It’s unsurprising that downloading films is one of the main reasons people go online – the internet has become the biggest video shop in the world, allowing people to buy, rent or download films directly to their media player, TV set top box or PC.
Downloading movies is only one of two ways to get video content from the net. You can download it (save it to your computer) or you can stream it (watch it online) via a catch-up or on-demand service. Lots of sites and providers offer video for streaming and downloading.
If you're looking for a broadband package that will allow you to download films of a high-quality, you'll need a quick connection speed and a large download allowance.
For information on download times for certain files, including low quality, high quality, DVD and BluRay, read the uSwitch guide to Download Times.
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How to download films online
Check with your provider
Your internet provider might offer downloads – BT Vision, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media all offer movie download services with their packages. And at discounted prices too.
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Using a service like 4oD, YouTube or BBC iPlayer, you can watch films and TV but they won’t be saved to your device.
Low quality video streams can be downloaded on most connections, but if you want HD quality then you’ll need a quick, reliable internet connection. Internet speeds never run as advertised, so if you have an 8Mbps connection it’s realistically going to struggle with HD streaming.
Latterly, pay-TV streaming services such as Netflix and NowTV, have boomed. These offer premium content for a monthly subscription or on a pay as you go basis and can be enjoyed on games consoles, laptops, desktops, tablets or smartphones.
Unsure how fast your current broadband connection is? Use our broadband speed test to find out.
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Downloading films directly
Using a dedicated service like iTunes or IWatchFilm, you can purchase films and save them to your PC, portable hard drive, or burn them to disc.
Only ever download films when you are sure you have the right permissions. If you are not sure about the provenance of a film, it’s best not to risk it.
P2P technology seeks to minimize download times by changing the way the files are downloaded – instead of trying to get one file from one person, it downloads multiple pieces simultaneously from multiple people and puts them back together when they’ve all been downloaded.
This is a great technology and speeds can be huge, but it is largely used for illegal file-sharing and should be used with extreme caution.
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The future of downloading movies
As technology has got better, devices have become more multifunctional. TVs now act as PC displays, and surround sound systems connect every piece of lounge-technology into one, giant multimedia hub.
With super-fast broadband speeds, it will only be a matter of time before everything is bought, downloaded, played and watched from one central location in your home - your armchair.
A few tips for staying out of trouble...
The internet is a minefield of copyright infringement, and it's important to stay up to speed. Remember that your provider can block your service and you can get taken to court for copyright infringement.
- Download only from reputable sources
- Avoid illegal file sharing
- Don’t duplicate anything without permission! Think of it like a DVD or VHS tape.
- If in doubt, always err on the side of caution