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Dropbox vs iCloud 2024: Best Cloud Storage for Mac Users

iCloud is the simplest answer for Apple users who need cloud storage. It comes integrated into Apple's devices, and users get 5GB for free. However, as a cloud storage service, it's not the best. We compare iCloud vs Dropbox to see which option comes out on top.

Jason StagnittoValentina BravoAlison Spedale

Written by Jason Stagnitto (Writer)

Reviewed by Valentina Bravo (Editor)

Facts checked by Alison Spedale (Fact-checking editor)

Last Updated: 2024-02-27T07:25:19+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

Key Takeaways: The results of our Dropbox vs iCloud comparison
  • The main difference between iCloud and Dropbox is that iCloud is designed for Apple users, while Dropbox has broader appeal as a cloud storage service.
  • Dropbox is a better choice for business customers or those who need more features and better collaboration tools.
  • iCloud is a great choice if you’re already vested in the Apple ecosystem or need affordable cloud storage.

Facts & Expert Analysis:

  • Apple’s vendor lock-in strategy: Although many Apple users are accustomed to using iCloud by default, it’s far from the best option available for either MacOS or iOS devices.
  • iCloud’s lacking feature-set: Dropbox is one of the cloud storage alternatives that outperforms iCloud in many areas, including file-sharing, syncing and collaboration.
  • Privacy? Never heard of it: Neither iCloud nor Dropbox offer zero-knowledge or private encryption, so if you’re a privacy-minded person, consider a service where you can manage your own encryption keys, such as Sync.com or MEGA.

Winner: Dropbox

4.15
3.6
  • Office 365 & Google Workspace integration
  • Smart storage usage with “Smart Sync”
  • Block-level transfer
  • Easy to use
  • Deep integration with Apple devices
  • Affordable
$9.99 / month(save 16%)(All Plans)

Apple device owners are almost certainly aware of the iCloud storage option, as it integrates into Apple products like Macs, iPhones and iPads. However, better options are available if you need to do more than store your documents or photos. One possible alternative is Dropbox. We pit the two against each other in our iCloud vs Dropbox article.

iCloud is the easy choice for Apple consumers as you get 5GB of free storage, and it works seamlessly across your devices. However, iCloud lacks some of the more robust features of competitors like Dropbox, which ranks among the best cloud storage services. Read on to see how these two cloud services measure up against each other.

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    2TB – 5TB$9.99 / month(save 16%)(All Plans)
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    50GB – 12TB$0.99 / month(All Plans)
  • 02/26/2024 Facts checked by Alison Spedale

    This article was rewritten to include new features, updated comparisons and current pricing.

Our Comparison Guidelines

We’ve reviewed over 400 products and services, including iCloud and Dropbox. When pitting two cloud storage services against each other, we consider several factors and explore the features they include, such as file sharing. We also compare the security and privacy that each service offers. Another factor we look at is their subscription costs.

Taking this information and our experience into account, we are well positioned to compare iCloud and Dropbox.

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Cloudwards Editor’s Choice: Dropbox

Our preferred option is Dropbox, which has excellent features like file share and sync. You can share files by inviting others directly using an email or by creating a shareable link.

Its file sync features include selective sync, where you can choose what folders to sync and designate files as cloud-only, freeing up disk space. Dropbox isn’t the best for privacy as it can access and share your data with third parties.

Wins Over iCloud
2TB – 5TB$9.99 / month
(save 16%) (All Plans)

iCloud vs Dropbox: Comparison at a Glance

2TB – 5TB$9.99 / month(All Plans)50GB – 12TB$0.99 / month(All Plans)
ReviewReview
Sync
Sync Folder
Block-Level Sync
Selective Sync
Bandwidth management
Sync Any Folder
File Sharing
File Link Sharing
Link Passwords
Link Expiry Dates
Folder Sharing
Folder Permissions
Link Download Limits
Upload Links
Productivity
File Previews
Edit Files
In-App Collaboration
Office Online
Google Docs
Notes App
Media Playback
Mobile Apps
Deleted File Retention
Versioning
WebDAV
Security
At-Rest Encryption
In-Transit Encryption
Encryption ProtocolAES 256-bitAES 128-bit
Zero Knowledge
Two-Factor Authentication
Server LocationUSUS
Support
24/7 Support
Live Chat Support
Telephone Support
Email Support
User Forum
Knowledgebase
Misc
Free Plan

Dropbox Key Features:

  • File sync: Dropbox supports block-level sync, which updates only the parts of the file that you change. It offers selective sync and lets you designate files to be cloud-only or available offline.
  • File sharing: Dropbox lets you use email addresses or create a shareable link to share files. You can customize the settings and access levels for recipients, and you can also create a view-only link.
  • Versioning: Dropbox doesn’t limit the number of file versions you can have; it only limits the number of days to hold them. The minimum is 30 days, but some plans have 180 days or up to 365 days.
  • Collaboration: Dropbox has several in-house productivity apps, including Dropbox Paper. It also connects to third-party apps like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.

iCloud Key Features:

  • Apple integration: iCloud Drive is one of the core apps on Apple devices. It includes 5GB of free cloud storage.
  • Apple productivity: When using iCloud Drive on the web, you can access other Apple apps like Pages, Numbers or Keynote. You can also use these apps on Apple devices and save your files to iCloud Drive.
  • Mobile access: iPhone and iPad users can access iCloud Drive using the Files app.
  • Affordability: Purchasing more cloud storage for iCloud costs as little as $0.99 for 50GB per month.

Which Is Better: Dropbox vs iCloud?

Dropbox is the better option if you want a cloud storage provider that works on more than just a Mac. It has more features, including better file sharing and sync capabilities. Dropbox is also the better option for those who need collaboration tools and a way to connect to third-party apps. You can learn more in our full Dropbox review.

iCloud Drive is an excellent option for dedicated Apple users, as it’s embedded within most devices and integrates with an Apple ID account. It’s easy to use and works seamlessly within the Apple ecosystem. Find out more details in our comprehensive iCloud Drive review.

Who Is Dropbox For?

  • Professionals: Dropbox has many tools that professionals need, including collaboration features, third-party integrations and plans designed for businesses.
  • Google or Microsoft users: With a Dropbox account, you can create and edit files from Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 (formerly Microsoft Office) apps.
  • Non-Apple users: Dropbox is a solid choice if you don’t use Apple products as it works with Windows, Linux and Android devices.

Who Is iCloud For?

  • Apple users: iCloud Drive is one of the core apps on most Apple devices and includes 5GB of free cloud storage.
  • People who want no-fuss storage: iCloud storage is a very easy-to-use cloud storage service that is accessible online.
  • For those on a budget: iCloud Drive has affordable plans, with the least expensive option costing $0.99 per month for 50GB.

If You Want To Consider Other Services, Check Out…

Dropbox and iCloud aren’t the only options available. There are several excellent alternatives, depending on what you need from the cloud storage.

Sync.com often tops our lists for cloud storage due to its excellent features, robust privacy, affordable plans and strong security. It’s one of the most secure cloud storage services, offering zero-knowledge encryption that protects your entire account. With this encryption style, only you can access the password to decrypt your account. Read more about it in our Sync.com review.

pCloud has an excellent combination of cloud features, including a robust desktop app that functions as a virtual drive. It has strong security and an optional encrypted folder if you purchase pCloud Crypto. Everything stored in the encrypted folder is protected by zero-knowledge encryption. We cover these features and more in our pCloud review.

MEGA offers the most free cloud storage at 20GB, and every account is protected by zero-knowledge encryption. It has excellent file sharing, with password protection options for paid plans and the option to separate the security key on free accounts. To learn more, check out our MEGA review.

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    1TB – Unlimited GB$6 / month(All Plans)
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    500GB – 10TB$4.17 / month(save 24%)(All Plans)
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    2TB – 100TB$9.06 / month(save 16%)(All Plans)
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Dropbox vs iCloud: Similarities

Dropbox and iCloud Drive have a few similarities, with most centering on basic cloud storage features and ease of use. 

Native Applications

Dropbox accounts provide several in-house apps that support productivity for individuals or teams. Even free accounts have access to apps created by Dropbox, the most notable being Dropbox Paper. Dropbox Paper is a full-featured, web-based word processor that supports real-time collaboration. 

Dropbox paper
The Dropbox Paper tool is excellent for collaboration as you
can invite and share directly from the document.

iCloud Drive seamlessly connects to many of Apple’s native productivity apps, letting you access your files on any Apple device. A good example is Pages — you can create or open a Pages file on a Mac, save it to your iCloud account, and continue working on it with your iPad. 

icloud apps
iCloud lets you access productivity apps like Pages or
Keynote either on the web or on Apple’s devices.

Privacy

Dropbox and iCloud Drive both get middling marks with privacy, as neither puts the customer first. Neither service offers zero-knowledge encryption, meaning that Dropbox and iCloud Drive have access to your password. However, Dropbox recently purchased Boxcryptor, a third-party encryption software, so Dropbox Business users will eventually see private encryption. 

Both services have privacy policies that are easy to read and comprehend. In them, Dropbox and Apple indicate that they collect and share some of your data with third-party affiliates. If your data privacy is a concern, check out our online privacy guide to learn how to stay safe on the web. 

iCloud does offer an optional feature called “advanced data protection.” Enabling it gives your data end-to-end encryption and ensures that only you can access the password to decrypt your account. Advanced data protection isn’t truly private encryption as Apple can still access your password for certain apps, like mail, contacts and calendar.

icloud data protection
Enabling advanced data protection puts the data encryption
keys in your hands for most items in your Apple account.

Ease of Use

It takes almost no time to get comfortable using iCloud Drive. Like most Apple products, iCloud Drive works with little effort or onboarding. With a Mac computer, you can drag and drop items into your iCloud Drive folder. Additionally, it’s easy to sort, filter and organize, including adding color-coded tags to folders or files.

Dropbox is just as easy to use. The web interface adopts a familiar left sidebar menu, placing your contents in the middle of the page. Navigating around your account is painless, as is sharing content with others. 

Customer Support

Dropbox makes it easy to find the information you need. There’s a dedicated help center where you can search for articles or get help with specific products. Dropbox also has a community-driven forum that facilitates discussion and answers questions. Other support includes self-guided courses, instructor-led training and a support ticket system.

dropbox help center
Dropbox has a robust help center to answer questions on topics like the file manager,
limits on upload speeds or incremental file syncing. 

Apple has a dedicated support page with separate sections for its products. You can search for help articles on specific topics, engage with the Apple support community or check out Apple support videos on YouTube. For dedicated help, the in-store Apple Genius Bar is a great service, although the best support from Apple is locked behind its AppleCare+ paid plans.

apple support
Apple support has answers to your questions about
iCloud storage, its mobile apps and iCloud files.

iCloud vs Dropbox: Differences

The factors covered in this section are where Dropbox and iCloud Drive noticeably diverge. As you’ll see below, Dropbox has more solid cloud storage features, while iCloud Drive is more affordable.

Security

Dropbox uses AES 256-bit encryption to protect your data while at rest on its servers. With this level of encryption, it’s virtually impossible for hackers to brute-force their way into your account by repeatedly guessing your credentials. Apple uses at least AES 128-bit encryption, and some of its newer devices use AES 256-bit. Although technically less secure, AES 128-bit encryption will protect your data.

Dropbox and iCloud use TLS/SSL encryption protocols to protect data transfers from man-in-the-middle attacks. Both services also offer two-factor authentication as an additional layer of account protection. Two-factor authentication adds a step to the login process, protecting you even if your credentials get leaked.

File Sharing

Dropbox has more robust sharing features than iCloud. You can share folders and files from your account by using email addresses or creating links. Additionally, you can determine the level of access that recipients have to your shared data in the settings. Anything you share with others is visible in a dedicated “shared” tab on your account.

dropbox file share
Dropbox users can share files or folders with others, and
paid plans have password file-sharing protection.

Sharing with iCloud Drive is less convenient as it’s mostly contained within your Apple devices and downloaded apps. You can share using email apps or, ironically, you can use other cloud storage services. There is a collaborative option in the “sharing” menu, and you can set it so that only those invited can access or edit the content. 

icloud file share
iCloud users can share files using email or by copying a link.
Sharing options let you determine who can access the file.

File Sync

File synchronization is where Dropbox shines. Using the Dropbox desktop app, anything you add, change or remove is updated across your devices. Dropbox also supports selective sync, which lets you choose which folders get synced to your account. Additionally, with block-level file syncing, only the edited parts of a file get updated, speeding up the syncing process. 

iCloud Drive’s sync options are more limited. Its selective sync lets you choose which apps will sync data to your iCloud Drive account, but you don’t have the granularity to select which folders in your account get synced. Additionally, iCloud doesn’t support block-level sync, meaning it uploads the entire file for every change you make.

Pricing

Dropbox offers several plans for personal and professional use once you exceed the 2GB of free storage. These plans aren’t overly expensive, although some of the higher-end ones can get pricey. Paid plans start at $9.99 per month, billed annually, for 2TB of storage. Business plans begin at $19.99 per user per month, billed annually, for 9TB of shared storage.

iCloud plans are designed for individuals and families, although the 5GB of free storage isn’t much. Plans start at $0.99 per month for 50GB. The top end gives you 12TB for $59.99 per month. Additionally, storage space can be shared with up to five other people as long as they are in your “family sharing” group.

Collaboration Tools

iCloud Drive’s collaboration tools include access to Apple’s productivity apps — such as Pages, Keynote and Numbers — to create documents, presentations or spreadsheets. Outside of that, iCloud users can’t connect to third-party apps, and there isn’t a marketplace for iCloud Drive.

Dropbox has several productivity apps, like the aforementioned Dropbox Paper. It also supports connection to popular apps like Slack and Zoom. Additionally, Dropbox accounts come integrated with Google and Microsoft apps, letting you create Word documents or Slide presentations from your account.

The Verdict: Why We Think Dropbox Wins Overall

Dropbox is the best overall choice as it does everything that iCloud Drive does with additional features and functionality. It has plenty of collaboration and productivity tools for individuals or professionals. iCloud Drive is the quick and easy answer for those who need essential cloud storage, want affordable paid plans or prefer to stay in the Apple ecosystem. 

Do you use Dropbox or iCloud Drive? If so, what’s been your experience with either service? Do you use a better alternative? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading our article. 

FAQ

  • Yes. You can download the Dropbox mobile app and use it for your cloud storage needs.

  • Dropbox does a good job with its features and collaboration tools, making it a great option for most types of cloud storage users.

  • Yes. You can use both Dropbox and iCloud Drive if you want. Nothing is stopping you from storing your data with either cloud storage provider.

  • Yes, you can move your Dropbox files to iCloud as long as your account has the required storage space.

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