Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Downloading a file from the internet is easy - typically just a click or two. But knowing, and controling, where a download goes is a little more effort.
When I download ebooks off the internet, I can never find them. Where do they go on my computer?
It depends on how you download. Typically they go into your "My Documents" folder, so we'll look at how best to check that.
But it's also possible that they went into the same folder as the last download - which means that if you ever changed the download folder for one item, you might have moved where everything thereafter is placed. We'll look at that, and how to fix it as well.
There's another place that downloads often end up that's kind of dangerous, as its "cleaned up" every so often - meaning you could eventually lose your download. We'll look at what that is, and how to avoid it.
And we'll look at how to find your file, regardless of where it landed.
First, here's an example PDF file for you to download - it's a PDF version of my article "How do I keep my computer safe on the internet?" This is the link to the PDF version: http://med.askleomedia.com/ebooks/safeontheinternet.pdf.
I'm going to assume you're using Internet Explorer for this article. The topics are similar for other browsers, but the specific words and look might be somewhat different.
Right click on the link to the PDF, click on Save Target As..., and you should get a dialog similar to this one:
If you look at the top of that dialog, you'll notice Save in: says "My Documents". That's a folder on your machine into which the downloaded file is going to be placed. In reality, it's located in a folder with your user name, which in turn is located within the "Documents and Settings" folder on your "C:" disk drive. My username is "LeoN", so the download is going to land in "c:\Documents and Settings\LeoN\My Documents\safeontheinternet.pdf".
If that's the case, you can locate the document again by using Windows Explorer (Windows-Key "E", on keyboards with a Windows Key, or just right click on your My Computer desktop icon and click Explore). In Windows Explorer you'll see something like this:
Except for the red arrows which are all pointing to places that your "My Documents" folder can be found. In fact, there's one more:
There I've opened the folder "c:\Documents and Settings\LeoN" where you can see the actual location of "My Documents".
In all of those cases, if you click (or double click) on "My Documents", the right hand pane will show you its contents, and one file will be the file we just downloaded:
Now, as I said, Internet Explorer remembers the last place you placed a downloaded file, and remembers that for the next time. For example I've created my own temporary folder called "c:\t" that I download to by default. When I do a Save Target As..., I get the following:
Note that the Save in: doesn't indicate "My Documents", but rather just my folder name, "t". Unfortunately that doesn't tell you the whole story. Like "My Documents", you can't really tell where the folder is. It could be a top level folder - like "c:\t" - or it could be somewhere else - perhaps "c:\documents and settings\LeoN\t". To figure out where, just click the dropdown arrow after the "t". You should see something like this:
Here you can see exactly where my "t" folder is located - at the root of the C: drive.
This is also how you can select a different location. Just click in that dropdown the drive, or top level directory you would like to place the file. Then in the resulting file list, double click on each successive sub folder you want until you reach the location you want to place your file. For example if we wanted to reset things to the default, I'd click on LEO (C:) in that drop-down list, then in the file list below it double click on Documents and Settings, then double click on my user name, LeoN (you'd double click on your own user name, of course), and then double click on My Documents. Click on Save, and the document is downloaded and placed where you've specified.
I mentioned that there were "dangerous" places that your file could get downloaded. By dangerous, I simply mean that the file can eventually be lost.
If you single click on the link to the PDF file, the file will simply be downloaded and displayed. Note that it never asked you where. Therein lies the problem.
When you click on a link such as this, Internet Explorer downloads the file to a temporary location. The same temporary location that IE uses to cache all of your internet content images, media and other files. The problem with this is that as the temporary location fills up, files will be deleted to make room. Including, eventually, your PDF.
That's why the "right" solution for downloading and viewing a PDF is not to just click on it, but rather right-click, and "Save Target as..." to a location you choose.
What if you still can't find or figure out where your PDF ended up?
It's time to search.
Hit the Start menu, Search item, and then the For Files or Folders... item. You should get a dialog much like this:
Enter only a part of the file name, preferably just the part before the period. We'll see why that's important in a second. Using our example file we would search for "safeontheinternet".
Click on the down arrow next to More Advanced Options, and make sure that Search system folders, Search hidden files and folders, and Search subfolders are all selected:
Now press Search. As it searches, files matching will be listed on the right hand side. In my case you can see that I have many files that match the criteria - not just the ones I downloaded into "My Documents" and "c:\t", but also my originals, as I created this documents.
One of the reasons it's so important to specify that hidden and system files should be searched, is that this will cause the search to include IE's temporary files. If you find your document there, you can then move it to some other, more permanent location.
The reason that I indicated you should only specify part of the file name is that IE will often change the name slightly by appending information as it puts it into the temporary folders. Searching for "safeontheinternet" may well find copies of the same file with a slightly different name, where searching for "safeontheinternet.pdf" would not.
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