There are all kinds of reason why you might want to download content from online. For one thing, it’s a quick and easy way to get software, media, and other digital content without having physical delivery systems (discs and all their packaging) cluttering up your home. Plus, you can sometimes save money by downloading rather that purchasing the physical products. But every time you decide to download you could be exposing your computer to harmful elements such as viruses, spyware, malware, and other trackers or malicious software embedded in your content. So here are just a few tips to help you operate in a safe and secure manner where downloadable content is concerned.

  1. Avoid illegal downloads.Sure it can be tempting to engage in piracy. After all, everyone loves to get free stuff, and the prevalence of bootlegged, cracked, and otherwise free media online (music, movies, games, etc.) is enough to make anyone download a fave here and there (or an entire library). But whenever you involve yourself in criminal activity, even to a seemingly insignificant degree, you open yourself up to the criminal element. And plenty of illegal content pushers include stuff in your download that you don’t want. So if you’d like to download your media safely, do it from a reputable site. You might have to pay for it, but you won’t be exposed to the same security issues as the sharing sites that give it away for free. You may also want to steer clear of adult content, which is similarly prone to malware attachments.
  2. Check comments and forums.If you’re thinking of downloading from a new site but you want to ascertain if a certain download is safe, start by looking at what other users are saying. People are much more likely to complain than compliment, so if there is tons of positive feedback you’re probably safe to move ahead. If, on the other hand, a lot of people are complaining about viruses and other issues, perhaps you’ll want to look for your download elsewhere.
  3. Check the specs.If you’re relatively savvy when it comes to downloading content, then you should be able to see red flags when you eyeball the specs. When you download wallpaper, for example, you’ll expect the file to have a jpg or gif extension, not an exe (executable). And you might also note the size of the download; one that is too small or too large for whatever you’re trying to download could spell trouble.
  4. Update your antivirus.Not only is it important to have adequate antivirus protection for your computer, but you need to make sure that you’re installing updates as needed. New forms of virus, spyware, and so on are being created all the time, and if your software isn’t up-to-date it won’t do much good. So install updates as prompted rather than hitting the “remind me later” button.
  5. Use a secure transfer site.Not all downloads are directly from the internet to your computer. In some cases you might be sharing files with friends, clients, coworkers, and so on, in which case your safety concerns have more to do with protecting the files being transferred between parties. In this case a secure ftp server or cloud storage could be the answer to your problem.