How to Safely Download Files to Your Laptop - dummies

How to Safely Download Files to Your Laptop

By Nancy C. Muir

The two tricks to downloading files while staying safe from malware are to only download from sites you trust and to never download file attachments to emails that you aren’t completely sure are safe. The most dangerous files to download are executable files that sport an .exe extension at the end of the filename. Clicking on these will run a program of some kind, and could therefore pose an active threat.

  1. Open a trusted website that contains downloadable files.

    Typically, websites offer a Download button or link that initiates a file download.If you don’t know of a file to download but want to practice these steps, try Adobe.com. From that site, you can search for and download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC a handy and popular utility program.

  2. Click the appropriate link or button to proceed.

    Windows might display a dialog box asking your permission to proceed with the download; click Yes. The download also, in some cases, might open in a separate Microsoft Edge window.

  3. By default, a security scan runs before the document download begins.

    The toolbar that appears along the bottom of the screen displays different choices depending on the type of file downloaded:

    downloading files

    • For an executable file, click Run to download the file to a temporary folder. This is the option to choose to download the Adobe software. You can run a software installation program, for example. However, beware: If you run a program you obtained from the Internet, you could be introducing dangerous viruses to your system. You might want to set up an antivirus program to scan files before downloading them.
    • For a document file such as a PDF file, click Open to open the file in another browser tab or the app for that type of document that’s installed on your laptop.
    • For any type of file, you can click View Downloads (for example if you’re not sure if you already downloaded the file). The Hub opens and shows you recent downloads. You can click the Clear (X) button beside a download to remove it from the list, or click Clear All to clear the list of past downloads. Or, you can click Open Folder to open your Downloads folder to work with downloaded files. Press Esc or click elsewhere on the browser window to close the Hub pane.

      The Downloads folder is one of your default user folders. Open this folder to view all downloads.

      Downloads folder

If you’re worried that a particular file might be unsafe to download (for example, if it’s from an unknown source or if you discover that it’s an executable file type, which could contain a virus), click the Close button in the download toolbar.

If a particular file will take a long time to download (some can take 20 minutes or more), you may have to babysit it. If your laptop goes into standby mode, it could pause the download. If your laptop automatically downloads Windows updates, it may cause your laptop to restart automatically as well, cancelling or halting your download. Check in periodically to keep things moving along.

You might want to explore the new Storage Sense feature that allows you to automatically delete files that have been stored in your Downloads folder for more than 30 days. Open the Settings window and select System. Click the Storage option in the left panel and click the Storage Sense On/Off setting to On.