Choosing the Best Free Cloud Storage

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    A Helpful Guide to Choosing Free Cloud Storage

    Cloud storage is becoming an increasingly important part of life for PC and smartphone users alike! From synchronising files and sharing photos through to backing-up smartphones, desktops and laptops, it is something most of us now rely on within our daily lives. With this in mind, it is becoming increasingly important to choose the right cloud storage provider to ensure your needs are being met, a task which is becoming ever more difficult as new providers continue to enter the market with many offering free storage as a part of their service.

    This guide aims to highlight the main features and functions to be aware of whilst evaluating this free cloud storage! this includes what to look for regarding functionality, privacy, security, smartphone support and the costs of upgrading the service should you need more storage or features from your chosen provider in the future (an often-overlooked consideration relating to free cloud storage).

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    Are you looking for help and advice on choosing the best backup software for your PC or Mac? If so then be sure to check out our guide to choosing backup software which also contains a list of our favorite choices as tested here on!

    What to Look for in Free Cloud Storage

    There are many cloud storage providers to choose from these days, most of which will have some kind of free account offering their users a certain quota of free cloud storage! With some providers this free allocation is heavily restricted and intended to function more as a trial of their premium account, many others offer a genuinely useful free account featuring many of the premium account features and been limited only by the storage quota itself.

    In the points below I will be addressing some of the main things to think about and consider whilst evaluating any free cloud storage provider, these are:

    Amount of Free Storage

    Starting with a fairly obvious point, the amount of free storage on offer from any cloud provider is a very important consideration, one that many will often make a decision based wholly upon without asking any other questions of the service itself.

    This is a good time to be honest with yourself about how much cloud storage you will actually require, it might be tempting to go for the provider with the headline grabbing free storage numbers even though these providers might not meet your needs elsewhere. As such, if you go into this process of evaluating providers knowing (roughly) how much storage you actually need, you will be less likely to make an emotional decision based upon any attention-grabbing marketing tricks!

    Bandwidth Quota (Transfer Quota)

    An often overlooked (and often obscured) metric to look at is the amount of bandwidth free accounts have on offer for their customers, this being the amount of data you can transfer to or from the cloud storage within a given time frame. Some providers don’t place any limits on such transfers whilst others are very strict and make use of artificially low transfer limits to persuade free account users to upgrade to premium accounts.

    Whilst bandwidth quotas are generally not an issue for the majority of cloud storage users, it is something to consider if you are regularly uploading or downloading large files. In such circumstances, certain providers might limit the speed at which you can transfer files after a certain bandwidth limit is hit, others might (temporarily) suspend your account for a set amount of time to help manage bandwidth for their other free users amongst other measures sometimes employed.

    The Upgrade Path

    Something often overlooked by many cloud users is what happens should their requirements for cloud storage change at some point in the future. It might be that a small allocation of free cloud storage meets your needs sufficiently today, however, changes in your job, business, family life etc. might see you needing more space or additional cloud features in the near future (this could include the need for desktop synchronisation software, automatic photo uploads, PC backup software, password protected file sharing etc.).

    With the above in mind, cloud storage users should at the very least look at the costs of upgrading from any given providers free plan to (at the very least) their most basic premium offering. Whilst doing this, take note not only of the cost of such premium packages, but also the additional features they have to offer. This is really important as the provider might be offering a premium service (e.g., device backup) for which you are currently paying for via another piece of software to do, as such, upgrading might actually save you some money in such circumstances!

    Desktop Sync & Backup Software

    Whilst many cloud storage providers are web-based (meaning they are mainly used from within a web browser), there are now plenty of providers offering desktop software to work alongside and enhance their cloud storage offerings. This desktop software often helps in setting up a virtual disk drive or folder on the device which links directly to the cloud storage offering (often referred to as a “cloud drive” or “sync folder”).

    At a basic level, this synchronised folder will allow for working with any files which are stored on a local device whilst automatically synchronising any changes made directly with the cloud account in the background. This has the benefit of keeping any important files available from anywhere and on virtually any device providing you have access to an internet connection.

    This type of synchronisation can also be used as a form of basic backup software, for example, if you were working on a laptop computer and then lost the laptop, any files which have already been synchronised will still be accessible from within your cloud drive. Some providers take this concept even further and allow historic file versioning on any synchronised files, thus helping to turn the software into a fully featured backup service as a result.

    If you want more information on dedicated backup software, including backup software designed to work with 3rd party cloud providers please check out our guide to choosing the best backup software.

    Smartphone Apps

    Many cloud storage providers now offer smartphone apps for iOS and Android devices, use of such apps allows smartphone users access to any files stored within the cloud account alongside providing many other useful features thus enhancing the offering.

    One of the other, commonly available, smartphone features is the functionality to automatically backup any photos taken on the smartphone to the cloud storage account. Others features include the ability to share large files thanks to built-in link sharing tools and the ability to backup all photos, contacts, files etc. which might usually be found on a smartphone.

    Privacy and Security

    User privacy and account security are two important considerations when choosing any form of cloud storage (free or otherwise). Be sure to try and choose providers who offer additional security features (such as multi-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption) whenever possible and (if applicable to your needs) choose providers within certain jurisdictions such as the EU or Switzerland where data privacy laws can be more stringent.

    Most providers will offer free and premium account holders the same levels of account security and privacy, some do, however, allow premium users more freedoms such as the ability to use additional multi-factor authentication methods including (in some cases) YubiKeys!

    Our Favourite Free Cloud Storage

    Below is a list of our favourite free cloud storage providers as per the reviews here at This review process evaluates each provider on certain qualities with an emphasis on the free space on offer alongside other metrics including privacy and security plus any other features associated with the service.

    It is important to be aware that the service with the highest rating might not be the most suited to your individual needs when assessing free cloud storage! As such, please feel free to click through and read any associated reviews we have made on each provider and always be sure to make use of free accounts and free trials before committing to making any purchases.

    1. Google Drive (15GB Free)

    As a free service it is really difficult to fault Google Drive, 15GB of free cloud storage is backed up by a great piece of desktop synchronisation software, integration with the Google Docs Suite of web-apps, link sharing and collaboration tools and finally, some very useful smartphone apps for iOS and Android.

    google drive sign-up page

    Whilst the 15GB of free space on offer is not massive, it is “hassle free”, this means (unlike with some providers) you don’t have perform any tasks (e.g., downloading the app, turning on automatic photo uploads etc.) in order to be given the full allocation of free space. Upgrades, should you need them, are available from as little as $1.99 / month (or $19.99 / year) for a generous 100GB of space and membership to the Google One service.

    The Google Drive desktop software really is excellent and allows for easily creating one or multiple synchronisation folders and backup plans across multiple PCs. The smartphone apps are also equally as good allowing files to be downloaded and shared from anywhere as well as worked on directly if you choose to install the (also free) Google Suite of productivity apps.

    google drive review logo

    2. (20GB Free Storage)

    Despite being a relative newcomer to the cloud storage world (founded in 2013) MEGA offer an excellent cloud storage service with many additional features thrown-in across both the free and premium accounts. These features include well designed and easy to use desktop synchronisation software, smartphone apps for iOS and Android and a fantastic web browser-based file explorer which makes uploading and downloading files easy.

    mega desktop application download

    One of the big features of is that all files are fully, end-to-end, encrypted with a user defined password at all times. The MEGA software (including the web browser explorer) all decrypt files only as they are needed by the user, this means MEGA provide a true zero knowledge encryption service to both free and premium account holders.

    With encryption aside, the synchronisation software works very well and the smartphone apps make accessing and sharing files on the go both quick and easy. The ability to turn on automatic photo uploads in the smartphone app is also a great addition.

    MEGA is priced from just $4.98 / month (or $49.91 annually) for the entry level premium plan featuring 400GB of cloud storage. Other plans featuring up to 16TB in total are also available as is a free 20GB account for anyone wanting to try out the service for themselves!

    3. pCloud (10GB Free Storage)

    In recent years pCloud has grown to become one of the best cloud storage providers on the market, this is thanks to the many features they offer alongside some very generous storage quotas and the option for full (end-to-end) encryption within their premium products.

    pcloud cloud storage signup page

    The pCloud free account currently offers 10GB of storage, this is, however, dependent upon some basic functions being completed (e.g., verifying email address, downloading and using smartphone app etc.). One of the functions that must be completed to receive the full allocation of storage involves recommending friends to sign up for the service (with up to 3 friends each providing a 1GB boost up to 3GB max). This means if you complete all tasks but don’t successfully recommend any friends you will finally have 7GB of free storage with pCloud.

    Whilst the encryption and advanced link sharing functionality is sadly reserved only for the premium accounts, pCloud do offer all users access to their excellent virtual drive mounting software. This software allows a drive to be mounted on Windows, MacOS or Linux and the storage used being on you pCloud account and not the local PC itself.

    Premium upgrades with pCloud are usually very good value with 2TB of storage available for just $95.88 / year (or a one-off lifetime payment of $350). Unfortunately, the encryption component is charged separately to the storage meaning an additional $47.88 / year (or $125 for lifetime) is payable for this feature.

    4. Internxt (10GB Free Storage)

    Internxt is a highly functional cloud storage service, one which not only places an emphasis on providing a great set of cloud related features, but also in providing highly secure, zero-knowledge encryption with many enhanced privacy features also built-in and enabled by default!

    internxt review - registration page

    One of the key features of Internxt is the zero-knowledge, end-to-end encryption which is applied across all accounts (including the 10GB free offering) by default, thus making the service very secure and privacy orientated. Other useful features found within all versions of Internxt include the desktop synchronisation software (available for Windows, MacOS and Linux users), the iOS and Android apps (with automatic photo uploads) plus the ability to create secure, password protected sharing links amongst many others.

    Internet is priced from just €0.89 / month for a 20GB account with other accounts available all the way up to 2TB in total (2TB being priced at €8.99 / month). A 10GB free account is also available which features all of the core functionalities found in the premium offerings up to and including secure, end-to-end encryption which is enabled within Internxt by default!

    5. IceDrive (10GB Free Storage)

    IceDrive is a new provider in the cloud storage world, despite this they have managed to make a big splash by delivering a well-designed and very easy to use product with a very generous 10GB of free storage (and this is a free 10GB from day one, no hoops to jump through for the full allocation!).

    With the generous free storage allocation aside, one of the main selling points of the free IceDrive account is the excellent virtual drive mounting software. This drive mounting tool allows Windows, MacOS and Linux uses to mount a virtual disk drive on their PC which is actually attached to their cloud account and as such takes up no disk space on the local PC.

    icedrive windows drive mounting software

    Whilst IceDrive do have a very impressive, zero knowledge, encryption service this is currently only available on the premium plans. File sharing is also available but limited in the free account to the sharing of links without any expiry dates or password protection (both of which can be set in the premium plans).

    Finally, should you need to upgrade past the free 10GB of storage, IceDrive offer some very competitive pricing options featuring 1TB plans for as little as $49.99 / year or $149 under their lifetime payment scheme.

    6. Microsoft OneDrive (5GB Free)

    Microsoft OneDrive is an excellent cloud storage service and matches exactly the high standards you would expect from one of the biggest names in the computing world. Sadly, however, it has not performed as well as it might have on this list of free cloud storage providers due to the (at best) average free storage allocation of just 5GB.

    Whilst 5GB is a relatively low amount of free cloud storage, OneDrive does redeem itself with the excellent set of features it has on offer to its free account holders. This includes desktop synchronisation software which integrates into Windows very nicely alongside some excellent smartphone apps with automatic camera upload functionality.

    microsoft onedrive signup page

    Use of the web-based Microsoft Office apps has to be one of the biggest selling points of OneDrive, not only are these (web-based versions) available for free but directly integrated into the OneDrive account. Direct integration means that sharing files or collaborating with other OneDrive users can be made very easy mitigating the need to send emails, download files or share links, everything can be done within these web apps, fantastic!

    Microsoft also provide some very competitive upgrade options for free users with 1TB of storage and use of the locally installed Microsoft Office apps available for just $69.99 / year. A storage only upgrade is also available taking the account to 100GB for just $1.99 / month.

    7. (5GB Free Storage) might be lacking some of the high-end features found at some other services, it does, however, feature a very well-built and easy to use interface and some excellent client software for both Windows and MacOS users. sign-up form

    Whilst the 5GB of free storage is (as with OneDrive) only an average allocation, does make up for this with the inclusion of zero knowledge, end to end encryption across both free and premium accounts as well as some very easy to use desktop synchronisation software and smartphone apps. also stands out by being one of the few providers to offer password protected link sharing features to both its free and premium users (something many reserve only for premium customers).  In addition to this, also allow free users to make use of 30 days of file versioning history for free also (this is boosted to 180 days in the premium accounts).

    Upgrading a account opens up some additional functionality including (as was just mentioned) additional file versioning history and auto-expiring sharing links. Upgraded plans start at just $8 / month for a massive 2TB of storage!

    8. iDrive (5GB Free Storage)

    iDrive provide all users with 10GB of cloud storage completely free of charge, whilst this is a fairly average amount, it is cloud storage can be used across their cloud drive, mobile apps and PC backup service. iDrive also stand out as one of the few providers allowing both free and premium account holders the option to add as many devices to their account as they like, something which many other providers seem reluctant to offer.

    One of the main things which makes iDrive stand out is their integration of many different tools and support for many different platforms. Cloud drive, backup, smartphone backup, archiving etc. are available on Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows and Linux.

    idrive web console

    Should you ever need more than the 10GB of free storage, iDrive currently provide some of the most price competitive upgrades on the market with 5TB costing only $69.5 /year and a huge 10TB upgrade available for only $99.50 / year!

    With a great choice of tools and platforms supported, generous upgrade paths and very few limitations placed on free accounts, iDrive is a great choice for those looking for a great all-rounder in the free cloud storage world.

    9. Koofr (10GB Free Storage)

    Koofr is a very well built, privacy focused and easy to use cloud storage service based in and storing all data within the EU. They currently offer all users a free 10GB account which, whilst below the average of many other free accounts, is very functional and contains many of the features found in their premium offerings.

    As was just mentioned, the free Koofr account includes many of the premium account features, this includes full use of the excellent virtual drive mounting software and full functionality when using their excellent link sharing system. Koofr also allow other third-party cloud drives (such as Dropbox and Google Drive) to be integrated into their free account also.

    download koofr desktop software

    Whilst the free account starts at 10GB straight away, should you want to upgrade, premium plans are reasonable (but by no means cheap) with 100GB of storage currently costing €2 / month as an example.

    A great choice for those seeking free cloud storage wholly based within the privacy friendly EU.

    10. Dropbox (2GB)

    Dropbox is probably one of the most well-known names in the cloud storage world, this is thanks to them being one of the earliest cloud storage providers on the market and their commitment to building up and refining their excellent service over the course of many years.

    Despite being a reputable, reliable and industry leading provider, their current free account only offers a below average 2GB of free storage. This 2GB of free storage is well below what many competitors including Google Drive, and IceDrive are currently offering with their free accounts.

    dropbox initial web console screen

    Of course, Dropbox still has to be taken seriously as a free cloud storage service given how good, stable and reliable they are as a service provider and how well known and trusted their brand is. If you can live with the 2GB limit then this should definitely be on your free cloud storage short-list!

    Upgrades from the 2GB free allocation start at $9.99 / month for 2TB of space with business plans available to those seeking even more cloud storage space and built-in features.

    11. Box Cloud Storage (10GB Free)

    Box is a business orientated cloud storage provider with a strong emphasis on providing integration with many other business applications, this includes Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite (Google Docs) and Salesforce amongst many other integrations.

    Despite its clear business focus, Box is a still a very capable cloud storage provider and offers all users a very generous 10GB of free storage as a part of their free account. This free account, storage aside, also allows users to make use of the cloud synchronisation tools, the excellent file sharing functionality and the web-based note taking app amongst many other functions.

    box website image

    Upgrades are relatively expensive at first with the first individual-level premium plan providing only 100GB of storage for $10 / month, things do get better for users with high storage demands as accounts featuring unlimited storage are available from $15 / month onwards!

    NB – Box apply a 25% discount across all plans when pre-paid annually!

    12. MediaFire (10GB Free Storage)

    MediaFire is a solid, albeit basic cloud storage service offering users a free 10GB of storage. Whilst this 10GB is a fairly generous free allocation, it does need to be noted that MediaFire is lacking many of the additional features found in some other cloud services (there is no 2FA or desktop software for example).

    mediafire signup welcome page

    If a simple and free cloud storage service is all you need and the lack of any built-in encryption, desktop software or password protected sharing links isn’t an issue then MediaFire should be a contender. The overall, web-based service does work well and is easy to configure and easy to share files within.

    Upgrades to the pro plan start at $7.5 / month and among some other features bring an additional 1TB of storage to the account, business accounts with up to 100TB of cloud storage are also available.

    Looking for backup software?

    Are you looking for help and advice on choosing the best backup software for your PC or Mac? If so then be sure to check out our guide to choosing backup software which also contains a list of our favorite choices as tested here on!

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