Mossberg’s Mailbox

Transferring Video to a PC

Published on August 13, 2013
by Walt Mossberg

Q:

I’m in the midst of creating a photo slide show and would like to include video, but am not sure if/how I can properly transfer video to the PC from my video camera, which records on tape, for which I think I need to use a FireWire connection. The desktop all-in-one PC has no FireWire input, only USB ports. Is this still workable?

A:

USB and FireWire (also called 1394 or I.Link) are incompatible data-transfer standards. Over the years, there have been some adapters and converters advertised, but I’m not aware of a widely used one and have never tested any.

I’d check the camera carefully to see if it has any other transfer mechanism built in, like a memory card or USB or Wi-Fi. If not, you can search the Web for adapters. But the best solution might be to see if you can borrow somebody’s older Mac, most of which came with FireWire for years. You could then transfer the video to the Mac, copy it to a Windows-formatted USB flash drive or external hard disk (which the Mac can use) or to a cloud-storage account like Dropbox. Then, from one of these, transfer it to your PC.

Q:

What is your recommendation for a good and inexpensive laptop for use by a 9- and 12-year-old. The computer will mainly be used for writing school reports and Internet access.

A:

I’m unsure what your definition of “inexpensive” is, but you should be able to find a name-brand Windows laptop in the $400-to-$500 range that would handle those needs. It should do the trick for three to five years. Don’t worry about buying one with the fastest processor or biggest hard disk, but steer away from the very least-expensive models.

Q:

With Windows 8, my PC’s login password is tied into Microsoft’s Outlook.com and SkyDrive. When crossing national borders, how should users prepare their laptops such that a customs official can’t access emails in Outlook.com as well as personal and professional materials that are stored in SkyDrive?

A:

Windows 8 allows you to switch from a Microsoft account (the name for what you’re using) to what’s called a local account that just locks and unlocks the computer, but doesn’t use the same credentials you use for online Microsoft services. Once you do this, you won’t be able to sync settings among multiple PCs, but you can switch back later. You can manage this in the Users portion of the PC Settings screen that’s activated at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar in the Start Screen mode.

Email Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.

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