What Are the Benefits of Software Download Vs. CD?

By Jason Artman

Some modern computers have no CD or DVD drives.
i Brian Kersey/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Internet service providers are able to offer consumers faster broadband speeds today than ever before. It is now possible to download the equivalent of a compact disc in minutes. As a result, many software companies offer software downloads instead of or in addition to physical discs in stores. Software downloads give consumers access to more computer software at a lower price.

Damage and Replacement

A software disc is a fragile object; to read the data on the disc, a laser must be able to shine through the clear plastic layer on the bottom of the disc to the reflective layer underneath. Optical disc drives have error-correction algorithms to prevent small scratches from rendering the data unreadable, but severe damage to the disc can destroy the data entirely. If your computer is unable to read a damaged disc and you do not have a backup copy, your only recourse is to obtain a replacement from the manufacturer, which can take several days. If you lose a copy of a downloaded program file, you can download another copy without waiting.

Lower Cost

When a software company ships a title on disc, it incurs costs in manufacturing the physical items, such as the disc, the jewel case, the instruction manual and the box. It also incurs costs in shipping boxes to retailers. A software download requires no physical items and incurs no costs to the manufacturer aside from server bandwidth. Offering software as a digital download rather than a physical package can save the manufacturer a great deal of money. Manufacturers often pass a portion of these savings on to the consumer.

Less Waiting

Software downloads satisfy the desire for instant gratification; with today's high-speed Internet connections, you can have a program on your computer and ready to install within minutes. To install software from a physical disc, you have to drive to a software or electronics store, purchase the product and bring it home to install it. If no local stores carry the software, you must order it and wait several days for delivery.

Subscription Model

Some companies offer downloadable software under a subscription model. As long as you continue to pay a recurring subscription fee, you may use all of the software that the service offers. This form of marketing is particularly effective with games; if you enjoy computer games but tire of them quickly, you can save money by subscribing to a service that offers many games to play.

Environmental Impact

Companies consume physical materials, such as plastic and paper, when they manufacture software packages, and they use fossil fuels to ship those packages to retailers. You consume additional fuel when you drive to a software store to purchase these packages. In comparison, software downloads have a much lower environmental impact.

Increased Competition

Brick-and-mortar retailers have limited shelf space to devote to computer software and stock only what they feel they are likely to sell. As a result, it can be extremely difficult for small software companies to get their products stocked in stores. The Internet helps to level the playing field between large and small developers, as anyone can offer a product online. This competition helps you purchase a high-quality product at a low price.