Have you ever wished you could download Wikipedia in its entirety, and have a copy of it on your personal computer or Android tablet? There’s actually an easy way to do this, though you will need some extra disk space and a little time.
There are any number of possible reasons where you might want your own personal copy of Wikipedia on your computer. Maybe you want to let your kids do research without letting them on the Internet. Maybe you just like the challenge and want to say you did it.
Whatever the reason, you can do it—and best of all, there’s an app that makes it easy and takes the work out of the process.
If you want to download and install your own local version of Wikipedia, however, you should know that you will need some extra disk space. A lot of extra disk space. Especially if you want to have images as well. All told, you will need about 50 GB just for a text only version, and another 100 GB if you want images. With large hard drive in excess of a terabyte being available for cheap, gobs of drive space shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll just want to be prepared.
If you visit Wikipedia’s database download page, you get an idea of just how difficult it can be. Where does one even start? Our suggestion is to use a free, open-source app called XOWA, which does all the work for you.
XOWA should work on any system you have running—Windows, Mac, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and even Android. The one caveat with using XOWA is that you have to install and run Java, but if you’re willing to overlook this, then it’s time to get started.
To begin, go to XOWA’s download page and install the binary that suits your Java installation—32-bit or 64-bit. You’re probably asking why you shouldn’t download the XOWA binary that matches your machine. You could, but if you’ve got the 32-bit version of Java installed on your 64-bit Windows installation, and you try to run the 64-bit XOWA, then you’ll receive an error telling you they don’t match.
The surest way around this then is to make sure your Java installation matches your OS version and then download the appropriate XOWA version. If you use macOS, then this doesn’t matter.
For the purposes of our demonstration, we’re going to show you how to perform this procedure on a Windows machine. Extraction of the binary files will be different on each operating system, but once XOWA is up and running, it will be the same.
Double-click on the XOWA ZIP file and extract the files somewhere on your hard drive. Then, double-click “xowa.exe” to get started.
If your OS employs any kind of executable protection, such as Windows does with SmartScreen, you won’t be able to run XOWA until you grant it permission to do so. So, on Windows, you would need to click “More Info” on the following message.
Next, click “Run anyway”.
When XOWA is installed and running, it will open in it’s own special offline wiki application, resembling any browser you might normally use.
As of version 9.6.3, XOWA features a simple, streamlined download page, which takes the guesswork out of downloading wikis. To access this page called “Download Central”, click the “Tools” menu and select it.
The Download Central page is a cinch to manipulate. Let’s discuss the basics and you’ll be downloading your own wikis in no time.
Various Wikis can be downloaded from the Download Central page, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, and so on. In addition to the English versions of these wikis, other languages are available as well.
If you just want to download the simple version of Wikipedia, which consists of a little under 122,000 articles, then it will occupy just over 420 MB of drive space. If you add in images, that’s another 2 GB. The full English version of Wikipedia will set you back a whopping 45 GB while adding images will account for another 99 GB, so that’s almost 150 GB of drive space when all is downloaded and installed.
To queue a wiki, click the “+” sign and to begin downloading, click the play symbol.
Once you queue something up, you have further options you can employ. You can select a custom folder location, remove the item from the queue, pause the queue, and restart any failed task from the last step.
Once you’ve downloaded your wikis, they can be accessed in the upper-left corner of the browser window.
In addition to versions for various computing platforms, you can also install Wikipedia on your Android smartphone or tablet, though you will need to sideload the XOWA app to do this.
Once you’ve done that, however, using XOWA works just like it does on the desktop version.
Obviously, you may not have 150 GB of space on your old tablet or phone, but you should be able to at least download and install the simple version of Wikipedia.
Using XOWA is the easiest way to download Wikipedia for offline use, by far. It requires zero configuration and aside from download time, you can have it up and running in a matter of minutes. There are other ways obviously, but they’re not for the faint of heart.
Furthermore, while it does require Java, which is known to have some issues from one time to another, it at least guarantees a universal experience. In other words, what you see on Windows or Mac will be the same on Linux or Android.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to use XOWA on an iOS device, but for the vast majority of folks out there looking to download Wikipedia for offline use, this is the most pain-free way to go about it.