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What's the Difference between Downloading and Streaming?

Updated on July 26, 2011
Pandora is an example of a site that allows free streaming of music.
Pandora is an example of a site that allows free streaming of music.

Downloading & Streaming. What are they?

Being a lover of technology and working in the field as a Help Desk technician, I am always amazed at how little some people know about computers. I hear people say, "I want to download a file" when all they want to do is Open it. There is even an online joke that is over 20 years old of a person thinking the CD ROM was a cup holder. So, I thought I would take a moment and break down one of the many misunderstandings of technical terminology.


When a person is downloading a file they are putting a file onto their computer's hard drive. This is a semi-permanent activity as there is not too much you can permanently put on your computer. Most everything can be deleted. With downloading a file it thus becomes your property. That is why many times you hear the term liscense, or subscription. This is the creator or owner's way of telling you that they own this file but are giving you permission to own it too. Sometimes these files come with a contract period and others you get to simply keep forever and enjoy.


Streaming is for people like me. I love to watch a video or listen too an audio file but I do not want it taking up space on my computer. I want to play it and for it to go away. Therefore, streaming is a great way to listen immediately without storing files. With streaming in most cases no charge is attached as you are not buying permission to own the file, however there are some specialized content that you may have to subscribe to in order to stream.

Well I hoped this lesson helped you a little in becoming a savy speaker of technology terms. At least two of them.


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    • Carlon Michelle profile image

      Carlon Michelle 6 years ago from USA

      Thank you SpiffyD. I'm looking forward to reading some of your hubs. Smile!

    • SpiffyD profile image

      SpiffyD 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very useful hub. Some things cannot be taken for granted and words are often misused in the context of technology.