As Microsoft announces the launch of a music downloading service to rival Apple's iTunes and other providers, BBC News Online explains how to download and listen.
Napster is one of the most popular digital music providers
Where do I start?
First you need to choose which provider you wish to use, such as Napster, Apple's iTunes or Mycokemusic.
And then check whether its services are available in your country. MSN Music, for example, is available only in the US.
After choosing your provider, in many cases you will have to register with the company. But once this is complete, you have access to all its available songs, which can be as many as one million, such as on iTunes.
How do I find the song I want?
This is generally easy, as most music download websites feature a simple to use and effective search engine to look through all the songs on file.
How do I pay for the song?
After you have double-clicked the song you wish to purchase, you follow the simple ordering process and give your credit or debit card details.
Once these have been accepted the download to your computer will begin. This can take anything from less than 60 seconds to half an hour, depending on the size of the song you wish to download and the speed of your internet connection.
Having a basic broadband connection should, for example, be up to 10 times faster at downloading than a dial-up or narrowband internet connection.
How do I listen to the song?
You can listen to the song through your computer's speakers, wire the computer up to a hi-fi or transfer the song to a digital personal music player. These are generally known as MP3 players after the most widely used form by which a song is encoded.
Most providers require you to have an MP3 player that uses Windows technology and connects to a computer that runs Microsoft software.
Some digital music providers such as Apple's iTunes will work only with Apple's iPod player.
Do I have to download a song?
No you don't. As an alternative to paying to download a single song, other providers run a subscription service whereby you pay monthly and can then listen to as many songs as you like from their websites.
Yet this method generally means you cannot download a song onto either your computer or a personal music player. Or else to do this you will have to pay extra for each song you want.
Can I get any song I am after?
With most record companies, both the giants and the independents, already supplying hundreds of thousands of songs to the digital music providers, it is likely you will be able to find what you want.
And the number and availability of the songs on offer does not differ too much between the main providers.
However, there are some notable songs that are not yet available from any of the legal music download sites, such as the Beatles' back catalogue. The publishers have yet to give their permission.
Microsoft says it is continuing to negotiate with the Beatles' record company and publishers and hopes soon to be able to offer the group's music via its MSN Music site.