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How to Download

Five simple steps to downloading files from the Internet

NOTE:  The following article assumes you are using the ZDNET web site for your downloads.


Five simple steps to downloading files from the Internet
from ZDNET  by Bob Gollihur

Step 1  Create a Download Folder

Step 2  Download a File Using Your Browser

Step 3  Prepare Your File for Installation

Step 4  Open Your File

Step 5  Install Your File

If you think surfing the Web is fun, wait until you start downloading files! One of the Internet's greatest attractions is its wide variety of available programs and files that can enhance your computing experiences. In addition to free programs and utilities, you can find demo versions of many new programs and updates of programs you already have, all waiting for you to download.

In this very brief tutorial, you can learn by doing. Simply follow the instructions we've prepared, and in just a few minutes you'll be downloading a program, preparing it, installing it onto your computer, and having fun!

ZDNet Downloads is the ideal place to begin since it's the Internet's most authoritative source for software. Our editorial emphasis distinguishes our site from other shareware sites. We review, rate, and virus-check each program in our collection, and produce special in-depth reports to keep you informed of the newest and best titles. We think that you'll find our library easier to use, more informative, and more useful than any other library on the Web. So get your hard drive ready and let the downloading begin!

Note: The files used in this exercise are for Windows 95, 98, 2000, and NT users.

Step 1: Create a Download Folder

Start by establishing good habits. Organizing your download files will help. Let's start by creating a new folder (directory) called C:\Download for your use.

Using Windows Explorer: highlight your C: drive, and then click on these menu items, one after the other: File | New > Folder. When a folder entitled New Folder is created, rename it "Download".

Note: A word about distinguishing between the Windows Explorer and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The Windows Explorer is the system tool that helps you examine and access your entire computer; files; directories; drives; desktop, etc. In contrast, Microsoft Internet Explorer is the browser you can use to surf the Web.

Tips for following this exercise

Here are a few tips so you can use other programs as you follow the steps in this tutorial:

Close other programs you don't need

Use Alt-Tab to easily toggle between programs

Resize windows or click on their title bars to move them out of the way

Step 2: Download a File Using Your Browser

We've selected a free, popular game that will be a great addition to your collection of games, Cyclanoid (file name: cycle.zip).

Cyclanoid is a challenging tile-based puzzle game -- and it's free! The objective is to arrange the tiles in the center of the board to match the ones displayed along the game-area border. However, you move the tiles in groups of four or more by spinning them with a control located in the corner where four tiles touch. Similar to a 2D Rubik's Cube, Cyclanoid is harder than it looks since you must get the tiles aligned without disrupting your previous work. The graphics are attractive, and MIDI-based music and crisp digital sound effects add to the fun. Cyclanoid also includes a built-in visual puzzle builder for creating your own games. Plus, an automated demo shows the movement options of the more complex games.

Each program in the library occupies its own page, where we provide a description of the program, its license type, size, and system requirements. The image below shows what that page looks like. The "Download Now" link is located toward the right side of the page, immediately below the yellow area. That is where you would ordinarily click to begin downloading.

However, to begin downloading Cyclanoid for this tutorial, you can conveniently click on the "Download Now" link below. But first, here's what to expect once you click that link.

Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE), Netscape Communicator, Opera, and other browsers work in similar ways. After you click the Download Now button, a small window will open and ask you, "What would you like to do with this file?" or something similar. Simply click on the "Save it to disk" or "Save" choice, and then click OK.

When the familiar "Save As" window appears, use it to navigate to your newly created C:\download folder and click "Save."

Watch and wait until the file has finished downloading.

Now go ahead and click here to download Cyclanoid.

Download Now

Problems? Some older versions of MSIE may require that you right-click on "Download Now," and select "Save Target As" to be able to begin the process described above.

Note: Various factors can affect the health of good data exchanges between your computer and our servers as our signals move through switches, copper wire, and routers. Especially during peak-use times, you may not get a response for a long time, or won't connect at all. If so, just try again immediately, or in a little while.

Step 3: Prepare Your File for Installation

Although some files end in .exe and automatically install or explode into many files, many of the files you will download end in .zip. The Cyclanoid file we have chosen ends in .zip, so this particular exercise teaches you how to deal with the popular .zip file format. At the conclusion of this lesson, we'll explain how to handle .exe files.

Since programs almost always include more than one file, think of the trouble it would be to download many files just to get one program to install. A zip file, also referred to as an archive, is an individual file that has files stored within it. When multiple files are combined into one zip file, they are also compressed in size, which has the further benefit of saving hard drive space and shortening download time. Most every .exe file you can download from ZDNet Downloads also contains multiple files that are compressed.

Before you can install Cyclanoid, it will be necessary to unzip (open up) the zip file in order to use the files stored within it. Although other utilities are available, we recommend WinZip for unzipping files, and will use this popular shareware program for our exercise.

If you already have WinZip installed and ready for use, click here to go to Step 4.

If you do not already have WinZip, follow the instructions below to install the proper version.

Download and Install WinZip

Click on this link to download the shareware version of WinZip. (Editor's note: This version of WinZip is shareware; registration costs $29.) Put it in your computer's C:\download folder as you did with Cyclanoid. The WinZip file is in the form of an .exe that can be run and installed without any additional steps.

Double-click on winzip80.exe to install WinZip, then follow the easy step-by-step installation instructions. We suggest you take all of the suggested default settings and scan all your drives for favorite folders. WinZip can then easily access your C:\download directory for the next step.

STOP when you reach the "WinZip Wizard - Welcome" window, and proceed with the next instruction.

Step 4: Use WinZip to Open Your File

Let's use the WinZip wizard to open the Cyclanoid file we just downloaded (cycle.zip). You may wish to read the WinZip instructions before proceeding so you know what to expect. If you have closed WinZip, click on the icon that was created, to restart the program.

WinZip has probably been set up to launch using wizards, which are interfaces designed to make it easier to use new programs. They present each step in a series of separate windows, with options and decisions for you to make before you click Next to proceed. If you're using the WinZip wizards, you can expect the following windows:

WinZip Wizard - Welcome

At this time it should not be necessary to click "Options" or anything other than the Next button.

WinZip Wizard - Select Zip File [cycle.zip]

Look for and highlight the cycle.zip file by single-clicking on it. It will then appear in the title bar as your selected file, so you can press Next. Next.

WinZip Wizard - Unzip [cycle.zip]

WinZip suggests that you unzip ztictact.zip into a new directory called C:\Unzipped\cycle.zip. It is a good idea to have a special directory for each file you unzip, so things don't get confusing. Click Unzip Now to take the advice of the Wizard.

WinZip Wizard - Unzip Complete

Congratulations! You have finished the unzipping portion of this tutorial and can now click Close.

Note: You may wish to read through WinZip's help file later to learn more about it, or search ZDNet Downloads for other programs to handle zip files.

Step 5: Install Your File

If you used WinZip, it will have placed an open Windows Explorer window on your desktop with three files, Readme.txt, File_id.diz, and cycle.exe, inside.

Files that you download may have one or more files within them that can help you learn about the program, install it, and understand your obligations if you want to continue to use it. Examples of files that can be opened using Windows Notepad are File_id.diz, Vendinfo.diz, Productname.txt, and Readme.txt.

When you double-click on Readme.txt, the file should open in Notepad. Now you can read all about the game and its author. Double-click on the cycle.exe file to begin the installation. Just follow the prompts that come up during installation. Once it's installed, you'll be prompted to click "Finish."


You've successfully downloaded a file, and a whole new world is available to you now! The Internet is a great source for finding software gems. By tapping into the Web's mother lode of software, you can try programs to see if you like them before laying out that hard-earned cash, and keep your favorite programs up to date by learning to download and install their latest versions.

How to Handle .exe Files

As we mentioned at the beginning of Step 3, you will find files ending in both .zip and .exe at ZDNet Downloads. You will find that .exe files are even easier to handle than .zip files! If you downloaded and installed WinZip earlier in this exercise, you know exactly what we mean.

The .exe files that you download are ready to be run -- the only thing is, they can act in one of several different ways. Here are a few examples of what may happen when you double-click on an .exe file that you have downloaded.

An installation routine may begin immediately. In this case, all you need do is follow the instructions that are presented to you.

A small window may appear that explains that the file will extract to a particular folder. You may wish to change the folder, or at least make a note of where the files are being placed. At the conclusion of the file extraction process, an installation process may begin. If it does not, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the folder where the files have been placed. Once there, you can look for a Readme.txt, File_id.diz, Vendinfo.diz, Productname.txt, or other file that may help you install the program. Typically, a Setup.exe or Productname.exe will be there for you to click upon.

All of the files within the .exe will be expanded into the current folder. Fortunately, this older method of packaging is not used very often.

About Downloadable Software and ZDNet Downloads

Most of the files you come across will fall into a few different categories. Freeware and Public Domain software are free for you to use indefinitely, although you may be required to send the author a postcard or do a good deed in return. Shareware and Demonstration (demo) software allow you to try out a fully or partially operational program. If you like it, you can buy the full version or legitimize your copy by paying a fee.

Now that you've gotten warmed up, come on into ZDNet Downloads! ZDNet Downloads is jam-packed with games, Internet files, Windows utilities, and programs for your home, your children, and you. New titles constantly refresh our offerings, and we routinely eliminate out-of-date programs, to bring you the cutting-edge developments in software. ZDNet users must approve, because they perform millions of downloads each month.

We're absolutely confident that the files in our library are the best on the Web and we look forward to having you as a regular member of our community online!

If you have questions or want to learn more about ZDNet Downloads, click on any of the items under the Help Categories menu on this page. Two items may be of particular interest:

Download Basket Help - What's the Download Basket?? This special function lets you collect files you want to download later.

How To Search - While you can use the convenient Search box on ZDNet Downloads, advanced searches are also available.




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Last modified: June 04, 2008