Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Can I save programs I download from the Internet?

I recently purchased a new computer and was not able to transfer programs
that had no CD’s; programs that I had downloaded from the net. Can I download a
program onto a CD and then use that CD to install and retain a copy for future
use?

Absolutely.

In fact I do it regularly, and I recommend it strongly.

And it’s pretty easy to do.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

The important thing to realize is that there’s nothing really special about
a downloaded program; it’s just a file. And like any downloaded file you
can copy it, burn it to a CD, back it up, or do whatever you want with it.

I’ve spoken about
this before
, but when I download a program from the net, I rarely just
“click the link” to get the program. Instead, assuming the link is to a “.zip”
or “.exe” file that I’m about to install on my computer, I right
click, then click on the “Save Link As…” (or “Save Target as…”):

Save As... dialog for downloads

In the image above you can see that I’m downloading Process Explorer in the form of its zip file
ProcessExplorer.zip to my “My Documents” folder.

After I’ve downloaded the file and before I do anything with it, I copy it
to a backup location where I keep all of my downloaded programs. In my case
it’s on another machine on my home network, but it could be anywhere.

You could, if you so desired, choose to fire up your CD burning software at
this point and copy or burn the downloaded program to a CD. I do, but I
typically wait until I’ve got a CD’s worth of programs saved up. That’s a
little over 600 megabytes worth. Once I do, I burn them all to a single CD at
once.

My preference is to make my backup copies right after downloading. I get in
that habit so I don’t forget once I start playing with whatever nifty new
download I just got.

Regardless of where or when you make your copies, just make sure they’re in
places that won’t get lost if you need to reformat your machine. That’s one
reason why burning to CDs is a good choice. Then, if you find yourself
reinstalling all the software after reinstalling Windows, you’ll have
everything you need.

A couple of additional things to remember:

  • This isn’t a substitute for good backups. In fact, if you have a really good
    backup process, you may still have those old downloaded programs somewhere in
    your backups. Having a separate copy in a known location, however, is a much
    more convenient way to keep them, making them much easier to find when the time
    comes.

  • Don’t forget updates. Much of the software you download these days
    automatically updates itself. In some cases you can ignore them, and the first
    time you use your old saved copy it’ll take the updates. In other cases you may
    want to skip this step by simply copying each program update, if you can, just
    like you copied and saved the original download.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

7 comments on “Can I save programs I download from the Internet?”

  1. I admit I’m somewhat of a download junkie. My method is to copy my downloads to a rewritable CD (CDRW) and when the CDs become full I copy them to my hard drive and then burn them of on a CDR. Then I erase the CDRW and start all over again.

    I like to keep the games and programs separate. I also have a separate one for personal saved documents. I currently have 21 program CDs and 36 game CDs (thats burned of) and thats not counting the ‘commercial bought ones’. I’m also somewhat of a packrat, I don’t like to delete anything.

    Reply
  2. I have a Folder entitled “Downloaded Files”, with two sub-folders entitled “New Downloads” and “Installed Downloads” I download into “ND” and attatch a note to the folder with a Utility called “Explorer Notes” [available FREE from PC World downloads] with a 20-word explanation of the program. These may set here for months before I install them or delete them. When I install a program, I then move it to the “ID” folder. Now, from either the “ID” or “ND” folder, I can save to CD as desired.

    Reply
  3. leo, i’m having trouble with a very slow pc, i contacted dell tech. and they log on to my pc looked it over and said i need toremove & reinstall windows which they will do for me. my prob. is they told me i should save programs i have added, they reccomended saving to cd-r which i have plenty of but do not have a clue how to do, can you help explain what to do in simple words?? i would be forever grateful for your kindness. dell is suposed to get back with me in two days, thanks again even if you can’t help.

    Reply
  4. I appreciate your helpful website. I’ve heard of Iso image file & wasn’t sure if you had to save downloaded program files into such a special format on cd. This article resolve my concerns, at least about this. I do wonder WHEN you DO NEED to convert a file to an iso image file before saving it on cd? thanks

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.