J.D. Fox Micro Resource Center


Java and JavaScript


Standard websites can show you lots of nicely formatted information, but are limited in interactive functionality. Java is a system that allows you to easily download and run application programs (called Java applets) through your web browser, which can greatly enhance what you can do on a website. Java applets are mostly used for connectivity related to the website you're on—such as to get technical support on an accounting program you have through the software publisher's website, use instant messaging with a sales representative through the manufacturer's website, take a 3D virtual tour of your new house on your architect's website, or use an online training system. Java-based games are also popular.

To use Java on a desktop or laptop computer, you have to download and install the Java platform software. If you visit a website that requires Java, the website will usually tell you so. The Apple iMac and MacBook, and most mobile phones and tablets, come with Java support already.

The Java platform was originally developed by Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle). It is also referred to as JRE (Java Runtime Environment) or JVM (Java Virtual Machine). These are all the same thing. In Microsoft Windows, you will see the white Java icon Java6 or Java7 in the system tray when a Java applet is running. If you see the orange Java icon Java Update, this means there is an update available for the Java platform software itself.

Below are links to several versions of Java, which will allow you to download the latest update for that version. Version 7 was released in 2011 to enable new features, but programs written before Java 7 may fail to run once you install Java 7 or Java 8 on your computer. So, Java 6 is still available for download, linked below. The last version of Java 6 is Update 45, and it is no longer updated by Oracle.

Java  Download Java 8

This is the recommended link. It will automatically detect your operating system version and computer architecture, and download the correct files. If you still run Windows XP, please use the link below, as Java 8 is not supported on Windows XP.

Java direct  Java 7 direct download

This is for network administrators to download a redistributable copy of the entire installer package. You should also use this link if you still have Windows XP, which doesn't support Java 8

Java 6  Download Java 6 (Windows/Linux/Solaris)

If you need Java 6 for compatibility with old Java applets that don't work with Java 7 or 8. Look for "Java SE Runtime Environment 6u45".

Java 6  Download Java 6 (Mac OS X)

If you need Java 6 for compatibility with old Java applets on a Mac with Lion or later, use this link.".

Verify your Java installation

Confirm that Java is working, and that the current version was properly installed. You must have administrator privileges on your computer for this to work.

Java Tester

This is a third-party site with a simpler method for testing, in case the above doesn't work (for example, if you have an older Mac). This doesn't require administrator privileges. But, for newer versions of Java, it may require reconfiguration of your Java Security settings to work.


JavaScript is another program platform that runs on your computer from a web site, but it is completely different from Java. JavaScript enhances the interactive capabilities of a given web page, such as updating the "order total" in an online shopping cart when you add items, or giving instant feedback when you click a button on the web page, without having to reload the whole page.

Compared to Java, JavaScript is much easier for a web designer to implement, and as a result much more widely used in interactive web sites, despite being less functional. Often, a website will combine JavaScript with other players or platforms (like Adobe Flash) for enhanced functionality.

You do not need to download or install JavaScript. In fact, you can't. The ability to run JavaScript is built-in to all web browsers and enabled by default. Some users choose to disable JavaScript for security purposes, or because some websites can run really slowly when executing poorly written scripts. You can do this in the configuration screen of your web browser. If you see reference to "JScript", "VBScript", "active scripting", or even just "scripting" in any of your web browser configuration settings, this is probably referring to the JavaScript capabilities of your browser.

Because there is no way to uninstall and reinstall JavaScript (a typical diagnostic tactic), many users are frustrated when they get JavaScript error messages on a JavaScript-based web site and don't know how to try to fix it. Unfortunately, most of the time a JavaScript-based website isn't working, the problem is in the coding of the web pages themselves, which you cannot change.

To download the newer but less widely used application platforms (Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe AIR), click here