Why isnt Google Cloud free

If you’re not already paying for cloud storage, you’re probably not going to be keen to splash out on a subscription without trying it. Thankfully, almost all of the best cloud storage providers offer a free plan that will allow you to store your data online without paying a cent for the privilege.

We’re here to help you sort the bad from the good with our list of some of the best free cloud storage plans on the market today. We’ve got 12 of the top providers here, from pCloud to IDrive and everything in between, each with varying storage limits and features.

What Is the Best Free Cloud Storage?

Let’s answer this one quickly. The best free cloud storage in the market today is pCloud, which comes with up to 10GB of storage and plenty of premium features, all for absolutely free. To get the full 10GB, you’ll need to perform a few tasks, but it’s mostly effortless.

Sync.com comes in a close second, however, and the other providers aren’t far behind, so let’s run through them all, one by one.

  1. pCloud – up to 10GB free data storage
  2. Sync.com
  3. Google Drive
  4. MEGA
  5. Dropbox
  6. Amazon Drive
  7. Apple iCloud
  8. Microsoft OneDrive
  9. MediaFire
  10. Yandex Disk
  11. Degoo
  12. IDrive

1. pCloud

Let’s start with our favorite provider. As our earlier pCloud review shows, we’ve been big fans of this cloud storage provider for a while because it’s an all-rounder, offering lots of storage with great security and premium playback options for your media content.

Some free cloud storage plans offer a lot of space, but on a temporary basis. Meanwhile, pCloud’s 10GB offer is yours for good — no limits, no problems. You’ll need to do a few additional tasks to get the full 10GB, such as refer other users to pCloud. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a fairly basic 2GB.

Best Storage for Music

Aside from storage, pCloud’s built-in HD media player for videos makes it a good place to store your favorite TV shows and home videos. It’s also one of the best free cloud storage options for music, thanks to an impressively designed media player that lets you build your own playlists from your saved music files.

The only features you’ll be missing on pCloud’s free plan are password protection for files, expiry dates for publicly shared files and zero-knowledge encryption for your important documents. 

If this is a problem, you can upgrade to pCloud Premium with either 500GB or 2TB of storage, starting at $4.99 per month.

Pros:

  • 10GB of storage for free
  • Good built-in multimedia playback
  • Unlock extra storage with referrals

Cons:

  • File encryption requires a paid subscription
  • No productivity app support

2. Sync.com

If pCloud doesn’t appeal to you, then we recommend that you take Sync.com for a spin as our second-best alternative. You can check out our Sync.com review first for a more detailed look at the service.

Sync.com only offers 5GB of storage on its free plan. That’s enough to give it a go, but once you start using it, you may find it hard to resist the temptation of upgrading to 500GB or 2TB of storage, available starting at $60 per year. There’s also no file size limits, making it one of the best cloud storage options for large files.

If you’d prefer “free” to mean free, and you don’t mind a bit of hustle, you could take advantage of Sync.com’s generous referral system. Get real people to sign up to use Sync.com (they have to be real, Sync.com does check), and you’ll gain an extra 1GB per sign up. Although 20GB is the cap, the company has been known to remove it if you email in.

Best for Android

Sync.com is one of the best free cloud storage options for Android, thanks to its generous storage and a powerful, easy-to-use mobile app. It’s one of the best zero-knowledge cloud storage providers out there, with AES 256-bit file encryption and two-factor authentication included as standard. 

Strong privacy laws from Canada (where Sync.com is based) help to make it one of the most secure cloud storage providers on our list, too. Premium features are also aplenty, with a month of file history, password protection for your files, remote file wiping and easily accessible account logs available for free. 

If you’re wondering how Sync.com and pCloud fare against each other, our Sync.com vs. pCloud comparison should help.

Pros:

  • Strong privacy laws
  • No file size limits
  • Good security features

Cons:

  • Okay (but not great) free storage amount

3. Google Drive

It would be madness if an article about the best free online storage did not include Google Drive. As our Google Drive review shows, it’s one of the best free cloud storage solutions, thanks to its seamless integration with Google Docs, as well as a generous 15GB storage limit for free users.

You don’t have to do anything if you have a Google account, as the Google Drive storage is included as standard. This storage applies to Drive, Gmail and other Google products, such as Google Photos. This is not a problem, but it’s something to consider if you already have a large photo collection uploaded to Google’s servers.

It also acts as storage for any documents you create using Google Docs, Google’s powerful (and free) collaboration products. All of the Google Docs products and features are included for free as standard. 

There are some privacy concerns (after all, it is Google), which may be off-putting. Google has been known to scan your files without permission, and if they don’t like what they find, they’ll terminate your account. It’s something to keep in mind if privacy is your main focus, especially as Google Drive doesn’t include file encryption.

Google Drive Pricing

Google Drive’s free 15GB of storage is more generous than our top recommendations, pCloud and Sync.com. You can’t expand this with freebies or referrals, but you can upload certain massive files, up to 5TB in size.

If you need extra Google Drive storage, it’ll cost you. The price will vary depending on your country, but U.S. users can expect to pay $19.99 per year ($1.99 per month) for 100GB of storage, $29.99 per year for 200GB or $99.99 per year for 2TB. You can share this extra storage with family members, too.

Pros:

  • Integration with Google Docs
  • Large free storage (15GB)
  • Support for backups

Cons:

  • Unclear privacy regulations
  • No private encryption

4. MEGA

With a name like MEGA, you really should be expecting something impressive. That isn’t quite the case, but MEGA does come with some interesting features and amazing storage that puts it in our top five.

We talked about MEGA’s ultimate focus on privacy in our earlier MEGA review — something that originates from MEGA’s founder, Kim Dotcom. His unfortunate notoriety helped to push MEGA into the public sphere, and although he’s long since left the company, his ethos remains in the company tagline: “The Privacy Company.” 

Great Online Storage

Like Sync.com, MEGA also provides zero-knowledge encryption for your files. However, its storage is be the most eye-catching thing about MEGA. New users get an incredibly generous 50GB of free storage, although this is temporary and does come with strings attached. 

The default storage amount on the free MEGA plan is 15GB. An extra 35GB is added for new users, but this expires after 30 days. You can also unlock an extra 10GB, 15GB and 20GB by installing the desktop and mobile apps and by referring users. These expire after 180 days (for installing the apps) and 365 days (for referring a new user.)

Once these allowances expire, you’ll return to the default 15GB storage. The only way to increase your storage is to continue to refer users (gaining 10GB for each signup) or to pay, with paid plans offering between 200GB and a massive 8TB in storage. 

There are also some innovative, stand-out features included with MEGA, even on its free plan, from end-to-end encryption for secure chats to integrated file versioning and recovery.

Pros:

  • Strong emphasis on privacy
  • Easy to use
  • Large 15GB free storage, up to 50GB

Cons:

  • Confusing unlock system for storage
  • Speeds aren’t the best

5. Dropbox

Dropbox is the daddy of all cloud storage providers. It’s the provider that made the whole idea of cloud storage seem possible back when it launched in 2007, and although it isn’t the best cloud drive available these days, it’s still worthy enough to hit our top five.

It’s still a quick, easy-to-use online storage option for users, but with a paltry 2GB of free storage, it isn’t going to be up for storing your collection of photos or videos. Its features are pretty basic, too, but it does allow you to share your files publicly. You can find out more about these features in our Dropbox review.

There’s not much else  you can do on the free plan,but if you’re looking for a simple file store, Dropbox does just that. It works, and that’s great, but don’t expect anything premium or extra.

Dropbox Pricing

If you’re up for the challenge, you can expand your free Dropbox storage up to 16GB by referring new users. Each new user nets you an extra 500GB, but you’ll need to refer a lot of users to hit the cap. 

If you want extra, the Dropbox Plus plan costs $9.99 per month for up to 2TB of storage, and the Professional plan costs $16.58 per month for up to 3TB of storage.

Dropbox isn’t great for privacy or security, though. It’s suffered data breaches in the past and, unlike pCloud, doesn’t support zero-knowledge encryption. You might not want to use Dropbox for your important files, but with a simple user interface, it’s the sort of solution you could set up for your grandparents and expect them to use it with few problems.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Free storage of up to 16GB

Cons:

  • Only 2GB of free storage upon entry
  • Previous data breaches
  • Not the best for privacy

6. Amazon Drive

With the vast amount of computing resources at its disposal, Amazon has a distinct advantage over some of the other smaller players. It can offer storage cheaply, and that’s exactly what it does with Amazon Drive.

However, don’t expect the name to bring outstanding quality. Amazon may be a megabucks company, but Amazon Drive is a middle-of-the-road affair. It’s fairly basic and light on features, as our earlier Amazon Drive review shows. 

There’s no encryption for your files, either, so expect Amazon to hold all the cards when it comes to your privacy. If that’s a problem, you can boost your privacy by using Amazon Drive with an encryption service like Boxcryptor.

Good Storage for Photos

It isn’t the best online storage for photos, but it definitely made our shortlist. Not only do you have unlimited photo storage, but you can create a shared “family vault” to combine and store the family albums in the cloud. 

The good thing about Amazon Drive is that it’s free for anyone subscribed to Amazon Prime, the all-inclusive subscription service that Amazon offers for free delivery, TV and more. Amazon Prime subscribers get 5GB of storage for their files, as well as unlimited photo storage.

If 5GB isn’t enough storage, or if you aren’t an Amazon Prime member, you can increase your allowance to 100GB for $19.99 per year or 1TB for $59.99 per year. Unlimited photo storage is only available for Amazon Prime subscribers, however, so you’ll need to factor in the $119 per year subscription cost, too.

Pros:

  • Unlimited photo storage
  • Comes free with Amazon Prime
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • No productivity app integration
  • Okay (but not great) free storage amount

7. Apple iCloud

The real joy of using cloud storage from manufacturers like Apple or Google is the integration. That’s why Apple iCloud is one of the most popular free cloud storage solutions available for users.

Apple users don’t need to do much to start using iCloud. It’s just there, available as a storage drive in your Mac Finder app, or available as a backup solution for your iOS devices. If you’re outside the Apple ecosystem, it’s trickier to use, as our iCloud Drive review explains.

Linked to your Apple ID, the free iCloud storage plan offers 5GB of storage. This might get used up pretty quickly, especially if you have your iPhone or iPad set to automatically backup to iCloud.

Apple iCloud Plans

As free online storage goes, iCloud isn’t going to win any awards for storage, but it’s a no-brainer for Apple users to start using it. You can upgrade the paltry 5GB storage on the free plan to 50GB, 200GB or 2TB instead. Users on the 200GB or 2TB plans can share the storage with other members of their family, too.

For U.S. users, 50GB of extra storage costs $0.99 per month, 200GB costs $2.99 per month and 2TB costs $9.99 per month.

Your storage comes with extra security built in, too. Cloud does come with two-factor authentication, and your data is encrypted using AES 128-bit encryption. It’s not zero-knowledge, but Apple isn’t known to hand over data in a hurry, so you’re better off with iCloud than other providers.

Pros:

  • Impressive Apple integration
  • Cheap pricing for upgrades

Cons:

  • Difficult to use on non-Apple devices
  • No zero-knowledge encryption

8. Microsoft OneDrive

We’ve covered Google Drive, and the cloud storage solution offered by Microsoft is pretty similar, integrating cloud storage with Microsoft’s ever-popular Office and Outlook services. We’ve compared Google Drive vs. OneDrive in a separate review, but take a look at our OneDrive review for a clearer picture of the service on its own.

Free users get 5GB of storage included with their plan, with a 20GB file-size limit. You can use this storage with Microsoft’s mobile and desktop apps, or through its direct integration with Office apps. For instance, you can save Word documents straight to your OneDrive storage.

This level of integration is why OneDrive’s business plan made it onto our best cloud storage for collaboration shortlist.

Security used to be a problem for OneDrive, but Microsoft now offers AES 256-bit encryption for files. Microsoft’s history here is a little patchy, especially with its suspected involvement in the PRISM program.

OneDrive Pricing

If you’re happy with Microsoft’s privacy terms, but you’re worried about the limited 5GB storage, then you could upgrade. If you opt for an Office 365 subscription, you’ll gain 1TB of storage for $69.99 per year.

This includes full, unlimited access to Office products for Windows and Mac, as well as extra support for ransomware protection and password file protection. If this doesn’t interest you, you can take out a simple OneDrive subscription for $1.99 per month.

This gives you 100GB of extra storage but doesn’t include Office access, password protection or ransomware protection.

Pros:

  • Integrates with Office 365
  • Good collaboration tools

Cons:

  • No zero-knowledge encryption
  • Limited features on free plan

9. MediaFire

Just because something is free doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s great, or even good. We described MediaFire as “bare-bones” in our earlier MediaFire review, and that’s still the case with this service, which sits near the bottom of our list.

Let’s start with the good, because we’re talking about file storage that costs you nothing, and that’s exactly what MediaFire offers. Free users receive 10GB of space for free, although you can upgrade to 1TB for $5 per month, or an incredibly large 100TB for $50 per month for business users. You can also increase the free 10GB up to 49GB with signup referrals. 

Only the paid customers get all the goodies, unfortunately. On the free plan, MediaFire users can’t share files publicly, password-protect their files, access a security log or use MediaFire’s mobile apps for iOS or Android. You can drag and drop your files into the web browser, but there isn’t a desktop app available.

MediaFire Privacy Problems

The features aren’t anything special, even on the paid plans. The real problem, though, is MediaFire’s fairly woeful privacy and security procedures.

It isn’t a zero-knowledge provider (as far as we can tell) and offers no information on how it protects your files. We can’t tell you if MediaFire encrypts your files or does anything special when it comes to security.

MediaFire’s data retention policy suggests that it’ll hold on to some of your data. It includes a rather vague statement that says it’ll keep “records required for legal compliance” for 10 years. We can’t recommend MediaFire for privacy or for ease of use, but if you need a basic storage provider, this could be it.

Cons:

  • Limited information on security &  privacy
  • No desktop apps
  • Limited features

10. Yandex Disk

Good, bad, ugly. That’s how we’d describe Yandex Disk in three words because there’s plenty to like about this Russian-based service, but there’s also plenty of problems that will make many users want to avoid it, as our Yandex Disk review explains.

Let’s start with the good. Yandex Disk is pleasant enough to use, with mobile apps, a desktop app for Mac and Windows, and a simple website for you to drag and drop your files. File versioning is available, with past versions of your files kept for 90 days. Yandex Disk also offers integration with Microsoft Office Online to edit your files online.

Users get 10GB of storage for free, but you can increase this up to 20GB with referrals. There’s also free unlimited photo storage for users with the available mobile apps.

There are paid plans, too. Yandex Disk Pro offers 100GB for $2 per month or 1TB of storage for $10 per month.

Privacy and Security Issues

Before you rush to sign up with Yandex Disk, let’s cover the bad. The company offers very little information on how it handles your files. We can’t tell you if it encrypts your data, so you’d need to do this yourself before uploading the files.

More problematic, however, is the fact that Yandex Disk is from Russa, a country that isn’t known to have the best privacy laws. For users in Europe, Yandex Disk’s Finnish subsidiary is responsible for your data, meaning you should be protected by the more stringent General Data Protection Regulation.

With unclear policies around file retention and encryption, Yandex Disk isn’t one of our top recommendations.

Pros:

  • Integrates with Office
  • Good user interface

Cons:

  • Very weak privacy laws
  • Weak security

11. Degoo

We’ve lowered our standards for acceptable free storage solutions, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving Degoo a free pass. Its 100GB of free storage is the only good thing worth mentioning about this provider.

Degoo calls itself a cloud backup service. That means it doesn’t come with the day-to-day tools to improve productivity that Sync.com or Google Drive offer. File syncing isn’t included, and you can’t really share your files with others.

The desktop experience isn’t something we recommended in our earlier Degoo review, but the mobile apps aren’t bad, with support for Android and iOS.

Degoo Pricing

As a “backup” service, 100GB is generous but not nearly enough. You can gain more with referrals, though, and it does come with mobile app support. 

Paid plans start at $3 per month for 500GB of space or $9.99 per month for 10TB. That’s more expensive than other cloud backup providers, such as CrashPlan, which offers unlimited storage for $10 per month (see our CrashPlan review). It also comes with zero response from customer support, so if you run into trouble, you’re on your own.

Pros:

  • Massive 100GB of free storage
  • Mobile support

Cons:

  • Expensive paid plans
  • No productivity app support

12. IDrive

IDrive is another backup provider but, unlike Degoo, it’s also a bit of a hybrid option. As we mentioned in our IDrive review, it’s a pretty old storage company, dating back to 1995. With 5GB of free storage that scales up to 5TB on the paid plans, it’s also our top-rated backup provider in our best cloud backup services shortlist.

IDrive offers mobile apps for Android and iOS, plus a desktop app for Macs and PCs running Windows or Linux. It also has a management tool that lets you control your backups online. The desktop clients support file syncing, which allows you to quickly upload files to the cloud.

A Hybrid Solution

This is why we’re calling ICloud a hybrid service, as offering desktop syncing means you can use IDrive as a Dropbox-style solution for your files. It comes with file versioning, as well as file sharing through the online interface.

Although IDrive offers 5GB for free, personal users can upgrade to 2TB of storage for $52.12 per year (around $4 per month) or 5TB for $74.62 per year (around $6 per month). IDrive’s security is pretty strong on both the free and paid plans, with AES 256-bit encryption offered as standard.

Your private decryption key isn’t held by IDrive. If you lose it, you lose the ability to decrypt your data. IDrive holds your data in the U.S., which doesn’t have the best cloud privacy laws, but the company does strongly emphasize its commitment to privacy by stating that only you — not IDrive — can access your files.

Pros:

  • Hybrid cloud storage & backup
  • Good mobile and desktop apps

Cons:

  • Okay (but not great) free storage
  • Data hosted under U.S. privacy laws

How We Picked Our Providers

When we come up with shortlists like this, the main criteria we’re looking for include storage, speed, ease of use, overall security and the features on offer. Obviously, these are free providers, so our standards aren’t as high as they might be for our paid personal cloud storage reviews.

That said, we do expect a basic level of quality and service, even from free plans. That’s why we’re fans of pCloud and Sync.com, as both providers offer a premium-level product for free. On the flip side, it’s also why providers, such as Yandex Disk and Degoo, don’t get our full recommendation.

Best Free Unlimited Cloud Storage

If you ever see a provider offering free, unlimited cloud storage — and the company offering it isn’t named Google, Amazon, Apple or Microsoft — stop and look elsewhere. There are (as far as we’re aware) no providers currently offering free and unlimited cloud storage to consumers and, to be blunt, we’d be extremely dubious of any company that offered it.