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Why do software companies use download wizards for large files instead of letting users download the file directly?

Is it so the user does not get discouraged by the waiting time, or is it something else?

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The User Experience site might be a better place for this question. – Cyclops Oct 8 '11 at 14:31
+1 The top reason I'm using Pixelmator instead of Photoshop is that I have to install an installer to install Photoshop. – rightfold Oct 8 '11 at 14:58
up vote 15 down vote accepted

I'm not a big fan of them, but several reasons come to mind:

  • It allows them to more easily deliver the most recent build to the customer.
  • It allows them to speed up the download by only delivering to the user the pieces they want to actually install.
  • Huge downloads via HTTP often stall out. A download manager allows for a smaller initial download, and then to allow for the client app to more reliably download a large software package.
  • From a marketing standpoint, a 1 meg download may look less intimidating to a potential customer than a 200 meg download.
  • Another thought - it might prevent web spiders from sucking up all their bandwidth.
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Agreed with everything you said. In addition, it puts the act of "run what you've downloaded" closer to the download process, which means it's more likely that the software will actually be installed. (that is, the user isn't going to wander off after starting a long download, and then forget to actually install) – Trevor Powell Oct 8 '11 at 5:25
+1... I'm not a big fan of them either. :) – Anonymous Oct 8 '11 at 9:01

To add to GrandmasterB's list above (btw, love the alias ! :)

  • A download wizard can figure stuff out for the user, like exact platform version, 32/64 bit, and then download the most appropriate version of the software
  • Some users are dumb and will do stuff like download the same browser over and over just to get it working. The download manager can save a lot of bandwidth this way. It can also look around the user's PC and see if any bundled software also needs updating.
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In the case of Chrome, it is probably also related to the way they can apply binary diffs to your already-installed version. A download manager / installer that knows things about the product can choose to download only the needed parts (check current version, check available version, request and download suitable diff, apply diff), as opposed to a generic downloader that would have to download the full release.

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The name of the diff algorithm developped by Google is Courgette. – barjak Jan 10 '12 at 9:34

Plus, they will have better statistics on the number of installations.

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