Partial Download Files

When downloading a file, a web browser creates a temporary file to store data being downloaded. The temporary file contains partially downloaded file content during the download process. Once the download completes, the web browser copies or renames that temporary file to create the downloaded file with its original file name and extension. Once that’s done, the temporary file is deleted. Therefore, in most circumstances partial download files would only exist during download processes and are not meant to be used or opened externally.

Each major web browser uses different file extensions to name their partial download files:

  • .CRDownload extension: is used by Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and all Chromium-based web browsers
  • .PART extension: is used by Mozilla Firefox
  • .Partial extension: is used by Internet Explorer  (IE, which has been discontinued since IE10)

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Why use partial download files

Web browsers use partial download files to complete file downloads for specific technical reasons: 

  • To use the file system to store downloaded data until the download completes. Imagine if you download a video file with 5GB of content, without using the file system, your computer memory won’t be sufficient to hold all the data without impacting the performance or stability of the OS. On the other hand, the file system (hard disc drives) offers vast amount of space that’s freely available for temporarily storing downloaded content. After all, the same content will be saved to the hard drive once the download completes.
  • To allow pausing and resuming of download tasks. Almost all popular web browsers, e.g. Edge, Chrome, and Firefox, allow users to pause file downloads and resume them at a later time. Sometimes, downloads can be interrupted at the server’s end or due to network connectivity reasons. Having all the data saved in a temporary file makes it possible for users to resume downloading the rest of file content at a later time.

By design and in the most ideal cases, partial download files only exist during the process of downloading and disappears afterwards.

Why do I see partial download files

Partial download files are designed to be used by web browsers as an interim measure to complete download tasks. They are not meant to be explicitly used or opened by end users. There are several reasons why a partially downloaded file resides on your computer:

  • A download task was explicitly paused by a user. In this case, the partial download file contains all the data that has been downloaded so far. Once the user resumes downloading, the web browser will continue to write the rest of the file content when the download job is resumed.
  • A download task was unintentionally interrupted but is resumable. This can be caused by network issues at either the client-side or the server-side. Sometimes, this situation is similar to that of the previous case, i.e.. an end user can try to resume the download task at a later time and a web browser will continue to make use of the relevant partial download file.
  • An unresumable download error has occurred. For instance, a download session has timed out, the credential required by the download task has become invalid, the server decides that a user has reached the capacity of allowable usage of downloadable content. Such reasons account for most cases why users see partial download files without their previous knowledge. 

Depending on the reason of why a partial download file was created, it may still be reusable.

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How to work with partial download files

The recommended approach for dealing with a partially downloaded file is to use the original web browser’s download manager and attempt to resume download tasks by utilizing the partial file. When a download task was intentionally paused or is still resumable, a web browser can make good use of the data file it had created previously, reconnects to the source of download, and continue on with completing the task. 

For how to work with the download manager, refer to the section below pertaining to the web browser specific to your case:

Google Chrome
  • Open the Download manager using one of the three methods:
    1. Click the Chrome menu button (with three vertical dots) to the very right end of the address bar and select Downloads, or
    2. Press [Ctrl + J] on the keyboard, or
    3. Type Chrome://downloads in the address bar and press [Enter]
  • Look for the download task you would like to resume in the entries and click the Resume link if it is available
Microsoft Edge
  • Open the Download manager using one of the three methods:
    1. Click the Edge menu button (with three horizontal dots) to the very right end of the address bar and select Downloads, or
    2. Press [Ctrl + J] on the keyboard, or
    3. Type edge://downloads/all in the address bar and press [Enter]
  • Look for the download task you would like to resume in the entries and click the Resume link if it is available
Firefox
  • Open the Download manager window using one of the two methods:
    1. Click the Firefox menu button (the hamburger icon with three horizontal lines) to the very right end of the address bar and select Downloads, or
    2. Press [Ctrl + J] on the keyboard, or
  • Look for the download task you would like to resume in the entries and click the Resume link if it is available

What to do if a download is not resumable

As stated above, partial download files are not meant to be open or used explicitly, even in cases when the bulk of the content of a file has been downloaded. If all attempts have been made to resume downloads without avail, it would be better to focus on identifying and resolving the root cause of download failure or interruption than salvaging incomplete file content. This article provides half a dozen ways to address such issues, including checking network and Antivirus settings, trying another browser, and even using third party download managers. Can you delete partial download files? Yes, unless a download task can be resumed by the download manager of a web browser, it is safe to say that a partial download file can be deleted to free up disk space.

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