The Downloads Folder: What It Is and How It Works

Find your downloads whether you use Android, Windows, iOS or macOS

The downloads folder is the location on your computer or mobile device where files, installers, and other content downloaded from the internet are placed. The folder may store content temporarily or permanently, depending on your preferences.

This guide covers everything Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS users need to know about the downloads folder, including how to find it and how to change where your downloads are stored.

Where Do I Find My Downloads Folder?

Given that the downloads folder is a key component of any operating system, it should be easy to locate on any device.

Finding Downloads on Mac
You can find the Mac's Downloads folder by opening the Finder via the Dock.

Where to Find the Downloads Folder on a Mac

Here's how you find downloads on macOS:

  1. Open Finder by selecting the Finder icon in the Dock.

  2. From the column on the left-hand side of the Finder window, select Downloads. You will see a list of all files downloaded to your device.

Mac computers usually also have a Downloads shortcut in the Dock. Select this item to reveal a selection of recently downloaded files.

Where to Find the Downloads Folder on a PC

Here's how you open your downloads folder on a Windows 10 device:

  1. Select the Start.

  2. Select File Explorer > This PC > Downloads.

The process is similar for Windows 8 and 7. With Windows 8, you have to open File Explorer, select your user folder, then select Downloads. With Windows 7, select the Start button, then select your username (usually at the top of the right-hand column of the Start menu), then select Downloads.

Where to Find the Downloads Folder on an Android

For Android devices, downloads can be accessed via either the Files app or the Downloads app. Both are accessible by opening your device's app drawer, if neither is available on the home screen.

Finding downloaded files on Android
Samsung owners can find their downloads by opening the app drawer and opening My Files. Samsung

Since the Downloads app takes you directly to your downloads, here's how you access the downloads folder through the Files app:

  1. Open your apps drawer by selecting the Apps icon at the bottom of the home screen.

    The design of this icon varies depending on the Android version being used.

  2. Select Files (or My Files on Samsung devices).

    With certain phones, this step may require selecting a sub-folder first. For example, Samsung users usually have to select the Samsung folder, and then select My Files.

  3. Select Device Storage Download.

Selecting Download will bring up the files you have downloaded from the internet. However, with certain apps (such as Google Play TV & Movies and WhatsApp), the files and content you download will be saved directly to them, rather than the Download folder. As a result, you'll need to open them and, in most cases, open their menus or settings to access downloaded content.

Where to Find the Downloads Folder on an iPhone

Since iPhones and iPads lack a proper "downloads folder," users have to open the app corresponding to the file they've downloaded. For example, if they downloaded a photo, chances are the item will be found directly in the Photos app. Similarly, if they downloaded a PDF or eBook, they'll have to open the Books app, and if they downloaded a file to their iCloud Drive, they have to access the iCloud Drive app.

Opening iOS' new Files app
The new Files app is one location where iPhone owners can find many of their downloads in the same place.

With iOS 11 and later, users have access to the Files app, which can serve as a sort of downloads folder. By default, it contains the files you save to your iCloud Drive, but you can also configure it to include files saved on other cloud platforms. Here's how you sync the Files app with third-party apps so that the files saved to other apps appear within it:

  1. Download and install a third-party cloud storage app, such as Dropbox, if you haven't already done so.

  2. Open the Files app.

  3. Select Locations More Locations.

    On older versions of iOS you may have to select Locations > Edit.

  4. For any third-party app you wish to sync with Files, slide its corresponding toggle switch into the green (On) position.

  5. Select Done.

How Can I Find Downloads Using Shortcuts?

With macOS and Windows 10, it's possible to bring up your downloads folder quickly and easily using a keyboard shortcut.

Adding Downloads to the Dock
You can make opening your Downloads folder quicker by adding it to the Dock.

With macOS, users have to press Command+Alt+L on the desktop. If you press this combination on a browser such as Chrome, it opens the browser's downloads screen.

Windows users should press F3, then type Downloads into the File Explorer search bar.
It's also possible to pin the Downloads folder to the macOS dock, if it is not already. Simply open a Finder window and right-click Downloads, then select Add to Dock.

Similarly, Windows 10 users can add their Downloads folder to the Start menu:

  1. Press Windows key+I to bring up the Settings menu.

  2. Select Personalization > Start > Choose which folders appear on Start.

  3. Slide the Downloads toggle switch into the On position.

How Can I Change the Download Location?

For those who have a vendetta against the downloads folder, or who simply want certain downloads to go elsewhere, it's possible to change your browser's settings so downloads are sent to a different location on your Mac or PC.

Changing download location
You can change the folder downloads are sent to by changing your browser settings.

One a Mac device, press Command+comma [ , ]. This will bring up the Preferences/Settings screen for your browser. From there, your next steps depend on your chosen browser. Here is a specific example for Chrome:

  1. Press Command+[ , ].

  2. Scroll down and select Advanced.

  3. Scroll down to the Downloads subheading. Next to Location, select Change.

  4. From the window that appears, select the folder you want downloads to be sent to, such as Documents or Desktop, then choose Select.

For Windows, there is no specific shortcut that will automatically open your browser settings. Instead, you need to open your browser's settings menu from within the browser itself. As an example, here's what to do with Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox and select Tools from the menu bar at the top of the screen

  2. Select Options > General.

  3. Scroll down to the Downloads subheading. Next to the Save files to option, select Browse.

  4. Choose the folder you want your downloads to be sent to, then choose Select Folder.

  5. Select OK.

All major browsers give you the option of where to save downloaded files. With Firefox, you'll find the Always ask me where to save files option directly below the Save files to setting. Google Chrome has the same option in its settings menu. By moving the toggle switch to the On position, you'll be asked where to send your downloads from that point on.