Faster Downloads from MSDN Subscriber Downloads using Akamai

A while back Microsoft copied some of the biggest and most in-demand software downloads for MSDN Subscribers to the Akamai content distribution network.  If you haven’t heard of Akamai, it operates a worldwide network of content distribution servers with the goal of offloading download activity from web servers and moving the content as close to your physical location as possible.  It’s all about getting data to you faster.

There are now two ways to get some popular software from MSDN Subscriber Downloads.  The first, and familiar, way is to log into the Subscriber Downloads website as usual, and use the Microsoft Download Manager ActiveX control to download the software.  The newer, Akamai way is (I believe) only available from one web page here.  You will still need to log in as usual.

In order to use the Akamai downloads:

  1. Allow pop-ups from http://msdn2.microsoft.com.
  2. Visit the downloads link, log in, and when the page comes up, look down to the “Top Subscriber Downloads” area.  These are the Akamai download links.
  3. Determine if the software you want is in the list.  If not, you’ll have to go through the normal Subscriber Downloads site.
  4. If the software you want, like VS 2008, is in the list, click the link to begin the download.  A pop-up will appear, and you will have to allow the Akamai Download Manager ActiveX control to install.  You may need to re-click the link after the control installs.
  5. The Download Manager will ask for a folder to store the file in.  You’ll have to keep its window open while the download takes place.
  6. If you are on Vista with default configuration, there is one little catch: the Download Manager will not be allowed to download to most directories on your hard disk, and it will be forced into a Vista virtualized folder system.  That’s where Vista points an application to a folder in a temporary location (not the folder the application thinks it is pointing to) for security with Internet applications.  Once you have downloaded a multi-GB file and it is not in the folder that you selected at the start of the download, you are probably not going to be a happy camper.  It’s there, just not where you expect.  Look for a folder like this: C:UserstabrahamAppDataLocalMicrosoftWindowsTemporary Internet FilesVirtualizedCUserstabrahamDocuments.  In this example, I pointed the Download Manager to C:UserstabrahamDocuments and that is where it ended up.

I hope that helps.  Some of the downloads are a lot faster from Akamai — if they happen to be popular enough to be on the Top Subscriber Downloads list.  Visual Studio 2008 RTM is up there as I write this, and my download just finished.  Time to install!