Default Download Behavior In Browsers

By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO

Ever since I have been using internet browsers, back in the dark ages when very little standards applied, when I was using a browser called Netscape in the late 1990s, I have had to change one setting: downloaded files have always automatically gone into the Downloads folder.

In my last article, I wrote that I would not backup the Downloads folder because it is usually filled with old documents and installation files.   The wise computer user, however, wants to control where the downloaded files go.  Into the settings we go:


Chrome is the most popular browser in the world capturing almost 60 percent of the market.  It still defaults to saving downloaded files in the Downloads folder.  I want to change this behavior by going into settings (the three dots in the upper right corner next to my account info) and then search for ‘Download’ like this image:

The wording I am looking to change is “Ask where to save each file before downloading.”  I want to turn this feature on.  With this feature on, when downloading a file, a file manager will prompt to save the file in the Downloads folder or I can navigate to some other folder of my choosing.  The choice is important because I can decide if the document or file is important or not.  Temporary or disposable files can go into the Downloads folder to be deleted later and important files can be saved to appropriate folders.  In my Paperless Office article I wrote about the importance of file management.


Firefox is another popular browser, being the default browser in most Linux distributions.  The process to change the default directory is similar to Chrome.  Access settings by clicking on the three lines in the upper right corner of the software.  Type Download in the Find in Settings search bar and select as shown in this image.


A few folks like Opera for browsing the internet.  It does take a while to get used to it’s different navigation functions.  Again the process is similar to the other mentioned browsers to set the Download directory, however, first click on the three lines, scroll to the bottom and select Go to full browser settings.  In the Search settings type Download as in this image:


Vivaldi is the only browser I found that reverses the question where I can select ‘Save Files to Default Location Without Asking.’  I do want Vivaldi to ask so I leave the checkmarks as is.  Unlike other browsers, the full settings are accessed via the gear icon in the lower left corner.  There is a Downloads setting along the left side of menu items. 


I would be remiss not to mention Safari as the default browser on most Apple devices.  On macOS, the browser has some special treatment of downloaded files.  Duplicate downloaded files are discarded and this from the latest Monterey version on the Apple Website: “By default, Safari automatically removes an item after one day. To change when items are automatically removed, choose Safari > Preferences, click General, then click the “Remove download list items” pop-up menu and choose an option.” One day seems rather extreme to me, but that’s an Apple thing to keep things clean.

So many browsers and so many adjustments to the settings to get the best method of saving files.  The change is worth it to better control where the downloaded files get saved.