Say so long to shrink-wrapped software

I recently had to reinstall a whole slew of applications on my work PC, following a clean install of Windows Vista. It took me the better part of the day to get my most important packages up and running. And weeks later, I'm still reinstalling the odd utility or game that helps me make it through the day. But in the end, I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it all went, and how much of the resurrection occurred without reliance on CDs or DVDs.

Practically everything I needed was a download, from PC World's corporate servers, from the Downloads folder on my hard drive, or from the Web. Almost nothing was on a disc, which certainly wouldn't have been the case several years ago. It made me wonder: Is the age of shrink-wrapped software ending? If disaster strikes, are you better off with discs, or are downloads good enough?

Some people are simply more comfortable using discs, and in some instances, with good reason. "They want the CD-ROM in case anything happens or they have to boot from the CD," says Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis for the NPD Group, which tracks software sales. Others might not have room on their hard drives to store a lot of installation files. But often, downloading software makes more sense than getting it from discs.

All-night store

Broadband makes it feasible for people to download large programs that they would never have dreamed of obtaining over a dial-up connection. And as more software becomes available electronically, more customers are forgoing discs. Even Microsoft is climbing aboard the download wagon, with a trial download program for its new 2007 Office software suite. Adobe now sells its entire line of content creation software electronically, and though the company won't disclose what percentage of its sales are downloads, that business is definitely growing, says Mark Floisand, the company's director of worldwide direct commerce. Meanwhile, 45 percent of customers who buy an edition of Intuit's QuickBooks at QuickBooks.com download it, says Heidi Jackman, group marketing manager for its site. And at about 430MB, QuickBooks isn't a trivial download: Intuit estimates a download time ranging from 20 to 45 minutes over broadband. Adobe's Creative Suite, meanwhile, requires more than 5GB of hard drive space, so it's a very lengthy download even with a broadband connection. With files this big, you might want to use a download manager (if the software maker's store allows you to) that will let you resume the transfer without starting over if, say, your Internet connection drops. For this purpose, my colleague Erik Larkin recommends [LeechGet] , a free utility that works with all the major Internet browsers.

Many shrink-wrapped Adobe packages come with hefty printed manuals. But if you buy the software as a download, you'll get the manual only in electronic form (as a PDF). Adobe is willing to send download buyers the printed manual, but at a cost of US$35 to $50 for something that buyers of the shrink-wrapped product get for free. In this case, I'd defer the instant gratification and instead go for the box with the discs and the manual.

If you want both the convenience of downloading and the insurance of having physical media on your shelf, you may be able to purchase backup installation discs. Intuit charges about US$10 to cover shipping and handling; and Adobe charges between $10 and $20, depending on how many discs the product requires.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Yardena Arar

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?