Tech Tip: Coming Down From iCloud


Apple’s cloud service is intertwined with its operating systems, but you can move many of your files to a new online home.

Q. How do I find something other than iCloud to save and back up my files?

A. The iCloud service — used to store files on remote servers and keep data in sync among Macs, Windows computers and iOS devices — is integrated into Apple’s operating systems. However, iCloud includes only five gigabytes of free storage before Apple charges for more space.

In the United States, prices for more iCloud storage space start at 99 cents a month for 50 gigabytes. (Music and video purchases you make from the iTunes Store are also stored in your iCloud account so you can download them again, but are not counted against your iCloud space allowance.)

As Apple notes on its support page about managing your iCloud space, “If you run out of iCloud storage, your device won’t back up to iCloud, new photos and videos won’t upload to iCloud Photo Library, and iCloud Drive, other iCloud apps and your text messages won’t stay up to date across your devices. And you can’t send or receive emails with your iCloud email address.”

Deleting old mail and file attachments, photos and videos you no longer need, and outdated files from your iCloud drive can help reclaim some of that space. For those with a large-capacity iPad or iPhone that is consuming a lot of iCloud space with backups, you can switch your device backup to iTunes on your Mac or PC.

When looking for an alternative service, first figure out how you are currently consuming your available iCloud space. If you are using iCloud for everything — or just for things like iCloud mail, photos and iWork documents — you will need to find services that can replicate those storage functions.

If you want to remove your files from iCloud, check to see how you are currently using the space, as shown on the left. At right, Dropbox is one of several competing services that can automatically upload your photos.CreditThe New York Times

Many online backup services have their own iOS apps you can use to get to your stored files from an iPhone or an iPad as well as a desktop computer. If you need to use your stored files on a mobile device, make sure the service you select has a companion app. (Also, keep in mind that if you need a large amount of storage space, you will likely need pay for it, just as you would for additional iCloud storage.)

Several options have their own iOS apps, automatic photo backup and free starter accounts. These include Google Drive, which gives you 15 gigabytes of space to share among Google Photos backup, Gmail and file storage. If you do not care for Google, free Dropbox accounts start with two gigabytes of storage space and free accounts from Box and MediaFire start with 10 gigabytes of storage.

Microsoft’s basic OneDrive service provides five gigabytes of free storage unless you have additional space that came with an Office 365 account. The Amazon Drive service offers five gigabytes free, and Amazon Prime members get unlimited photo storage.

Tech Tip: Battling Adware That Redirects Your Browser


If your browser is suddenly full of pop-up ads or taking you to sites you didn’t request, you probably have a malware infection.

Q. I keep getting pop-ups in my browser search bar and sent to a site I’ve never heard of. What is this, a scam?

A. If you are experiencing constant pop-up ads, trips to websites you didn’t intend to visit, a frequently changing home page, ads trying to sell you obscure security software or other odd browser behavior, your computer is probably infected with an aggressive adware program. These types of invasive programs — which can affect Macs along with PCs — often redirect your browser to certain pages so those sites can get revenue by showing advertisements to (unwilling) visitors.

The adware program may have been bundled with other software you installed on the computer, like a “free” tool bar extension or game. Visiting a web page rigged with malicious code can also infect a computer.

Using a malware-scanning app to locate and remove the adware hiding on your computer is probably the easiest way to get rid of the unwanted software. Wirecutter, a product review site owned by The New York Times, recommends the Malwarebytes program for both Windows and Mac computers; a free trial is available. HitmanPro is another anti-malware program for Windows that offers a free trial.

Restoring your browser’s settings back to the default state can often flush out unwanted extensions that cause the program to behave erratically.CreditThe New York Times

Apple’s WWDC 2018: What to Watch For


An Apple store in San Francisco. The company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference starts Monday in San Jose, Calif.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple kicks off its annual conference for developers on Monday at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s what to expect:

■ It’s all about software, software, software. Apple used last year’s event to introduce its HomePod speaker to rival Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home. But this year, don’t expect news about new gadgets.

■ Apple is set to address some of the tech backlash on issues such as data privacy and smartphone addiction, including announcing new tools for parents to monitor and limit use of their children’s devices.

■ The company also plans to preview iOS 12, the new version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, including bug fixes and other improvements.

■ Look for a major upgrade for the Apple Watch software, WatchOS.

■ Apple is also planning an update to ARKit, its platform for developers to build augmented-reality experiences on iPhones and iPads, which it announced last year. Expect some new AR demos, too.

Combating tech addiction and our loss of privacy.

Apple typically reserves this five-day conference, known as WWDC (for Worldwide Developers Conference), as its moment to show off new software features and operating system updates. So don’t anticipate news about new iPhones: The company traditionally introduces big hardware upgrades at a later media event in the fall.

Continue reading the main story

Tech Tip: Prune and Save Web Pages


Your computer most likely includes free tools for creating or printing stripped-down versions of web articles without ads, videos or other distractions.

Q. Without having to cut and paste text, is there an easy way to make a PDF file from the text of an online article — without the advertisements — so I can read it offline or print it more easily from my computer?

A. If your browser has a “reader mode” that temporarily strips out the ads and other distracting page elements, you should be able to make simple PDF files without extra software. In a nutshell, when you find an article you want to save, switch to reader mode and then use the PDF-saving function in the Print box on your Windows PC or Mac to make a copy of the article in a new file.

Some websites do not support reader modes, but many do. For articles that jump to multiple pages, look for a “read on one page” or a “Read More” button that displays the full text on one screen.

The “clutter-free printing” option in the latest version of Windows 10 strips out ads, background images and other distractions for printing or saving the document as a PDF file.CreditThe New York Times

Tech Tip: Guard Your Mac Against Malware


Apple’s computers are usually less receptive to malicious software, but extra protection can provide more security on several levels.

Q. What is the best antivirus software for a Mac laptop?

A. Macs, with built-in protections and fewer users than Windows systems, have traditionally been less of a target for virus makers — but these factors do not make Apple’s computers invulnerable. Macs have been targeted by ransomware and other malware before, and bad browser extensions, phishing sites and socially engineered fraud schemes are cross-platform problems.

Given the general security features of the operating system, Wirecutter, a product review and testing site owned by The New York Times, recommends Malwarebytes Premium ($40 a year) to shore up the Mac’s own defenses against malicious software. Some security programs can slow down your system, but Malwarebytes Premium was selected for its effectiveness while being relatively nonintrusive.

Malwarebytes for Mac bolsters the operating system’s own defenses against malicious software. You can test a trial version before you buy it.CreditThe New York Times

Tech Tip: Converting High Efficiency Image File Photos for Windows


The HEIF or HEIC container format stores quality photos in smaller file sizes to save space, but not every program can open them yet without help.

Q. I manage content on our school’s website, including pictures. A colleague sent me pictures of an event from an iPhone, and they were in HEIC format. I couldn’t open them in Photoshop Elements, and our site won’t accept HEIC files for uploading. What now? I use a Windows PC.

A. The High Efficiency Image File container format, indicated by a HEIC or HEIF file extension, was adopted by Apple last year with the release of its iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra systems. The format stores higher-quality images within smaller file sizes, compared with the older .JPG (or JPEG) file format. Apple’s systems can automatically convert shared HEIC images to .JPG, but you can also convert them yourself.

Microsoft is working on HEIC support for Windows 10, and its Windows 10 April 2018 Update now prompts you to visit its app store to download codec software that will open HEIC files. If you are not using the most recent version of Windows 10 — or need a simple way to translate the HEIC files into a format that’s compatible with your website — free utility software should be able to do the job.

After you install CopyTrans HEIC for Windows, right-click on the HEIC file and select the option to convert the photo to the JPEG format. CreditThe New York Times

Tech Tip: Decoding Windows Error Messages


Microsoft regularly pushes out security patches and other fixes, but if Windows 10 fails to install them, you can usually find out why.

Q. I keep getting Windows Update “failed” error messages with a long number (0x80070020) when I try to install Microsoft’s patches for Windows 10. Clicking the Retry button leads again to failure. What does this number mean and why can’t this system update itself properly?

A. The numbered error codes you see when Windows alerts you to an update failure or system issue and indicate a specific type of problem. Microsoft’s support site has a page called “Fix Windows Update issues” that guides you through diagnosing the problem and offers to run software tools like the Windows Update Troubleshooter in an attempt to resolve those issues.

If Windows Update fails to install the new software, looking up the listed error code online may help identify the problem.CreditThe New York Times

In the specific case of Error 0x80070020, Windows Update is complaining that another program interfered when it tried to install the new software updates, so it failed to complete the task. The most likely culprits are antivirus programs or other security software that runs in the background patrolling for malicious code.

Try turning off any security applications you have installed on the computer and then run Windows Update again to see if it can get through the installation. If you successfully make it through the update process, turn on your security software again and move on.

If you do not use a security application or think a different kind of program is tangling with Windows Update, Microsoft recommends performing a “clean boot” of the system, in which you prepare the PC to start up with a very basic set of drivers and background services so third-party programs can’t get in the way. The company’s support site has step-by-step instructions for doing a clean boot of Windows 10 and earlier versions of the software.

For those having problems installing last month’s Windows 10 April 2018 Update, the Windows Central site (which is not affiliated with Microsoft), has a helpful guide to dealing with common issues that have cropped up. The Windows Club, another independent site, also has a running list of user-reported problems and known fixes for troubles caused by the update. Reading up on the Windows community sites before you attempt to install major upgrades can also be helpful if you want to know what problems others have encountered and what to expect.

Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology to This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.

Tech Tip: Deciding to Rent or Buy Your Office


You can get Microsoft Office on an annual subscription plan that keeps you up to date with new features or buy it outright with far fewer updates.

Q. Microsoft keeps threatening to disable Word and Excel in a few days unless I pay $70 for the Office 365 yearly renewal. I don’t care about the latest features since not much has changed in the past year. How do I get around this and get rid of the pop-up box every time I open Word or Excel?

A. Microsoft offers a few different versions of its Office suite, and the Office 365 edition is subscription-based — so think of it more as a rental and less of an outright purchase. To get rid of the pop-up boxes and be assured of functioning desktop software when you need it, you must renew the subscription for the $69.99 annual fee for Office 365 Personal. Or you can switch to Office Home & Student 2016 for the one-time purchase price of $149.99.

If you have Office 365, you can see when your subscription started by logging into your Microsoft account.CreditThe New York Times

Microsoft Tries a New Role: Moral Leader

But while the company’s power has diminished since a couple of decades ago, when it controlled computing through Windows, Microsoft remains an influential voice. On Monday, its market capitalization of $733 billion made it the third most valuable technology company, behind Apple and Amazon and ahead of Google parent company, Alphabet, and Facebook.

“The irony for Microsoft is that they lost in search, they lost in social networks and they lost in mobile, and as a consequence, they have avoided the recent pushback from governments and media,” said David Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “This has given Microsoft the freedom to take the high road as the ethical leader in technology.”

Since taking the reins at Microsoft in 2014, Mr. Nadella has brought a more sensitive style of leadership to the company than his two predecessors, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates. That shift has proved to be more suitable for Microsoft in this era.

Two decades ago, Microsoft was depicted as a bully that ran roughshod over competitors in a landmark antitrust suit brought by the federal government, followed by similar cases brought by the European Union and private companies. Mr. Smith was brought in to make peace in Microsoft’s antitrust battles, and Mr. Nadella was the company’s first chief executive to start in the job since those suits were settled.


“We need to ask ourselves not only what computers can do but what computers should do,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said on Monday at the company’s developer conference in Seattle.

Kyle Johnson for The New York Times

In a phone interview, Mr. Smith, who is also Microsoft’s chief legal officer, called its legal problems in past decades a “gut-wrenching experience” that had shaped Microsoft in its current form. “It made Microsoft a better and more responsible company,” he said.

This year, Microsoft published a book that outlined some of the harmful effects that could come from artificial intelligence, such as bias in job recruiting. It has litigated four lawsuits against the United States government over the past five years in efforts to defend customers’ privacy rights. One of them, a fight over law enforcement access to data stored in an overseas Microsoft data center, went to the Supreme Court, which dropped the case after Congress enacted a law that mooted it.

“Not only did Microsoft learn from its mistakes, Satya is a unique and caring individual,” said Tim O’Reilly, a tech industry publisher and conference organizer. “He understands deeply that Microsoft must help others to succeed.”

The closest analog among Mr. Nadella’s peers is Tim D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, who has painted Apple as a staunch defender of its customers’ privacy. He has jabbed at Facebook and Google, both advertising-supported businesses that profit from the personal data they collect from their users, a contrast to Apple’s business model of selling devices.

Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, have defended their advertising businesses for allowing them to deliver services for free. They’ve promised to add more human moderators and invest in software tools that can screen out misinformation and other prohibited content.

Mr. Cook has not turned his ire toward Microsoft, which gets most of its revenue from software, hardware and cloud computing services. The company has investments in internet services that are supported in part by advertising, including its Bing search engine and LinkedIn, the social network for professionals it acquired in 2016.

Mr. Nadella has been more hesitant than Mr. Cook to publicly criticize other technology companies, turning to more subtle types of persuasion. A low-key leader, Mr. Nadella peppers his speeches and interviews with references to literature, warning that careless creators of technology could contribute to a dystopian world of George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” His lieutenant, Mr. Smith, has become a ubiquitous ambassador for Microsoft on the big social issues facing technology in Washington, in Brussels and on the conference circuit.

Microsoft is still occasionally cast in the role of villain. A California man who sold recycled electronic waste recently pleaded guilty for creating thousands of unauthorized discs that helped people restore the Windows operating system on refurbished PCs. The recycler, who has been sentenced to 15 months in prison, has said Microsoft supported the case against him, which was brought by federal prosecutors, because he threatened part of its business. Microsoft published a long blog post that portrayed his actions unfavorably.

Still, the Microsoft of 2018 is a long way from the company that was once portrayed as a corporate predator.

“Microsoft lived through negativity that these companies are experiencing now, and it doesn’t want to go back to those days,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished fellow with Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus.

Mr. Smith of Microsoft said the greater scrutiny on the tech sector would not always fall on the same companies.

“At any given moment, there may be one or two companies in the spotlight,” he said. “I don’t think one should assume the same one or two are always going to be in the spotlight or always on the defensive.”

Continue reading the main story

Tech Tip: When to Dump Old Downloads


Delete old installation files and other unnecessary system detritus from your computer to free up hard-drive space.

Q. I have an older computer and have been using Windows 7 for many years. As I update software, I have been accumulating installation files in the Downloads folder. Can I just clear the entire folder, or may some of them be filling some ongoing function?

A. If you have already added the programs to your computer, you can delete the old installation programs piling up in the Downloads folder. Once you have run the installer files, they just sit dormant unless you need to reinstall the program you downloaded. If you have been using Windows 7 for years, odds are those installer files have outdated versions of the programs anyway.

When you have made sure the Downloads folder contains nothing but outdated installer files, you can detele its contents and reclaim space on the computer’s drive.CreditThe New York Times

Before you dump everything, skim the folder’s contents to make sure there are no items in there you need. Next, press the Control and A keys to select all the files at once and press the Delete key to fling them into the Recycle Bin. To erase the contents of the Recycle Bin, right-click its icon and choose Empty Recycle Bin.

The Disk Cleanup tool included with Windows scans the computer for unnecessary files (left), and system files (right), that you can safely delete from the hard drive.CreditThe New York Times