Question: Are file conversion websites safe to use?
Answer: It’s not uncommon to have a file sent to you in a format your computer can’t make use of and it needs to be converted.
In some cases, a program that you already have installed may be able to convert the file for you.
A common need in business is to convert a PDF file to a Word document so that it can be edited.
Current versions of Word can automatically convert the file for you simply by opening the PDF file.
Having special conversion software installed on your computer isn’t necessary if you can find a website that offers to convert the file for you.
The typical process is that you upload the file to the website, choose the format that you want it converted to and hit the ‘convert’ button.
When it’s done, you can download the converted file, but this means that the website will have a copy of your file on their servers.
If the contents of the file aren’t of a sensitive nature, say like an image or audio file, there isn’t much to be concerned about.
There can be malicious websites that pose as a file conversion tool that can easily hide malware in the converted file, so it’s important to do a little research before using any online service of this nature.
A powerful and easy to use file conversion tool that I have used for over 15 years is located at zamzar.com.
It’s been in existence since 2006, so it has a long track record of providing this type of service.
They are based in the UK, so they are subject to the more stringent privacy regulations imposed by the General Data Protection Regulation (BDPR) in Europe.
Zamzar supports over a thousand file formats, so it most likely can work with just about anything that you’ll ever need to have converted.
It’s a ‘freemium service’ which means it’s free to use for files up to 50Mb in size. If you need to convert larger files, you’ll need to sign up for one of their pay services that support file sizes up to 2Gb. https://bit.ly/3Ngi3yr
Theirs is also a limitation to the number of files you can upload at one time for free, so if you need to convert a large number of files, one of the paid options may make sense. They charge by the month, so you don’t have to commit to anything more than one month on any of their premium packages.
Sensitive file conversions
If the files that you need to convert have very sensitive information that you don’t want to risk being on an Internet server, finding a downloadable conversion tool is your best option.
There are lots of free conversion tools available that you download and use on your own computer and the best way to find them will be based on the type of file you have to convert.
For instance, a Google search for “free video converters” will generate results from websites that have posted articles on the various tools available.
Searching either the Apple or Microsoft stores for specific converters is also another safe approach.
You can also search for conversion tools based on the file extension — the three characters after the period in the file name. Example: “free PDF file converter”.
Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services, datadoctors.com. Ask any tech question at facebook.com/DataDoctors or on Twitter @TheDataDoc.