Tech Q&A: Backing up an iPhone while moving photos to PC

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Q: I back up iPhone photos to iCloud, and I’d like to transfer them from iCloud to my PC. But I was surprised to read in your column how much data the photos lose during the iCloud-to-PC transfer (see

You suggested transferring photos from the iPhone to Dropbox and from Dropbox to the PC, but I’d rather not have to do that. Can I just continue backing up to iCloud, then moving the photos from iCloud to Dropbox and from Dropbox to the PC?

— John Swanson, Lakeville, Minn.

A: You should definitely keep backing up your photos (and your other iPhone data) to Apple’s iCloud online storage service. That way, if your phone is lost or damaged, all of your data and photos can be transferred to a new iPhone without any loss of data.

But transferring photos to a PC via iCloud’s “shared albums” results in a loss of data. Transferring photos via iCloud’s “iCloud Drive” doesn’t cause data loss, but requires sending the photos via a compressed zip folder, which must be decompressed before the pictures can be viewed.

Transferring photos from iCloud to Dropbox is more straightforward (see, but there’s an easier way: Use the Dropbox automatic upload feature to copy multiple photos from your iPhone.

Here’s how:

— On your iPhone, go to Settings and choose the Dropbox app. Click “photos” and under “allow photos access” select “read and write.”

— On your Dropbox app, go to files, select “create” and in the resulting list choose “upload photos.” You will then see your iPhone photos; touch the ones you want to upload and click “next.” You will then be asked whether you want to upload them to Dropbox or to a specific file folder within Dropbox. Make a choice and click “upload.”

— Once Dropbox uploads the photos from your iPhone, it will automatically copy them to the Dropbox app on your PC — provided that the PC and iPhone are signed in to the same Dropbox account. (Once the photos are in Dropbox on your PC, copy them to another PC folder. That way they won’t be affected by future changes on Dropbox.)

— Uploading photos from your iPhone to Dropbox can use a lot of data (each photo contains 1 to 3 megabytes of information.) So, use a home Wi-Fi network that’s connected to an unlimited data plan (the type available from phone or cable companies) rather than the limited data plan your cellular company offers.

Q: I have a Mac and an iPad, and don’t need my Windows 8.1 PC. Can I safely donate it?

— Marilyn Hysell, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

A: You can donate your Windows 8.1 PC, which will continue to get security updates until January 2023. If you have a lot of personal data on the PC, use a “data destruction” program to wipe the disk clean — it will erase everything, including Windows 8.1 (see If you don’t have significant personal data on the PC, you can do a factory reset — it reinstalls Windows 8.1 with its factory settings, deletes apps you installed, and makes data on the hard drive invisible without actually erasing it (see and If you use factory reset, an expert could still retrieve the data.



Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers may write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: Please include a full name, city and phone number.


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