You hear the words upload and download frequently. But what does it mean to upload something to your computer? Or what happens when you download?

There's always a lot happening on the back end when it comes to computers, and it's not always necessary to understand how it all works. But, in this instance, it is. That's because downloading and uploading can get you into trouble if you don't take some things into consideration.

We're here to help explain the difference between the two and simple tips, tricks and basic risks to remember.

First, let's start with a general description of what the terms actually mean. Here's a quick breakdown:


Uploading occurs when data is sent from an individual user's computer to another computer, network, website, mobile device or some other nearby connected location. For instance, when you share pictures of your children and grandchildren on Facebook you are uploading the pictures to the social networking site.


Downloading occurs when something on the transfer of data (normally from the Web) is saved on your computer. This happens when you put software on your computer or pull anything off the Internet such as books, music, programs and more.


How downloads and uploads work

Wondering how files move through the process of uploading and downloading? File Transfer Protocol, also known as FTP, is a system of moving and exchanging files via the Internet between computers and/or networks. Data also get moved in packets, which transfers tiny bits of information on the Web from network to network or computer to computer. Packets were designed specifically to transmit high quality data online from anywhere.

Troubleshooting slow transfers

The Web is one of the most common places for uploading and downloading. If the process of downloading or uploading is taking forever, it could be caused by a problem with the website or a slow Internet connection. You can determine if it's a website error by using a tool called Down for Everyone or Just Me. This tool helps you determine if there's a problem with the site and narrows down connectivity problems.

If the website is running fine then it's probably a slow Internet connection that's causing the problem. You can easily test your Internet speed with sites like Speakeasy Speed TestSpeedTest and InternetFrog.

Basic Risks

As you know, any time you use the Internet there are risks involved. It's no different with uploading and downloading. Think twice about uploading sensitive information - if it's on the Internet it's vulnerable to hackers. When downloading always make sure you are doing so from a trusted source. It is very easy to unknowingly download viruses, malware and spyware onto your computer.

This is why it's important to be careful when you're browsing online, and make sure you have a strong anti-virus software installed on your computer. You should also test your computer to see if it already has viruses, or needs a security patch. Click here for helpful steps on how to do this.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest weekend radio talk show as she takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle. Visit Komando.com for free podcasts, videos, product reviews, shows, tips and advice.