It’s not always easy downloading files in Safari on a Mac. Sometimes files seem to disappear after you download them, while other times they don’t download at all. Confusingly, this can happen for a variety of reasons. However, the fixes are all easy enough.
In some cases, the solution to Safari’s downloading issues involves checking your Downloads folder. In other cases, it involves disabling any plugins that might cause you problems. These are all simple actions, so it shouldn’t take you long to get downloading again. We’ll walk you through everything you can try to fix when Safari won’t download anything.
1. Check Your Default Downloads Folder
Safari sends every file you download to a folder on your Mac. Unsurprisingly, it uses Downloads as the default location. However, you can change this, perhaps without even realizing it.
You should thus check where Safari sends your downloads, and change it accordingly if desired. To do this:
- Click Safari (in your Mac’s menu bar) and choose Preferences.
- Select the General tab.
- Expand the File download location dropdown box.
- Select Downloads (or whatever folder you’d like to use).
You can set the default download location to a folder other than Downloads, of course. But make sure you remember what this alternative folder is. Otherwise, you could lose time searching for files that aren’t in an obvious folder.
2. Check the “Open Safe Files” Box
Sometimes, it might seem like Safari downloads aren’t working normally because of the Open “safe” files after downloading option, which you’ll find in Safari’s General Preferences pane.
This option is turned on by default. It instructs Safari to automatically open all “safe” files once they’ve finished downloading. By turning it off, you might mistakenly think that Safari has stopped downloading properly, since it stops automatically opening your files.
However, you can easily turn it back on. You simply have to do the following:
- Click Safari (in the menu bar) and select Preferences.
- Make sure you’re on the General tab.
- Check the small box next to Open “safe” files after downloading.
Safari will now open all “safe” files for you after it downloads them. And in case you were wondering, Apple defines certain file types, such as pictures and PDFs, as “safe.”
3. Check Your Network
It’s worth bearing in mind that, if you can’t download in Safari, it might not be Safari that’s the problem. In fact, it could be that your Wi-Fi connection is too slow, or isn’t working normally. In that case, there are a number of steps you can take.
First, make sure that you’re actually connected to a Wi-Fi network and that your Mac is close to the router. You’ll typically suffer from slow downloads when you’re farther away from the router, so moving closer can solve some problems.
Also, you can often speed up your Wi-Fi speeds by changing your router’s channel. You can do this by typing your router’s IP address into Safari’s address bar and hitting Return. You’ll then come to your router’s settings page, which is where you can change the channel it uses.
One other trick you can try is checking whether another device is eating up your Wi-Fi’s bandwidth. This can slow down the speed of downloads, particularly if lots of devices are doing intensive work at the same time. Try pausing video streaming, online gaming, and similar activities if you can.
Similarly, if you’re downloading a large file, you might simply have to wait for it to finish downloading.
4. Change DNS Servers
Using a popular DNS (Domain Name System) service can improve Safari’s odds of locating a file’s download servers. Let’s try ditching your ISPs DNS servers in favor of Google DNS. Here’s how:
- Select the Wi-Fi status icon on the Mac’s menu bar and select Network Preferences.
- Make sure that Wi-Fi is selected in the sidebar. Then, click Advanced.
- Switch to the DNS tab. Then, delete any existing entries and insert the following:
Save your changes and try downloading the file again. For the best results, flush your Mac’s DNS cache before you do that.
5. Check for Paused Downloads
Starting a download and then closing your Mac while it’s still in progress can pause it. This could be an obvious reason why you can’t find the download in your Downloads folder: it hasn’t actually finished downloading.
In such cases, you have to restart the download. You can do this by clicking the Show Downloads button at the top of Safari’s window, which looks like an arrow pointing down. Then hit the Resume button, which resembles the circular refresh arrow in most web browsers.
6. Try Downloading Again
Sometimes, files get corrupted or damaged when you download them. This can stop the download from finishing, or it can stop you from opening a file once it’s downloaded.
Either way, you can try simply downloading the file again. This is a basic step, but it can work wonders.
7. Clear the Safari Cache
An outdated browser cache can wreak havoc and cause all sorts of issues and might result in Safari not downloading files on your Mac. Check if deleting it makes a difference:
- Click Safari (in the menu bar) and select Preferences.
- Switch to the Advanced tab.
- Check the box next to Show Develop menu in menu bar.
- Select Develop on the menu bar.
- Click Empty Caches.
8. Check Your Mac’s Security & Privacy Settings
Sometimes, Safari download problems occur because your Mac doesn’t let you open apps from unidentified developers. You’ll find this setting in the Security & Privacy pane of System Preferences, which restricts you to opening apps downloaded from the App Store by default.
Fortunately, you can open apps from unidentified developers, assuming that you trust them. This is what you should do:
- Launch Finder.
- Type the name of the app you want to open into Finder’s search bar.
- Click This Mac to search your entire system.
- Control-click the app in question and click Open.
You can also change your settings to let you always open apps downloaded from outside the App Store. This involves doing the following:
- Launch System Preferences and open Security & Privacy.
- Click to open the Lock icon and enter your administrator password or use Touch ID to authorize changes.
- Select the General tab if you’re not taken there automatically.
- Under Allow apps downloaded from, click App Store and identified developers.
Note that this option only permits apps from known developers, so if you download an app from an unidentified developer, you’ll have to go through the process above. When your Mac blocks an unidentified app, you’ll also see a prompt to open it in the Security & Privacy pane here.
9. Disable Safari Extensions and Plugins
Extensions and plugins can sometimes interfere with how web browsers operate. This includes downloading, so if you’re having download problems on Safari, you should try disabling any recently installed add-ons or plugins in your browser.
This is what you should do:
- Click Safari (in the menu bar) and choose Preferences.
- Select the Extensions tab.
- Uncheck the extensions or plugins you want to disable.
Once you’ve disabled any suspect extensions or plugins, you should try completing your download again. If it works, you know that the disabled add-on was most likely the cause of the problem. You should keep it disabled whenever downloading.
But if you need it for other tasks, remember to enable it when you do them.
10. Ensure You Have Enough Free Disk Space
It might sound obvious, but you can’t download a file that’s larger than your free disk space. If you are trying to download a larger file, you will see a warning that Safari could not download the file because the disk doesn’t have enough free space. You can check your free disk space on Mac by following these steps:
- Select the Apple menu in the top left of your screen.
- Click About This Mac.
- Finally, select the Storage tab.
You will see your total disk space and the amount of free space remaining. If you have less space, there are various ways to free up space on your Mac.
An Easier Time on Safari
Apple offers Safari as a simpler alternative to Google Chrome, and one that consumes less of your Mac’s battery power. As the above tips and fixes show, sometimes it can run into issues, but there are thankfully lots of ways to solve your Safari download problems.