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Installing Programs

The way programs are installed depends on how you acquire them. Retail software usually comes on a CD or DVD; downloaded software is a file that you double-click to launch. Windows Vista reacts a little differently in each case.

Install software from a disc

In previous versions of Windows, installing disc-based software was relatively simple: You’d insert the disc into a CD or DVD drive, wait for the installer to launch, click a few OK buttons, and agree to a license agreement, and you were done.

But because Vista is much more security conscious, you’ve got a few more hoops to jump through.

Install using AutoPlay

AutoPlay is a feature that causes Windows to take automated action when a disc is put into the CD or DVD drive, or an external drive is connected via the USB port. In most cases, it’s turned on by default. Some PC makers, however may disable it. Unless you dig around in Windows’ settings, you won’t know for sure until you insert a disc or plug in a drive.

  1. Insert the installation disc into your PC’s CD or DVD drive.

    If AutoPlay is enabled, the AutoPlay dialog box appears.

    If AutoPlay is not enabled on your system, you need to launch the installer manually; see the next stepped instruction, “Launch the Installer Manually.”

  2. Do one of the following:
    • Click the option below Install or Run Program to start the installer.
    • Click the Open Folder to View Files icon to be taken to the folder that contains the installer. (Do this if you want to look for read-me files or other instructions before installing the software.)
    • Check the box next to Always Do This for Software and Games if you don’t want to see this dialog box again.

      Exactly what happens during the installation process can vary from program to program, but some basic steps are common to most software.

  3. If you’re asked to confirm that you indeed want to install the software, click Yes or OK.
  4. If some kind of licensing agreement appears, click Yes or Agree.

    Some programs require you to scroll to the bottom of the agreement—a de facto indication that you’ve actually read it—before clicking a button to go to the next step.

  5. If you’re asked to enter a registration key or serial number, do so, and click OK or Continue to proceed.
  6. If applicable, choose an express or simple installation versus a custom install.

    An express or simple installation asks fewer questions; a custom installation may allow you to control which components are included.

  7. If applicable, specify where you want to install the program on your hard drive.

    In most cases, you won’t want to change the default location. Choose a different location if you want to install the program on a different hard drive or if you prefer to organize your programs in a different structure from Windows’ standard setup.

  8. When the installation is finished, click OK or Finish to exit the installer.
  9. If applicable, choose to reboot the computer or return to what you were doing.

If the software goes online to authenticate itself after installation, you may be asked to register. Authentication is often mandatory, but registration is usually voluntary.

Launch the installer manually

If AutoPlay is not enabled, you need to run your program’s installer manually to install the software.

  1. Click the Start button and then choose Start > Computer.
  2. Right-click the icon for the drive that contains the CD, and choose Install or Run Program from the shortcut menu.


    If you don’t see those options in the shortcut menu, double-click the drive icon.

  3. Look for a program named SETUP.EXE, INSTALL.EXE, or SETUP.MSI, and double-click it.

    The installation process begins. Exactly what happens during the installation process can vary from program to program, but some basic steps are common to most software.

  4. Follow steps 4 through 9 of the previous stepped instruction.

Install software from the Web

The process of installing software from the Web is different at first from installing via disc, but when the installation gets under way, the process is usually identical.

  1. Download the program you want to install.

    Vista presents a dialog box asking whether you want to run or save the file.

    You have two options: Click Run, which downloads a temporary folder on your computer and launches the program automatically, or save the file to a location first and then launch it when you’re ready. Because the latter option gives you a safety net by putting a copy of the file on your hard drive, take that route.

  2. Click Save.

    The Save As dialog box appears.

  3. From the drop-down menu at the top of the dialog box, choose the location where you’d like to store the program.

    By default, Vista saves downloaded files to a Downloads folder within your user folder. If you’d like to store it somewhere else, click the Browse Folders button at the bottom of the dialog box. The Save As dialog box expands to provide you more choices. From here, you can navigate to almost any folder on your hard drive.

  4. Click Save.
  5. Navigate to the folder where you just stored the installer, and double-click its icon to start the installation process.

    From here, the installation process should proceed the same way as steps 3 through 8 of “Install using AutoPlay” earlier in this section.

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