Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

You can Run a download or you can Save it, it's a difference many of us take for granted. We'll look at what it really means to Run or Save.

When downloading software or whatever, what is the difference between RUN and SAVE?

This is one of those things that I think a lot of people take for granted, but to many it's just so much magic.

So, a quick look at what it means when you choose between "Run" and "Save" when you download a file.

When you select Run on a download, it's actually a two step process:

  • The file you've requested is downloaded to your machine. It's normally placed in your browser's "Temporary Internet Files", or it may be placed in the Windows temporary file location.

  • The file is then run, exactly as if you had used Windows Explorer to navigate to the temporary location into which it had been downloaded and then double-clicked on it.

"Run" can mean several things. If the file is a ".exe" file, that's a program, and running it means exactly that: the program is loaded into memory and Windows runs it. If the file is a different type of file that Windows knows about, then it runs the program associated with that type of file. It points that program at the downloaded copy of the file. For example if you "Run" a ".jpg" file, the file is downloaded and the program associated with viewing .jpg files is run. It then opens and views the file.

"One important thing to note about using Run: the file was downloaded into a temporary location, and it may eventually be deleted."

Depending on your browser or specific scenario, Run can also be considered the same as Open File With... where you actually get to chose the program with which to open the downloaded file.

One important thing to note about using Run: the file was downloaded into a temporary location, and it may eventually be deleted. In fact it almost certainly will if you wait long enough.

That's why Save exists.

When you select Save (or sometimes Save As...) in response to a download, the browser will simply download the file. That's all. The file is copied to your hard disk, and it's then up to you to do something with it.

The big difference is that it's not downloaded into a temporary location. The file is downloaded into a default folder or a folder that you specify. It might be "My Documents", "My Downloads", or something else entirely depending on your browser and configuration. But it's a folder that should be easy to find. More importantly the file will not be automatically deleted at some later time.

Like I said, you have to decide what to do with it and when.

It could be as simple as leaving it where it is, and using Windows Explorer to locate and then double click on the file whenever you want to use it in the future. Or you could move it to a different location to backup and archive it. Or you could do something else entirely.

When might you use one or the other?

  • Run: When you only need the download once. Perhaps a song or video you only plan to listen to or watch once. Another scenario might be an installation program that when run installs software on your machine in other, permanent locations. Once installed, you probably don't need the installer again.

  • Save: When you want to keep whatever it is you've downloaded. You can still run it or whatever else you'd like to do with it, but you'll need to do that yourself.

Article C3046 - June 4, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 4, 2007 7:33 PM

i don't know what happened, but my comment was cut off. Anyway now I can "run" it now or "save" it for later.

George Arauz
June 5, 2007 6:37 PM

Run lets you play or use the data you want at the moment off the disc or website you are on. Save keeps it on your hard drive so you can use it anytime you want without a disc or going to the website.

June 9, 2007 5:30 AM

Another great value of SAVE is when you are downloading something you want to move and run on another machine.

June 9, 2007 10:14 AM

I NEVER, use the Run. I use the "Save As" so that I can scan the file for viruses.
Run is just to damn risky in my opinion.

June 10, 2007 4:19 PM

I agree 100% with Scott. By using "Save" you can scan for viruses before opening the file. If you just use "Run" who knows what you have downloaded besides the file. I am sooooo very surprised that "Ask Leo" didn't bring this up in his answer.

June 15, 2007 4:37 AM

My computer behaves (now) at "Save" almost like at "Run". I mean... It looks like it downloads the file somewhere (I don't know where), then, after a (long) time, the "Save to" dialog box appears and the saving takes only 1 second (regardless the file width).
See screen caps at
What's going on?

June 17, 2007 4:02 PM

I like to save them. This way I have a copy if the need arises that it needs to be re-installed at some time.

August 23, 2007 6:22 PM

I was ttrying to help a friend reinstall a program that had been installed by our IT Department. In anticipation of his question (do I select run or save?), I submittted the question to Goggle. I tried a few sites. Your site was, without doubt, the most targeted and helpful response. Thank you so much!

duane moen
September 8, 2007 9:09 AM

I downloaded a long file to run and for some reason I was disconnected from the web. I found the file and saved it but then didn't know what to open the file with. Nothing worked. So I gave up and deleted the saved file and went to redownload. Apparently the run file was still there and the install proceeded without another long download. I don't know what was used to open the run file but I am glad it worked.

November 19, 2007 5:05 PM

as scott and especially glorya im very surprised that leo didnt mention the better security of SAVE. There are things to discuss here, like how much safe is SAVE itself?

August 7, 2008 9:00 AM

Thank you, Leo and thank you all for this great input. I knew what "Run" does (sort of) and I knew what "Save" does, I just wasn't sure when to Run or Save. Your opinions and reasons work for me! Luv this website, I'll be back

March 11, 2009 11:23 AM

I purchased a microsoft office package and I am not sure if I should click on save or run. Since this is a very expensive purchase I realli need to be sure. In case I don't get any response I will just clik on run because that is how i did it with my messenger and it works fine. I need help!!

frank rogowski
March 24, 2009 8:52 AM


April 1, 2010 2:05 PM

I need to download a driver from dell website for another computer, but when I download it I don't get the option to run or save. I need to save it. It gets downloaded and allows me to intall/don't install, but I don't need it for this computer. How do I fix this?

Try right-clicking on the link and selecting "save as" to save the download to your hard drive.

Paul Gadebusch, III
June 8, 2010 10:44 AM

I generally will "save" the file. I put it in a specific location if I want to keep the file but I will save to my desktop even when I just want to run it - in case something happens and I have to restart the loading. Then it is is to find and available to just run from my desktop without a new download. Once it has successfully installed I delete it from my desktop. The larger the download the more helpful this can be. The last step of deleting the installation files helps generally to keep a cleaner desktop.

Brad Johnston (Australia)
June 8, 2010 4:06 PM

Hi Leo, great article. I was taught that anything you download directly from the web bypass's your anti-virus. By default I will only save a download to the desktop, right click on it and run a scan for virus's before either saving it to a folder or running it. Is this being over protective?

June 8, 2010 7:44 PM

I save files to my desktop instead of run most of the time. Then I check it with Spysweeper before I open it up. Just to be on the safe side.

November 7, 2010 1:15 PM

So..if I'm downloading transcription software, I should save it, correct?

I can only guess - the fact that it's transcription software has little to do with it. The question is what do YOU want to do with it? In most cases saving is proper, but not always the right answer.

March 22, 2011 9:43 AM

just want to thank you for being direct and to commend you for your clarity

April 1, 2011 7:46 AM

what if i save and at the same time i run the file?

Since the dialog goes away after you choose one or the other I don't see how you would do that.

Akanda Md. rajibul haque
June 22, 2011 5:41 PM

Hi. I have download webcall direct software from internet and save it. But when i am trying to run it I am failing. It is not running. so what may be the problem?

I'd need some kind of clue as to what happens when you try. Error messages or something.
November 1, 2011 8:02 PM

Thank you for an excellent response: concise and perfectly clear.

anna blackburn
January 18, 2013 6:32 PM

I have been trying all day to get my answer in terms I could understand. You gave me my answer very quickly. I had no problem understanding. Thank You! I know who to contact for now on.

February 22, 2013 10:52 AM

Yours is the best explanation of the several I read. Thank you.

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