Can I save programs I download from the Internet?

September 9, 2007

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?


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

And it’s pretty easy to do.

The important thing to realize is that there’s nothing really special about a downloaded program; it’s just a file. And like any file once downloaded 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, and 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, to my “My Documents” folder.

Once 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.



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