Q: I’ve used iCloud (Apple’s cloud storage service) on my Mac, but I find it confusing. I’d like to switch to Dropbox for cloud storage. How do I get disconnected from iCloud?

Bob Kruse, Oro Valley, Ariz.

A: You can turn off iCloud on your Mac. And you can do it without losing any data you might have stored on iCloud and nowhere else.

To disconnect from iCloud completely, select the Apple menu, then click “system preferences.” Click “iCloud,” and then click “sign out.”

As a safety feature, your iCloud files will remain online, even though you are no longer connected to them. If you later discover that some files that you had before leaving iCloud are missing from your Mac — meaning they were stored only in iCloud — you can get them back by logging in to iCloud again and downloading the missing files (see “copy files from iCloud.com” at tinyurl.com/y9vrk36j).

Note that a slightly different set of commands is needed to retrieve photos or videos stored in iCloud (see the “photos and videos” section on the same website.)

Another option is to partly disconnect from iCloud. For example, you can opt out of having your Mac’s mail, contacts, calendars, notes, reminders or photos synced to iCloud.

To do so, select the Apple menu, click system preferences and then click iCloud. Uncheck the box next to each feature that you would like to disconnect from iCloud.


Q: A few years ago, I bought a new PC with Microsoft Office 2013 pre-installed (I don’t have a disk containing the program or a “product key” code.) Now I’d like to buy a new PC, and transfer Office 2013 to it. How can I do that?

Dave Eichers, St. Paul


A: You can’t transfer Office 2013 to a new PC because of the type of Microsoft software license you have. It’s called an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) license, which means Office 2013 came pre-installed on your PC without any transfer rights (no disk or product key.)

The only copies of Office 2013 that can be transferred to a new PC are those with a “retail” license, meaning they were purchased separately from a PC, either as a physical disk with a “product key” or — in some cases — as a software download for which the product key was kept in an online Microsoft account. (Most downloaded versions of Office haven’t included this product key, and thus can’t be transferred to another PC.)


Q: I have two external hard drives and two flash drives that work with my HP PC but not with my Dell Inspiron 5759 PC (they don’t show up in File Explorer.) What’s wrong?

Richard Jones, Edina


A: Because the USB devices work with your HP computer, you can assume that one of several things has gone wrong with your two-year-old Dell PC.

The possibilities include damaged USB ports, outdated settings in the PC’s BIOS (basic input-output system) or the lack of current driver software for USB devices. Dell offers tips on how to diagnose which problem you have (see tinyurl.com/yc3c67bw) and how to download new device drivers and BIOS software.


E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 650 3rd Av. S., Suite 1300, ­Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.