What Does Download Mean?

Download (D/L) is the process of receiving data from a central server to a user’s computer. The source can be a Web server, FTP server, email server or other similar system.


Download also refers to the copying of data from a main source to a computer.

Techopedia Explains Download

The term download technically means receiving information from the Internet to an individual local computer. The information could be in the form of a text file, upgrade, movie, music, freeware, shareware or sounds, etc. The inverse operation is known as uploading, which is the sending of data from a local computer to a remote server that stores a copy of the sent data. The words uploading and downloading became popular among computer enthusiasts with the growing popularity of bulletin board systems (BBS).

Download refers to receiving and saving, rather than just receiving, because the information received from a remote server is saved to a local computer but can only be used when data has been fully received in its entirety. The term is most often mistaken and confused with the term "transferring," which is the sending and receiving of data between storage devices – completely different than downloading.

Content, like streaming YouTube media, cannot be downloaded to a local system. Websites place restrictions on users trying to download such content, usually displaying a message stating, "Downloading is not permitted."


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…