originally posted by EA FAQ
What is preloading?
When a customer's product is available in Origin in a preload state, the customer will be able to download the product ahead of the product release date. This will save the user time when the game becomes available to unlock, unpack, and install.
When will I be charged for the purchase?
You will be charged for the game on the date of pre-load release, and your statements will reflect this.
When can I download the game?
When a customer logs into Origin, the product available for preload will be available to download. The customer can download the encrypted game file. The download time will vary based on network connection for the customer. For example, a 4 gig download can take a few hours based on typical DSL speeds, while it can take 30 minutes on a T1 line.
How soon can I play the game?
Once the encrypted game file is downloaded, Origin will display a timer informing the user when the product will be "unlocked". This timer appears on the lower right hand corner of the product row within Origin. The timer will count down to the time the product unlocks. The product will unlock automatically when the unlock date for the product is reached.
Can I play immediately?
Certain newer products will be ready to play immediately after download. Other products may require an addition step.
Once the product unlocks, the customer will need to "decrypt" the downloaded file. This will usually take 15-30 minutes depending on computer specifications. Origin will show the product as "decrypting".
Once the product is decrypted, the product will "unpack" the compressed file to the game installer folder. This can take another 15-30 minutes depending on computer processor speed.
Once the product is unpacked, the customer will be able to "install" the game. Origin will show an "install" button. Clicking on the install button will start the game installer.
Decrypting and Unpacking to start the game installer can take 30-60 minutes depending on the game file size and computer speed.
Game manuals will only be available upon activation of the game.