need to pay for will require a credit card or other form of payment before people can access the server to download the software. Classically, the software is available in zipped form so it can be downloaded quickly, with users unzipping it so they can install it.

Downloaded music can be transferred to an MP3 player.

Music and video are popular forms of download, available for free or for a fee on many websites. People can also download documents, presentations and a variety of other materials. For example, an editor and a client can collaborate on a project, storing the latest version on a server so either party can easily download it and see how the project is doing, or a librarian can subscribe to journals to download so students can easily access them.

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Emoticons and images can be downloaded to a phone for use in texting.

There are some risks with downloads. Free downloads are problematic because, when they come from untrustworthy sources, they can contain embedded material that can be harmful to computer users, such as programs that collect user names and passwords or programs that load spyware on a user’s computer. The ease with which products can be downloaded also makes it easier for pirates to illegally copy and distribute products through downloads.

Someone who wants to share something by making it available for download will need access to a server. If the file or files are large, it can be useful to compress them for faster transfer times. Once the file or files are prepared for download, they can be uploaded to the server and users can send the file’s address to anyone who wants to access it. For private materials, users can password protect the directory, allowing only authorized users to enter it and get the file or files.

Some services allow movies and television shows to be downloaded and watched on a personal computer.

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