Should I just save it here, or what?
August 20, 2006 4:22 AM   Subscribe

A silly and trivial - but specific - question about how browsers work.

Sometimes, I will be using a browser, and I will come to a page from which I intend to download some files - think Sourceforge or similar. This page will throw me to another page, which will offer a selection of mirrors, something like this, and I will pick a mirror. The next page will start the download, and also offer me a direct link, should the auto-download have failed.

If my aim is just to find this link, and I cancel the download as soon as the window appears, have I downloaded any of the file? ie does the server actually wait for my response to the "open with x or save to disk" dialog?

Basically, should I just save it on the same box which I've found the link with, and then move it to the right machine locally....
posted by pompomtom to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
It probably depends on the browser. I've noticed that Internet Explorer apparently starts the download even while it's still waiting for you to say "OK." I say this because if you wait long enough before hitting OK, the progress bar for the download is way, way ahead of where it would be if you just hit OK right away.
posted by odinsdream at 4:40 AM on August 20, 2006

Though, if you press cancel instead of OK, I'm sure IE stops whatever preliminary download it started, if indeed it does start one.
posted by odinsdream at 4:41 AM on August 20, 2006

Well, is it faster to tansfer the file itself or the URL to the target machine? I can't see as it matters if the first machine downloads a bit of the file or not.
posted by ed\26h at 4:42 AM on August 20, 2006

In Firefox, it begins to download the file the moment the "open with x or save to disk" dialog shows. If you click cancel, it deletes what it has downloaded.

If you're trying to be efficient, then it's probably best to let small files download, and then move it locally. If it's a large file, start the download on the target machine because then you won't have to wait for it to transfer between the 2 machines.
posted by spark at 4:50 AM on August 20, 2006

Most browsers do start downloading before you've told it whether to open or save, given it a filename, etc.

Basically, should I just save it on the same box which I've found the link with, and then move it to the right machine locally....

You mean for the sake of speed? I would imagine that any speed gain from this would be negligible, unless you're taking a really long time to click Cancel.
posted by reklaw at 5:33 AM on August 20, 2006

The browser has to have started downloading, because without having gotten the MIME type from the http response header your browser wouldn't even know whether to pop up the "save file" dialog box or just render the file as HTML like it does for other links.

Well, it could do a separate HEAD request to check for the headers, but as you'd have to do that for all links, it'd be wildly inefficient.
posted by fvw at 6:08 AM on August 20, 2006

That's interesting, fvw, and certainly makes sense.
posted by odinsdream at 8:33 AM on August 20, 2006

There are extensions(or Greasemonkey scripts) for Firefox that make dealing with Sourceforge and the like much easier.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 12:14 PM on August 20, 2006

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