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Downloaded vs. Boxed

  • As high-speed Internet connections become more commonplace, software companies are forgoing traditional boxed packages and instead offering their products for download over the Web.

    Would you rather download software or purchase boxed packages? Or does it matter? Tell us what your preference is, and why.
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • Download is preferable to me personally. I download to a folder under Documents and that is always backed up to an external hard drive.

    Boxed was viable when they included product manuals, but now I believe that the Help facility is generally better than the books that were included just before the stopped including them.

    As a part of my house call volunteer work for our computer club, I find that few folks can find the installation disks. "They got lost in the move." "My former spouse took them." "I'm just not very organized."

    All of these folks live in an age restricted community of retirees and soon to be retired. Many have been executives that never had to be bothered with such mundane activities. Some are old enough that the really can't remember what happened to that disk.

    I always send them off to the store to buy an external device, and make an appointment for the following week to return and install it. When I return, I set up automatic updates, automatic backups and instruct them to leave the computer on at night.

    This paid off last week, when a member had to re-install a program that he had un-installed, thinking that he didn't need it. Naturally, he couldn't find the disk because he never had one. The installation .exe was still in his Downloads folder.

    If his hard drive had failed, it would have been on his USB backup disk.
    Charles W Davis The F1 Key has never broken anything!
  • I also copy the registration email with the registration keys and the URL to the vendor's web site in a text document stored in the same folder with the downloaded software. I also keep a copy of the online purchase receipt in pdf format there too.

    That document can also state if it was free software and can be redistributed if desired.

    I use to prefer boxed software but online really is much easier, and you have to use online for registration and updates anyway.

  • I think downloading software is a natural evolution and helps keep your momentum moving forward. I still want the CD to be sent. Because, when the expense is several hundred dollars, like many of the new Suites and Offices, I want a physical backup I can reinstall. NetFlix has taught us that sticking disks in an envelope and putting them in the mail doesn't require packaging it like it were a Happy Meal.
  • I prefer downloaded. It also can help reduce the cost of software if the developers are only paying for bandwidth instead of for all the costs incurred for distribution to the shelf.

    Chris Shipley
    Nutmeg Consulting

  • I'd rather download. I agree with most of the reasons already listed here, but also have another. The NPO for which I work is an environmental organization, and anything we can do to reduce the amount of wasted being produced, whether it's the CDs themselves, the hard-copy documentation, or the ridiculous amount of packaging wrapped around all of it, helps advance the mission of our organization.

    Mike Kirros IS Coordinator Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund Midwest Regional Office

  • Download, though I do like the option of receiving a hard-copy manual. I usually just end up printing the manual out anyway.

    What would be nice is to see the "download" prices adjusted downwards to allow for the reduced cost of packaging and handling -- some places I've seen are doing this already.
  • i prefer to just download and install. it is usually faster this way as well because all of the files are already on your system and do not have to be copied from a disc. they do need to be extracted, but i believe it is easier. also saves tree's.
  • A couple more things to note:

    Windows XP and beyond can automatically open compressed .zip files, you don't need to install another program.

    And if you truly are new to this - the most important help file that comes with your download is usually called ReadMe.txt. Open this to get info on late-breaking issues or sometimes compatibility or installation help.
  • Download is fine and those who need a CD back-up can make it yourself. I keep a file on the network drive of .exe files and I copy each file onto a CD (with all keys/serial numbers in .txt file) creating a library of software I can take anywhere (like to a PC that is not on the network.) I think the days of boxed software are numbered, it is too easy to download what you need when you need it - no waiting for shipping!

    Ocassionally my bosses decide in favor of new software because it can be downloaded. We recently purchased Adobe Acrobat from TechSoup Stock because the bosses could "have it now". Since they did not have to wait they got the instant gratification factor they love!
  • As implied, the downloadability of a software title is a marketing move as well as a packaging and cost savings move.

    When people are faced with the prospect of downloading a program immediately vs. having to order it online or driving to a computer store to obtain it, it becomes a sales tactic to make it readilly available.

    Now that I write that, I cannot remember the last time I set foot in a computer store. I buy everything I need online.

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • Excellent point - about the only time I ever go into a computer store anymore is if I need something like a replacement mouse and can't wait for it to be shipped.

    Mike Kirros IS Coordinator Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund Midwest Regional Office

  • I'd rather have boxed software because it's more trustworthy.  I know instant downloading is faster "when it works", but my experience is that more often than not, it doesn't work and the time I spend with customer service people is a bigger drain than waiting for the box to show up.

  • I'm fine with either downloading or boxed. When I do download software I always take the time to back it up and to also burn it to a disk along with any registration or license information. That way it's always handy and available if I need to use it again for some reason.

  • Bobbene: What kind of trouble have you run into? Do the setup files get corrupted during download, or is it a problem during installation?

    David Janke