Downloading and saving documents

Here are some top tips for downloading safely from the internet.

What is downloading?

One of the most useful things you can do on the internet is to get documents and images that you can then store on your computer. This is called downloading.

You do need to be careful about what you download, however, and there are some precautions you should take before you press that Save button.

A screenshot of a game of Solitaire

Downloading from trusted sources

You should only download from websites you trust. Major organisations, such as your bank, insurance company, or the government can generally be trusted, so anything you download from them should be safe. But what about other websites?

There are some clues that a site is safe to download from.

  • Look for the padlock next to the website address in your browser.
  • Look for the https in the web address. It shows that the site uses encrypted communications.
  • Look for the Contacts page. It shows that the site owners are not hiding who they are.

Still, if you have any doubts about whether the site is safe, it’s best not to download anything from it.

Protecting yourself from a virus

A virus is a type of computer program that you may get if you download from untrusted websites. It can do bad things to your computer, including preventing you from accessing your files. To avoid viruses, follow these guidelines:

  • Only download from trusted sites
  • Keep a backup of your important files
  • Run an antivirus program.

Antivirus software

Antivirus software is a special kind of computer program that helps detect and remove viruses you might download.

If you accidentally download a virus, your antivirus program will pop up and tell you that you’ve downloaded something dangerous, and ask if you want to delete it.

There are many antivirus programs, including:

Types of documents

Every document or image you download from the internet has what is called a file type. This tells your computer which program it should use to read the file. The file type is usually indicated by a three- or four-letter code at the end of the file name. For example, a .doc on the end indicates the file is a Word document.

You need to the right program to read the document. Some examples include:

  • A .doc file needs Microsoft Word or other word processor program
  • A .pdf file needs Adobe Acrobat Reader, although most browsers will also display a pdf for you to read.
  • An .mp3 file needs a music player program
  • A .jpg file is a picture that needs an image viewer.

Ready to Save

Knowing which websites you can trust and how to open the files you download is important. When you’re armed with that information, downloading becomes a very useful tool indeed.