TurboTax Download Vs. Disk

By Dan Stone

TurboTax software comes in three distribution methods: online, download and optical disc.
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Intuit's TurboTax downloadable and disc versions are functionally identical. The differences between the two versions can all be attributed to the unique distribution methods. TurboTax also offers an online version that is downloaded in segments to your web browser as you fill out taxes that has some notably different features than its disc-distributed and download-distributed counterparts.

Delivery Method

The primary difference between the disc-based and download-based versions of TurboTax is how the program data gets to the computer. The download version is distributed through an installer program through an online store's file distribution service. The download process can be paused and continued in the event of a service interruption and can be downloaded infinitely until three years after the purchase date. The disc-based version is distributed either through shipping or from a brick-and-mortar store. The online version is run through the computer's Web browser and is not transferred to the computer through an installer program.

Optical Disc

The disc-based version is the only version that includes a copy of the TurboTax software on an optical disc. However, the installer program included with the downloadable version can be burned to a writable optical disc after it has been downloaded. You can reinstall TurboTax at a later time by using the original or self-burned copy of the program. The online version does not run locally on your computer and can't be downloaded.

Payment Time

The disc and downloadable TurboTax versions are both pay-up-front products. The online version is different in that you can use the program to process your taxes before buying it. The online version asks for payment during the filing step.

Filing Limits

The downloadable and disc versions allow e-filing up to five individual tax returns. You can print and mail-file as many tax returns as you want with the downloadable and disc versions. The online version lets you e-file or print one tax file per user account. Additionally, the downloadable and disc versions both include state tax processing. The online version charges a separate fee to process state taxes.

Tax Records Storage

TurboTax's downloadable and disc versions save your tax return informational locally on your computer. The in progress tax return save files are stored on the computer. You can print .pdf versions of your completed returns for storage as well. You can manually copy and backup the save files and .pdf copies of your tax returns on external drives, through cloud storage and by email. The online version stores a copy of your tax return on one of TurboTax's servers. The online backup keeps your taxes safe in the event that your computer goes down. It also keeps your tax information stored somewhere else than on your computer which makes it difficult for data thieves to obtain.