The Downloads Folder: What It Is and How It Works

Whether you use Android, Windows, iOS or macOS, these tips will help you out

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Anyone who has ever used the internet will have acquired their fair share of downloads over the years. It's at such a point that your computer or smartphone's downloads folder comes in handy. It stores the files you download from the web, but it can also be used to arrange and rearrange them. Accordingly, this guide explains everything Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone users need to know about the folder, including how to find it and how to change where downloads are stored.

Where Do I Find My Downloads Folder?

Given that the downloads folder is a fairly key component of any operating system, finding it is easy, regardless of which device you may have.

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

Here's how you find downloads on macOS:

  1. Bring up the Dock by moving the mouse cursor to the bottom of the screen
  2. Click Finder
  3. Click Downloads, found in the column on the left-hand side of the Finder window

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

  1. Select Start
  2. Select File Explorer
  3. Select This PC
  4. Select Downloads

Note: The process is very 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, click the Start button, click your username (usually at the top of the right-hand column of the Start menu), then click Downloads.

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

For Android devices, downloads can be accessed via either the Files app or the Downloads app, both of which are accessible by opening your device's app drawer if neither are available on the home screen. 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 tapping on the Apps icon at the bottom of the home screen.
    1. Note: The design of this icon varies depending on the Android version being used.
  2. Tap Files (called My Files with Samsung phones). With certain phones, this step may require tapping on a sub-folder first. For example, Samsung users usually have to tap the Samsung folder, and then tap My Files.
  3. Tap Device Storage
  4. Tap Download

Tapping Download will bring up the files you have downloaded from the internet. However, with certain apps (e.g. the Google Play TV & Movies app, or 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 Do Downloads Go on iPhone?

Since iPhones and iPads lack a 'downloads folder,' users have to open the app corresponding to the file they've downloaded. For instance, if they download a photo, chances are they'll have to open their Photos app. Similarly, if they download a PDF or eBook, they'll have to go to iBooks, while if they download 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.

However, users with iOS 11 or later also have access to the Files app, in which they can access most of their files. 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 it with third-party apps so the files saved to other apps appear in it:

  1. Download and install a third-party cloud app, such as Dropbox
  2. Open the Files app
  3. Tap Locations
  4. Tap Edit
  5. For any third-party app you wish to sync with Files, slide its corresponding toggle switch into the green On position
  6. Tap 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 by 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. This makes finding the folder much easier since all you then have to do is bring up the dock:

  1. Open Finder
  2. Right-click Downloads
  3. Click 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. From there, select Personalization > Start > Choose which folders appear on Start.
  3. Once you've done this, you then slide the Downloads toggle switch into the On position.

How Can I Change 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.

For Mac, you have to press Command+comma (,), which will bring up the Preferences/Settings screen for your browser. From there, your next steps depend on your browser, although here's a specific example for Chrome:

  1. Press Command+comma (,)
  2. Scroll down and click Advanced
  3. Scroll down to the Downloads subheading, then click Change next to Location
  4. From the window that appears, click the folder you want downloads to be sent to, such as Documents or Desktop
  5. Click Select

For Windows, there isn't a specific shortcut that will automatically open the settings of your browser. 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. Launch Firefox
  2. Select Tools from the menu bar at the top of the screen
  3. Select Options
  4. Select General
  5. Scroll down to the Downloads subheading and click Browse next to the Save files to option
  6. Click the folder you want your downloads sent to, then click Select Folder
  7. Click OK

That's it, although it's worth highlighting how all major browsers give you the option of always being asked where to save a file you're about to download. For example, 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, and by moving the toggle switch to the On position, you'll be asked where to send your downloads to from then on.