I want to know the correct usage. Among the two sentences which one is correct?

I want to install Photoshop on my computer


I want to install Photoshop in my computer.

In which scenarios should we use 'in' and 'on' ?

  • 2
    In your example, you should use the preposition on. Nov 27, 2015 at 10:02
  • @CopperKettle what is the difference between using on and in ?
    – user7282
    Nov 27, 2015 at 10:02
  • 1
    It's an issue you could write a dissertation about. Nov 27, 2015 at 10:05

2 Answers 2


The preposition 'on' is correct.

I want to install Photoshop on my computer

We use 'on' for most of communicating devices that connect

on phone, on computer, on fax, on the Internet...

However, for computers, remember one thing.

When it is general and not so specific about the location, we use 'on'. So, it is broadly talking about being held by the computer.

Photoshop is installed on the computer

Drive E is on the computer

But then when you go further, one step further for a specific location, we use 'in' the computer.

I have MJ's collection on my computer in Drive D

The scanned documents are in the My Documents folder

Make your personal folder in Drive E

You may also use 'in' when referring to an item that has some spacial boundaries.

Type something in Microsoft Word
Type something in the text box

Things without specific boundaries

Put this photo on the desktop

As James says in the comment, making folders on some drive is also used but it is a bit more subjective.

  • 2
    I don't think I would ever communicate "on fax". I think I'd communicate "by fax" Nov 27, 2015 at 10:33
  • 3
    I also reckon I'd prefer "Make your personal folder on the E Drive", but I reckon this one is a bit more subjective Nov 27, 2015 at 10:35
  • 1
    You first get a call on fax machine. I was talking in that way. @JamesWebster
    – Maulik V
    Nov 27, 2015 at 10:40
  • 2
    I can see your use of "on" though. e.g. Could you send that document by fax. It'll come through on my fax machine at work. Nov 27, 2015 at 10:47
  • 1
    @MaulikV I think "(I'm) including it to make ...." or "I'm going to include ..." would've been better. I've noticed that you've dropped the objects several times, so maybe they're not typos. It's not part of your answer, but learners on our site would naturally imitate, consciously or not, what we really use. Sorry if this sounds a bit like nitpicking. Nov 27, 2015 at 10:51

In your example, you should use the preposition on. – CopperKettle

@CopperKettle is correct, you should use "on".

Even though the computer is a box and things literally do happen inside it, we tend to think of the computer in general in quite an abstract way. Lots of computer terms have parallels with other real-world office items. For example:

  • Desktop - main area upon which other items are arranged
  • Document - an item which can be read or written, often has several pages
  • Folder - a holder which contains documents.
  • (E)mail - a technique used to send messages to another person.

In this metaphor, the computer itself is probably most similar to a "desk".

Now imagine you want to install a telephone.

With hi-tech, you "install a telephone app on your computer"
With lo-tech, you "place a telephone on your desk."

  • Would you say that a file is 'on the folder'? As you list it there under the real-world office items? Also, a draft in/on an email?
    – Maulik V
    Nov 27, 2015 at 11:03
  • 1
    A file is always "in" a folder, both in the real-world and in the metaphor.* I'm not certain what you mean by the second sentence, but neither option sounds good. Do you mean to say a draft of an email Nov 27, 2015 at 11:07
  • * with the exception that a real world file could be literally placed on a folder. But this file wouldn't be considered an element of the folder. Nov 27, 2015 at 11:08
  • 1
    I think it's rather clear that 'on' vs. 'in' is something someone could really write a dissertation about. :-) Nov 27, 2015 at 11:09
  • @DamkerngT. I'd consider writing it myself if I had formal higher education in English (I'm bound to make mistakes otherwise), but I might suggest it to some friends who are studying it! Nov 27, 2015 at 11:10

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