Uploading and Downloading – What is the Difference?


Simply put, uploading is when you send information to the Internet and downloading is when you retrieve or save data from the Internet. Transferring data from one computer to another is not considered downloading or uploading.

Uploading Data

Uploading data means you are saving digital files onto an Internet site. The most common example would be uploading photos or videos to social networking websites or uploading a file to Google Docs or Dropbox. A copy of the files are stored on the website’s server while the original files stay on your hard drive or smartphone or wherever you saved the file in the first place.

Downloading Data

Downloading data means you are saving a copy of a file that has been uploaded to a website by someone else. Simple viewing any website involves a data download because all the images you can see on that website (big or small) are downloaded to your computer.. Computers have a default location where this downloaded data is saved; however, you can change these setting and save the files in any folder you like. Smartphones, on the other hand, don’t usually have this option. You can’t control where the file or application will be stored.

Speed of Transferring Data

The speed of file transfers depends mostly on your Internet connection; however, the size of the fie is also a main factor. Speed is usually measured in megabytes per second (mbps). Since most users download more than they upload, download speeds are faster. This allows the Internet service provider to use the extra bandwidth for other things. For example, your download speed may be at 15 mbps, but uploads are only around 2 mbps.

Background Operations

Background operations are frequent uploads and downloads that occur without you realising that you have done anything. Just being connected to the Internet allows these technologies to function in the background. The source code from the website you are viewing is downloaded to your computer, so you can see the content when you open the page. You won’t see the source code – that is part of the background work. This is also when the website gathers information about you, called cookies.

Another example of background operations is your email client and server. Incoming email is automatically downloaded from the server into your email account, and every time you send an email, you are uploading data to another server.