Data Doctors: Are File Conversion Websites Safe?

A: It’s not uncommon for a file to be sent to you in a format your computer can’t use and needs to be converted.

Q: Are file conversion websites safe to use?

A: It’s not uncommon for a file to be sent to you in a format your computer can’t use and needs to be converted.
In some cases, a program you already have installed may be able to convert the file for you.

A common business need is to convert a PDF file into a Word document so that it can be edited.

Current versions of Word can automatically convert the file for you, just by opening the PDF file.

You don’t need to have any special conversion software installed on your computer if you can find a website that offers to convert the file for you.

The typical process is to upload the file to the website, choose the format you want to convert it to, and click the “convert” button.

When it’s done, you can download the converted file, but that means the website will have a copy of your file on their servers.

If the content of the file is not of a sensitive nature, for example an image or an audio file, there is not much to worry about.

There might be some rogue websites that advertise themselves as a file converter tool that can easily hide malware in the converted file. It is therefore important to do some research before using an online service of this nature.

Zamzar online
A powerful and easy to use file conversion tool that I have been using for over 15 years can be found at https://zamzar.com.

It has been around 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 stricter privacy regulations imposed by the General Data Protection Regulation (BDPR) in Europe.

Zamzar supports over 1100 file formats, so it can most likely work with just about anything you’ll need to convert.

This is a “freemium service”, which means it’s free for files up to 50MB in size. If you need to convert larger files, you’ll need to sign up for the one of their paid services that supports file sizes up to 2GB.

This is also a limitation on the number of files you can download for free at one time, so if you need to convert a large number of files, one of the paid options might make sense. They charge monthly, so you don’t have to commit to more than a month on any of their premium plans.

Sensitive file conversions
If the files you need to convert contain very sensitive information that you don’t want to risk being on an Internet server, finding a downloadable conversion tool is your best bet.

There are many free conversion tools that you can download and use on your own computer and the best way to find them will be based on the type of file you need to convert.

For example, a Google search for “free video converters” will return results from websites that have published articles about the various tools available.

Searching for specific converters in Apple or Microsoft stores is also another safe approach.

You can also search for conversion tools based on the file extension – the three characters after the dot in the file name. Example: “free PDF file converter”.

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