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What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying Computer Software Online?

By Rhonda Rivera
Updated May 17, 2024
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Instant downloads and the ability to find indie games and software are two advantages of buying computer software online. In these cases, the buyer does not have to wait for shipping, and he or she can discover software normally not carried by major retailers. The cost of shipping, along with potentially poor customer support and no guarantees that the product works, are some drawbacks of purchasing computer software online. Of course, shipping and handling only comes into play when the company sends a physical copy of the game, which has its own cons.

One advantage of buying computer software online is that many companies allow customers to immediately download the software. By doing this, they eliminate shipping costs and the need for one-use packaging materials and a physical copy of the software. The customer receives the software within minutes or hours, depending on his or her Internet connection and the size of the download. In addition, such companies usually store information regarding the purchase for years, so that the customer can return and download the product as many times as necessary.

Sometimes a company that sells computer software online frequently accepts indie games. The term indie means the game is not affiliated with a major software company. In many cases, these games fail to generate a lot of attention from the media and potential consumers on their own. Online software companies can choose to pick them up and sell them to their pre-established customer base. This is a pro for all sides: the company gets more revenue, the game developer gets attention he or she otherwise would not, and the game buyers get a game they might never have heard of.

A potential con of buying computer software online is when the company sends a physical copy of the game. Shipping and handling can take more than a week, depending on how quickly the company processes orders and where the product is shipped from. In addition, the customer may receive a damaged product that must be sent back and replaced with a new product. If the customer damages the product him or herself, the online company may be of little help. For example, instead of just downloading the software again, the customer might be forced to purchase a new copy at full retail price.

Some Internet shops sell used computer software, but do not guarantee that the software actually works. Used software is purchased “as-is,” usually with no refunds allowed. The drawback here is that the customer might lose the cost of the software, plus shipping and handling, should it not work. If the seller clearly stated the software was as-is with no refunds accepted, the buyer may have no recourse at all.

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