In English, a lot of people confuse the terms ‘in’ and ‘on’. This isn’t surprising. In many languages, the terms are used interchangeably. However, they are not in English. On this page, we want to teach you the difference between ‘install in’ and ‘install on’.
Is It ‘Install In’ or ‘Install On’?
You will use ‘install in’ when you are discussing the installation of hardware/components/objects either inside something or at a specific location. ‘Install on’ will be used when you install hardware/components/objects/software on top of something.
Generally speaking, you will only ever use ‘install in’ when you are discussing placing a piece of hardware inside a machine. For example, if you were building a computer, then you could say, “I have a new HDD to install in my computer”. In rare cases, you may want to use the term to describe the installation of something inside a room, e.g., you have an oven that you install in the kitchen.
In terms of computer software, you would only use the term ‘install in’ when you are discussing placing software in specific directories. Although, ‘install to’ may be better used there.
‘Install on’ will be used when installing a component on the outside of something. For example, installing a roof rack on top of a vehicle would be ‘install on.’
In a computing sense, ‘install on’ would be used to install software to a non-specific location so:
- I will install on my computer
- I will install in my ‘Games’ folder.
‘Install in’ and ‘install on’ cannot be used interchangeably.
What Does ‘Install In’ Mean?
‘Install in’ means the installation of a piece of hardware inside a machine (e.g., a car) or an object in a specific location. In computing, ‘install in’ will be used to refer to the installation of new hardware inside the computer or software to a specific directory.
How to use ‘install in’ in a sentence:
- I want to get a new engine to install in my car.
- The computer is asking me to install in the ‘My Documents’ folder.
- I have a new battery to install in the phone.
- I have a new oven that I will install in the kitchen.
- New SIM card? Install in the phone.
What Does ‘Install On’ Mean?
‘Install on’ generally means something will be installed on a piece of machinery or computer. In computing, this may mean installing software ‘on to’ the computer. With vehicles, it may mean installing hardware to the outside of the vehicle.
When used to discuss software installation on a computer, it is only ever used when discussing installation onto a computer in general. When you are discussing installation to specific tiles or folders, the ‘install in’ would be the correct term.
How to use ‘install on’ in a sentence:
- I have the game. I am using Steam to install on my computer.
- I have a roof rack that I need to install on my car.
- We have new locks to install on the doors.
- We have some security cameras that we need to install on the walls.
- The government is looking to get new bollards to install on the side of the road.
Is ‘Install In’ or ‘Install On’ Used The Most?
According to Google Ngram Viewer, ‘install on’ was used almost 5x as much as ‘install in’ during the early to mid-part of the 20th Century. This is likely due to the number of people installing components in vehicles, machines, etc.
When computers really started to take off in the 2000s, there was a major uptrend in the number of people using ‘install on’ and a huge reduction in the number of people using ‘install in’. This is likely because there started to be a lot more discussion on installing software on a computer.
By the time the smartphone generation rolled around in 2007, ‘install in’ became the most-used term, although this was very briefly. The usage of both terms is fairly equal nowadays, owing to the fact that they mean different things.
Is it Install In or On Phone?
When talking about installing new software on your phone, you would use ‘install on’. If you were installing a new component inside of your phone, then it would be ‘install in’. It is very rare that you would need to use the latter, though.
- I just installed a game on the phone.
- I have a new battery to install in the phone.
In almost all cases, you will need to use an article such as ‘the’ or ‘a’ to make the sentence grammatically correct. You can also use a pronoun such as ‘my’.
Is It Install In or On Car?
‘Install in’ will be used when something is being installed inside a vehicle, e.g., installing a new engine. ‘Install on’ will be used when installing components outside the vehicle, e.g., a radio antenna or even a roof rack.
In most cases, there will need to be an article before ‘car’, e.g. ‘the’ or ‘a’. At least if you want to ensure that the sentence is grammatically correct.
- I have a new engine to install in the car.
- The roof rack must be installed on the car.
You may also like: “In The Car” or “On The Car” – Preposition Guide (+Examples)
Is It Install In or On The Computer?
Whether you use ‘install in the computer’ or ‘install on the computer’ will vary based on context. If you plan to install a hardware component, you will use ‘install in’. If you plan to install software, you will use ‘install on’.
When installing hardware components, you may find that people use the term ‘install in the computer’ interchangeably with ‘install on the computer’. This is due to varying dialects, and both are correct usage here.
These sentences are both the correct usage for the terms:
- I have a new hard drive to install in my computer.
- I have purchased a new game to install on my computer.
You may also like: “In My Computer” Or “On My Computer” – Easy Preposition Guide
When Should I use ‘Install To’?
Typically, ‘install to’ is only used when discussing software installation on computers or cellphones. ‘Install to’ will be used when selecting a specific drive or directory to install the software. Some people may say “install to that computer”, although this is exceedingly rare.
- Correct: I have a brand new game that I want to install to C:/
- Incorrect: I have a brand new game that I want to install to my computer.
You may also like: “In The System” Or “On The System” – Easy Preposition Guide
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.