How to Download From GitHub: A Beginner's Guide

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Jamie Juviler
Jamie Juviler

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GitHub is one of the largest developer resources and a must-know for aspiring web developers to explore and share projects online. Whether you are beginning to embark on your GitHub journey or are well-versed in the world of git, knowing how to download a folder from GitHub is mandatory knowledge. 

image shows a person looking at a computer thinking about how to download a folder from github

If you’re just starting out with git and GitHub, taking open-source code from GitHub to experiment with or add to your projects is one great way to learn or develop your apps. You can even connect your GitHub repository to your preferred hosting to deploy and test your apps. Streamline Your Coding: 25 HTML & CSS Hacks [Free Guide]

To do that, you’ll need to learn the basics: getting a file from GitHub onto your computer. And — you guessed it — to achieve this, you'll need to learn how to download a folder from GitHub. (Well, or repository, file, or release, depending on your needs.) 

In this post, I'll show you how to do the following in GitHub: 

Let’s get started.

How to Download a File From GitHub

So, you want to download a file from GitHub. By learning how to do so, you're opening yourself up to a world of opportunity. There are numerous reasons that a developer may want to leverage this capability. Some of the most popular use cases include accessing code libraries or frameworks, successfully collaborating on a project, learning or completing a deep-dive study into code, and even for version control purposes.

In other words, figuring out how to do so should be an early step on your GitHub journey. 

To download a single file from GitHub, here's what you'll do. 

1. Navigate to the GitHub repository page that contains the file. If it’s a public repository, you can visit the page without logging in. If it’s a private repository, you’ll need to log in and have the proper permissions to access it.

2. From the main repository page, locate the file you want to download. Do this by navigating the folders, or by clicking Go to File near the top of the page. This opens a list of all files in the repository that you can search. Here's what that looks like on my screen. 

How to Download a Folder From GitHub: image shows the first step in how to download a file

3. Click the file you want to download. This will open the file in GitHub.

4. On the file page, click the Raw button. This opens the raw code in your browser.

5. Right-click the page and select Save as…, then name the file and choose where to save it on your device.

Give yourself a pat on the back — you've successfully downloaded a file from GitHub!

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How to Download a GitHub Repository

Next up, I'll teach you how to download a GitHub Repository. But first, let me provide some helpful context. 

GitHub is made up of repositories. A repository is a place where all files in a project can be stored, accessed, tracked, and modified. When I talk about learning how to download a folder from GitHub, really, I'm referencing a repository. 

When you download a repository, you can achieve a variety of things. For instance, you can download and then contribute to a project, troubleshoot or test code locally before pushing the changes back to the repository, and even use open-source projects to further enhance your own learning. 

Here's how I download a repository in GitHub.

1. Navigate to the GitHub repository page. If it’s a public repository, you can visit the page without logging in. If it’s a private repository, you’ll need to log in and have the proper permissions to access it.

2. On the main repository page, click the green Code button.

how to download a folder from github: how to download repository.

3. In the menu that appears, click Download ZIP. The entire repository will be downloaded to your device as a zipped file.

how to download a folder from github: image shows how to download a repository

With that, you should be able to open the file locally. Yes, it's that easy! 

How to Download a Release From GitHub

If you're familiar with the world of GitHub, you've probably heard of a release before. Repositories may also put out releases, which are packaged versions of the project. 

Often, a release is considered a stable version of a project’s code. The release has typically been tested repeatedly, so when you download one, you can rest assured that you are working with the least buggy version.

Another reason knowing how to download a GitHub release is imperative is that by doing so, you can gain access to specific functionalities. Sometimes, releases include special features you couldn’t get otherwise.

There’s also the compatibility aspect. You have control over which release you download, which allows you to guarantee that the project is compatible with your pre-existing codebase.

Last — but certainly not least — there’s the security aspect. Often releases will include security patches or updates.

1. Navigate to the GitHub repository page. If it’s a public repository, you can visit the page without logging in. If it’s a private repository, you’ll need to log in and have the proper permissions to access it.

2. Click Releases, located on the right-side panel.

How to Download a folder from github: image shows to click releases

3. You’ll be brought to a page listing releases from newest to oldest. Under the release that you want to download, locate the Assets section. Click a file under this section to download it.

How to Download a folder from github: repository step

You’ll be able to open this zipped file on your local device.

How to Download Multiple Files From GitHub

Next order of business: Learning how to download multiple files from GitHub. I do have some bad-ish news: Unless you want to download an entire repository or release, there’s currently no way to bulk-download multiple files from GitHub.

Depending on how many files you need from a repository, it may be the least time consuming download each individual file you need. Your other option is to download the entire repository/release and delete any unnecessary files.

To complete either of these processes, you'd follow the steps I've already outlined above. 

Get files from GitHub.

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to using GitHub — the platform packs a ton of features, so it can feel intimidating to newcomers. However, GitHub does an excellent job of making its tools simple and accessible. Case in point: Downloading a single file or an entire repository is possible with just a few clicks.

Now that you know how to do so, and why you may want to, you're free to explore everything GitHub has to offer. 

Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2022 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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