Basics of Software Installation

Codecademy Team
Learn about how to safely install software on your computer.

Your computer comes with a ton of built-in software programs such as note-taking applications, a virtual calculator, photo-viewing programs, and more. What happens when you want to use a piece of software that did not come with your computer? You must install it.

Installing a program means configuring your computer so that it can run a specific program. It is impossible to use a piece of software without first installing it. A piece of software is installed when all of its files are placed in a folder on your computer and an executable file — an entry-point for starting and running the software — is generated.

In this article, you will learn how to set up a new piece of software — from downloading it, all the way through to using it for the first time.

General installation steps

Downloading software

To use a piece of software, you must first download it. Downloading means retrieving files and data that make up the software from the internet (stored on a server somewhere) and storing them on your local computer.

Most downloads will take place over the internet. Make sure that you are careful from which websites you download files. A majority of viruses and malware come from downloads from malicious sources online, so be sure to use only trusted sources.

Installing software

At this point, the remainder of the software installation process is highly dependent on the operating system. Broadly speaking, you will use the installation file you downloaded to install the software; however, the form that file takes will depend on your operating system.

Reading the terms of condition

Downloading some pieces of software will require you to accept certain terms and conditions:

Terms and Agreements

These spell out a number of very important policies which will tell you what you can expect in aspects such as data privacy. The terms and conditions may be lengthy, but they provide critical information. As a professional in information technology (IT), it’s important to understand the terms of use of a piece of software.

Try it on your computer!

In this section, you will learn how to install version 3.x of the Python programming language onto your computer.

Software installation on Windows

The first step for installing a piece of software on Windows is to download the software’s installation executable. This executable (a .exe file) contains the tasks our computer must perform to install the software. Running the executable, therefore, installs the software.

To find the software, you can search for it using a search engine. For Python 3, search the term “Download Python 3” or follow this link.

Click the “Download Python 3.x.x” in the yellow box at the top of the screen:

Python Download Button for Windows

You should now see that a file was downloaded onto your computer. You can see it at the bottom of your screen or in the Downloads directory. The file will be called something like python-3.10.2-amd64.exe.

Python executable file

To run the executable, click on the .exe file. Now, follow the set-up instructions and answer the questions in the prompts regarding your desired installation features. Be sure to read the user agreement carefully.

Python installation on Windows

To check whether Python was installed correctly, go to a terminal and type the following:

py --version

If Python was installed correctly, you will see output like this:

C:\Users\codeninja> py --version
Python 3.10.2

Software Installation on Mac

To find the software, you can search “Download Python 3” or follow this link.

Now, click on the yellow box at the top of the screen that says “Download Python 3.x.x.”

Download Python Mac

You should now see a file was downloaded onto your computer. You can see it in your browser or in the Downloads directory. The file will be called something like python-3.10.2-macos11.pkg.

.pkg file

To install Python, double-click on the .pkg file. Doing this will cause a window to open which will walk you through the installation step-by-step.

Mac Python Installer

Most pieces of software you install will walk you through the installation steps, but not all programs will follow the same steps, so be careful to read each prompt.

Once you reach the end of the prompts, you should see a window with “Congratulations! Python 3.xx.x was successfully installed.”

To make sure Python is working properly, you can go to a terminal and type the following:

python --version

If Python has been installed correctly, you will see the following:

My-Macbook-Pro: Desktop codeninja$ python --version
Python 3.10.2

Conclusion

Knowing how to download and install software on your computer is a critical skill for anyone interested in IT. By now, you know that setting up a piece of software on your computer involves finding a reputable source for the software, downloading it, and using that download to install and ultimately run the program. Great work finishing this article and learning about this important IT topic.