Question: We’re having trouble importing photos from our iPhone 7 to our Windows 10 laptop.

The PC has difficulty handling an automatic transfer, even though the phone’s contents are visible on the PC screen. (Manually transferring photos is tedious because of the way the iPhone organizes photos in many different file folders.) Apparently, I need to use an iTunes feature called “Apple mobile device service,” but I can’t figure out how it works. I tried reinstalling iTunes on the laptop, but that didn’t help. Is there a better way to transfer photos from the iPhone to the PC? — Mark Miller, White Bear Lake, Minn.

Answer: There is a better way: Sharing iPhone photos with the PC via a cloud-storage service.

Your problem is not that the iTunes “mobile device service” isn’t working. Your PC is recognizing the iPhone. The real problem is that the direct PC-iPhone connection, once established, doesn’t work smoothly. Using a cloud service as an intermediary solves that problem — but choose one carefully.

Apple’s iCloud service would seem to be an ideal intermediary because of the photo-sharing features already built into it.

If you download Apple’s iCloud app for Windows, you can view photos on your PC that your iPhone shares via iCloud.

But the results are disappointing because your PC doesn’t receive the original high-quality iPhone photos. Instead, it gets downsized versions that contain about 70% less data (which limits printing or enlarging photos.)

A better solution is to transfer photos from the iPhone to the PC via a cloud storage service not affiliated with either Microsoft or Apple, such as Dropbox (no data loss in photos) or Google Photos (about 30% data loss in photos.) These independent cloud services tend to work smoothly with different devices and the basic versions are free.

But be careful about cellular costs. Photo transfers involve a lot of data. Use a Wi-Fi network to save money. Don’t use your cellular data plan, because you could easily gobble up your data allowance and have to pay more.

Follow-up

I recently answered a question about the “shuffle” feature of iTunes, which allows songs to play randomly (see tinyurl.com/v5k3ph9.)

But true random play, in which each song is heard only once, is harder to set up than you would think. (For example, each time “shuffle” is used, a new random sequence is created, so songs are often heard more than once.)

Fortunately, several readers have offered workarounds for achieving random song play or something close to it:

  • Let the songs in the iTunes music library play in order. It isn’t random (the music library is alphabetized), but each song will play only once.
  • Use an iTunes “smart playlist” that allows you to set “rules” for how songs play (see tinyurl.com/qvjwj5a and tinyurl.com/vc4er9d.) Put all your songs on one giant smart playlist, and set to the rule to “least recently played.”
  • Create a smart playlist that includes all your songs, and set the rule to “last played,” “is before,” “(type in a specific date).” The date should be before today.

Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers can write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Include a full name, city and phone number.