How to convert files without getting malware

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This is a scenario that’s repeated many thousands of times on the internet, every single day. Someone has a file on their computer, and it’s in a particular format, and they need it to be in a different format. For example, they have an MP4 video, and they want it to just be an MP3 audio file. So they go on Google and search for “how to convert mp4 to mp3” and they see lots of free software that offers to do this. They click to download and install one of them, and within minutes their computer is infected with pop-ups, fake virus alerts, and in some cases, actual viruses.

Safe File Converter

There are some actual legitimate programs that will do this, but depending on what type of file conversion you need, it can be like finding a needle in a haystack. You could spend a lot of time experimenting with the ones you find by searching Google before you find one that does what you want without putting a bunch of garbage on your computer.

I recently came across a service that offers file conversion, and it’s entirely web-based – which means you don’t install anything on your computer in order to use it. And it’s free (though the free option has some limitations – I’ll get to that in a minute).

As you know, I don’t recommend anything here unless I’ve used it myself. So I tried it out.

The site is called Zamzar. You can see it at Zamzar.com. No idea where they came up with that name, but that doesn’t really matter. On the home page of their site, they claim to be able to do over 1200 different types of file conversions. If you click on the link at the top of the page that says “Conversion Types” you’ll see the list of the conversions they offer, and it’s pretty impressive.

As I was browsing that list, trying to decide which one I wanted to try as a test, I saw that one of the options was to convert a video file (MP4) to an audio file (MP3). That sounded like a good one to try. This would come in handy if you have a video on your computer, like maybe your nephew giving a speech in school. But you want to listen to it in the car, so you only need the audio portion rather than the whole video.

So I chose a video file that I had already stored on my computer, and began following the simple instructions on the Zamzar website:

Step 1: Choose the file

file conversion

 

Step 2: Choose what format you want to end up with

 

file conversion

 

Step 3: Enter your email address so they can send you the link for the converted file

file conversion

 

Step 4: Click the Convert button to start the process (Zamzar’s Privacy Policy includes: “Zamzar does not rent, sell, or share your personal information or email address with any other companies.”)

file conversion

 

Since my file size was nice and small, I almost immediately got the notification that the file was successfully uploaded to their server:

file conversion

 

They say their goal is to do all conversions in 10 minutes or less. For this one, it was less than a minute – the email showed up with a link for me to click.

file conversion

 

I clicked the link, downloaded my newly-created MP3 audio file, and it played perfectly in my media player program (I use VLC Media Player, but you probably already have Windows Media Player installed on your computer for this).

Overall I was pretty impressed at the speed. A larger file would probably take longer of course. But the thing I really liked about this whole process is that there was never any chance for me to accidentally click to install malware or junkware on my computer. The website is supported by ads, but I didn’t see any deceptive ones that tried to trick you into clicking. Your experience with their ads might vary (and when I turned AdBlock Plus back on, I didn’t see any of their ads anyway).

The ads are one way the site makes money. But probably the bigger revenue for them is selling the paid version of their services.

As you might expect, the free version (the one I tried out) has some limitations:

  • Your original file has to be less than 100 mb in size (some video or image files can be much larger than that). Paid accounts can convert files that are up to 1 gb in size.
  • Your converted file is only stored on their server for you to download for 24 hours. Paid accounts get up to 100 gb of storage space that you can use continuously.
  • Conversions for free accounts are only done if there are no “paid” conversions being processed. Paying customers go to the front of the line.
  • Paid accounts also get an online “inbox” where you can manage your various files.

Their least expensive paid account is $9 per month. They also have an “intermediate” account for $16 per month, and a top paid account at $49 per month. Here’s a comparison chart for the various paid accounts (click the image to see it larger):

file conversion

 

Personally, I really can’t see that it would be cost effective to pay monthly for a service such as this. If I’m doing that much file conversion, I’m just going to go ahead and purchase the software to do it myself. Maybe for some people and some situations it would be worthwhile, just not for me. But for the occasional times that I need this, it could be handy. And like I said, the big advantage is there is nothing to install.

They also offer conversions from a URL (for example, you want a YouTube video converted and saved to your computer). And if you want, you can even get a file converted without going to their website – they’ll do it with a specially configured email (you just attach the file you want to convert). Those services are described in the Tools section of their website.

If you try out the Zamzar service, let us know your opinion in the comments section.

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LarryO
December 1st, 2014

You want to know how they came up with the name?

It’s from ‘The Metamorphosis’ main character’s surname.

Here’s a link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zamzar#Naming_etymology

– L –

Scott Johnson
December 1st, 2014

Thanks Larry