How to Prepare Your Computer for Movie Downloads

Follow these tips before you download movies

Woman on computer
JGalione/Getty Images

Downloading movies is a straightforward process that's easy for anyone to tackle, but you should be aware of a number of components before starting.

You want to make sure your computer is prepared for the download, that you have the right software, and that you're downloading the right kind of movies.

Note: Downloading is not the same as streaming. Knowing the difference might save you lots of time, and there are important benefits and disadvantages to both.

Check Storage Space

Screenshot of a hard drive's capacity in Windows 10
Hard Drive Capacity (Windows 10).

One of the most important things to remember when downloading movies is that they might be really large. Although it's common for movie downloads to stay under 5 GB, some of the super high-definition videos might require 20 GB of space or more. For reference, most newer hard drives come with 500–1,000 GB of space.

Before downloading a movie, check that you have enough free space. One easy way to see which files, specifically, are hogging all the storage is to use a disk space analyzer.

If you can't move any existing files off of the primary hard drive, or delete anything to free up space, you might end up having to store the movie on a different hard drive like a flash drive or external hard drive.

Use a Download Manager

Screenshot of Free Download Manager saving movies to a computer
Free Download Manager (FDM).

Since movies are some of the largest files you can download, they take much longer to save to your computer than a regular file like a song or image. One way to make sure your entire network doesn't slow down in the process is to use a download manager, especially one that supports bandwidth control.

Download managers are helpful not only in categorizing and storing downloads but also for limiting how much bandwidth the downloads are allowed to use. Since movies usually take awhile to fully download, they tend to suck away bandwidth from other devices on your network in the meantime.

If, while downloading movies, other devices on your network are slowing down, videos are buffering, and there's a general sense of lag, configure the download manager to limit the downloads so that they can only use a fraction of all the available bandwidth, like 10 percent or 20 percent.

It's also possible that your internet connection simply doesn't support fast downloads. For example, if you pay your ISP for a 2 MB/s download speed, you can download a 3 GB movie in around 25 minutes. If you want to be able to save a movie of the same size in just five minutes, your network must support speeds as fast as 10 MB/s.

You can test your internet speed to see what you're paying for.

Secure Your Computer

Screenshot of a FortiClient virus scan in Windows 10
FortiClient Virus Scan.

Movies downloaded through torrent websites have a high risk of adding malware to your computer. Make sure your computer is secure with an antivirus program to catch any threats before they can do damage, and always do regular scans to check for malware.

In addition to anti-malware software, it's important to educate yourself on how to spot a fake torrent or fake download website. Fake movie downloads will attach a nonvideo format file extension like EXE or MSI at the very end of the file (others are listed here) to trick you into opening a program instead of a video. Normal video files usually end with .MP4, .AVI, .MKV, or .MOV.

Another component to watch out for when downloading movies is the size of the file. If it's too small, like less than 300 MB, then the video is probably not real. Most movies are much larger than 300 MB and usually end up falling in the range of 700 MB to 5 GB.

Use a Popular Video Player

Screenshot of the VLC program playing the movie House on Haunted Hill
VLC Playing a Downloaded Movie.

It's common to download a movie and then not know how to open it. Some movies are in a file format that no program on your computer knows how to open. Fortunately, you can pick from plenty of absolutely free video players that will support the movie format.

One of the most popular freeware video file players is VLC. You can use it to play common video file formats like MP4 and AVI, plus others like MKV, MOV, WMV, and many others. Stick to this program if you're ever unsure how to play the movie you've downloaded.

Important: Some movie downloads are 100 percent fake and will try to convince you that you have to install their special software program in order to see the video. They might even start showing the beginning of the movie and then stop and display a message about how you don't have the right program installed.

Unfortunately, those kinds of videos are not real videos at all. They're made for the sole purpose of tricking you into thinking that if you buy this or that, or click a certain link, the movie will suddenly start playing.

It's tempting to try to follow the directions and activate the movie, but remember that they are not real; the movie does not really exist in that file. Ignore those messages, delete the video, and try getting the movie elsewhere, preferably through a more reputable movie download website.