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When I say "programs to install on a new PC" it sounds alright to me, but I'm not sure if it's the correct usage. Which one of the following should I use?

  • Programs to install on a new PC
  • Programs to install in a new PC
  • Programs to install to a new PC
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Programs get “installed on” a computer, not in one or to one.

However, you might also “install programs in” a particular directory.

You never install anything “to” anything else, though.

At greater length

Although text and data alike go ɪɴ files and files go ɪɴ directories, directories go ᴏɴ filesystems just as filesystems go ᴏɴ disk partitions.

When you consider other storage media like memory cards or magtapes or floppies, you find again that files and directories go ᴏɴ those things, but that cards go ɪɴ their slots just like floppies go ɪɴ their drives.

Yet tapes usually do not go ɪɴ their drives (unless they get stuck and tangled there), but rather are mounted ᴏɴ them the same way that one mounts partitions (well, filesystems) ᴏɴ directories.

  • yes it is right but technically it is like that we install a program on a computer in a hard disk memory or in a folder. – NetStarter Feb 9 '13 at 14:18
  • @NetStarter I know that a “folder” is just a directory, but what’s a “hard disk memory”? – tchrist Feb 9 '13 at 14:30
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    Programs would be installed TO a specific folder ON a hard disk or IN memory (eg. IN RAM). – mattacular Feb 9 '13 at 17:16
  • @mattacular Sorry, but that is not right. You cannot ever installing anything “to” anything else. – tchrist Feb 10 '13 at 0:55
  • I think you could use to when describing the physical medium. Install the software to disk. Save to cd-rom. – luser droog Feb 10 '13 at 7:24
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  1. I walked up to the computer, and installed the latest version of WinZip on it, in the UTILS folder.

  2. I walked up to the computer, and installed the latest version of WinZip in it, on the UTILS folder.

  3. I walked up to the computer, and installed the latest version of WinZip on it, on the UTILS folder.

  4. I walked up to the computer, and installed the latest version of WinZip in it, in the UTILS folder.

Of the above, only the first one sounds right. All the others sound off.

Look at it this way, when you put something on something else, it is visible. When you put something in something else, you cannot see it. When you install software, you will be able to see it, via an icon or whatever (yes I know there are exceptions). You will not necessarily know which folder you have put it in though.

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The most usual preposition would be on for the sentences above.

Both in and to are used for particular locations in a file-system. I'd favour to, and a simple google comparison seems to suggest that to is the most common, but in is also found.

You might also install a program to a computer, if you were doing it over a network, with the to reflecting the transfer from one computer to another one (or more than one).

  • What simple google did you perform? – Relaxing In Cyprus Feb 9 '13 at 19:20
  • Never mind, I did "install to a PC" and "install to a computer" (including the quotes) and they were indeed more popular than "install on a pc" etc. I have to say that surprised me, as the use of "to" sounds off to me. Perhaps its country specific? – Relaxing In Cyprus Feb 9 '13 at 19:29
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I would personally use:

  • 'install on' when talking about a machine or device as a whole
  • 'install to' when talking about the storage medium, eg, install to the C drive, or installing 'to' the cloud.
  • 'install in' when talking about the folder or virtual directory.

On the opposite side of the coin, when you uninstall, people generally use 'uninstall from' rather than 'uninstall off' - as in "I uninstalled it from my machine".

  • Hi @myke black. Do you have any links to back this usage up? – Nicole Apr 23 '15 at 12:53
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The most common usage is on. The reason for that is because you load softwares on top of the OS, which is a platform. In would be okay if the computer were a box and the software were a physical thing.

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