When it comes to privacy-focused cloud storage services, two names stand out: pCloud and MEGA. If the name Kim Dotcom means anything to you, then you’re probably already familiar with MEGA, the cloud storage solution founded by this colorful, privacy-focused renegade (although the big man has long since left the company).
Our other cloud archive storage comparison pieces will show you that we’re big fans of pCloud, too. Both pCloud and MEGA offer zero-knowledge encryption to keep your data secure, although this costs a little extra with a pCloud subscription. Both are fairly easy to use, but pCloud does have some superior syncing features.
Read on as we take a closer look at pCloud vs MEGA to see which is the better option in this comparison review.
Setting Up a Battle: pCloud vs MEGA
Comparing different cloud storage services can be a challenge because no two products are exactly alike. To get around this problem, we’ll take a look at pCloud and MEGA over several rounds. In each round, we put our two providers head to head in an important aspect of cloud storage.
The provider that wins the round gets a point, and if it’s a draw, the points are shared. At the end of the article, we’ll tally up the points to find the overall winner.
Both providers offer free storage and high-class service that lands them on our list of the best free cloud storage services. You get 10GB of storage for free with pCloud, while MEGA boasts a whopping 50GB of free storage for its users. However, neither offer is quite what it seems.
To access the full 10GB with pCloud, you’ll need to unlock it. Although 2GB of storage is available straight away, you can unlock the next 5GB by confirming your email, uploading a file to the cloud, installing the desktop and mobile app, and turning on the automatic photo upload feature.
The final 3GB is available after you start inviting other users to pCloud, but you only get the additional storage space if they actually sign up. Check out our pCloud review to learn more.
MEGA also offers free storage for customers: 50GB for free when you register an account. However, 35GB expire after just 30 days, no matter what you do. You can gain 20GB for installing the desktop app and an extra 15GB for installing the mobile app, but both of these bonuses expire after 180 days.
Even the 10GB you get for inviting other people to join expires after one year. In reality, the amount of free storage that isn’t time-limited equals 15GB. This is still a decent amount and certainly improves on pCloud’s free limit, but there are still plenty of loops to jump through to gain more.
For paid storage, pCloud offers two personal plans with the option to pay monthly or annually, or to make a one-off lifetime payment. The Premium plan comes with 500GB of storage. The monthly option costs $4.99 per month, the annual payment costs an equivalent of $3.99 each month and the pCloud lifetime subscription comes to $175 total.
- Free plan
- Storage: 10 GB
- Storage: 500 GB
- Storage: 2000 GB
- Price per user
- Storage: 1000 GB
The top plan, Premium Plus, comes with 2TB of storage. The monthly option costs $9.99 per month, the annual payment costs an equivalent of $7.99 each month and the lifetime subscription costs $350 total.
Similar plans are available with MEGA, which offers four personal paid plans. These are priced in euros, so the prices may fluctuate, based on the exchange rate.
At the time of publication, MEGA Pro Lite has 400GB of space for about $5.55 per month, Pro 1 is about $11.11 for 2TB, Pro 2 is about $22.23 for 8TB and Pro 3 is about $33.36 for 16TB. You gain an extra two months for free if you pay for a full year in advance. You can learn more about what you get with each tier in our MEGA review.
pCloud vs MEGA Business Pricing
Both providers also offer cloud storage for businesses. pCloud’s business plan is $9.99 per month for 1TB of storage per user, although you need a minimum of three users to subscribe. The annual payment reduces this to $7.99 per user per month (read our pCloud Business review). One real benefit of the business plan is that it includes pCloud Crypto for every user — we’ll talk about this feature later, but you can also read our what is pCloud Crypto? guide.
MEGA also has only a single business plan. MEGA for Business costs around $11 per month for each user and, like pCloud, has a minimum three-user policy. It offers unlimited storage but only for “genuine business purposes” with a fair-use policy that will kick in if you’re using more storage compared to the average MEGA business user.
There’s no unlimited storage option available for pCloud, so if you’re looking for unlimited space and MEGA doesn’t appeal to you, then check out competitors like Dropbox Business and Box in our best unlimited cloud storage article.
Comparing like-for-like with cloud storage services is always a challenge, but both providers offer a 2TB package that works out a little cheaper with pCloud. Although MEGA offers more free storage, the time-limited rewards are pretty confusing. It’s a close call, but pCloud just takes this round.
2. Security & Privacy
The most secure cloud storage requires one thing more than anything: zero-knowledge encryption. With it, the files you store are encrypted, and your cloud storage provider has no record of the key to decrypt them; it remains in your hands only. Without the key, there’s no way for anybody but you to access your files.
Even if the provider is forced to hand over your data to the authorities, that data is useless without your decryption key. This is why, when it comes to security, both MEGA and pCloud offer the right kind of solutions.
MEGA uses zero-knowledge encryption for all its products, including on its free tier, meaning your data is secure. However, there is one issue with a zero-knowledge provider: it can’t reset your password for you, as this would require the key to decrypt your data.
As a way around this, MEGA provides you with a recovery key that you can use to reset your password if you forget it. If you lose this, though, there’s no way back and your data is lost. We would recommend using a good password manager like Dashlane to store this key. You check out our list of the best password manager extensions for alternatives.
Although pCloud does offer zero-knowledge encryption, you have to pay for it (unless you’re a business user). Branded as pCloud Crypto, it allows you to encrypt some or all of your files using zero-knowledge encryption. It costs $4.99 extra per month or about $3.99 per month on the annual plan, with a $125 fee for lifetime access.
pCloud and MEGA Privacy
pCloud is based in Switzerland, a country with some of the best cloud privacy laws in the world. It does have servers in the U.S., though, so your data may fall under much less privacy-friendly U.S. laws. A good way around this is to use pCloud Crypto or to encrypt the files yourself using Boxcryptor (see our Boxcryptor review). You also have the option to use a server in the EU.
If you’re using pCloud Crypto, then your data is safe from prying eyes. However, if you’re not using pCloud Crypto, then pCloud can access your files and may do so to ensure that you are not violating any of its terms. Keep this in mind if you’re worried about privacy.
As the so-called “privacy company,” MEGA is undoubtedly focused on user privacy. Its servers are all located in fairly privacy-friendly locations — including New Zealand, Canada and Luxembourg — with no servers on U.S. soil.
European users are party to the strong data protection rules of GDPR, but MEGA takes this a step further and applies the same rules to all users, even those who live outside the EU.
Both providers offer good security, each making it onto our list of the best zero-knowledge cloud services. pCloud Crypto is a good solution, but MEGA offers zero-knowledge encryption as standard and for no additional cost. MEGA also has better privacy, meaning that your data is safer from requests by government agencies.
pCloud is great for both security and privacy, but MEGA is better, making it the winner here.
3. Ease of Use
Most cloud storage providers offer clients for macOS and Windows, but both contenders here also offer Linux support to cover all likely desktop users. Both services also make it onto our list of the best cloud storage for Linux. For mobile users, there are good-quality Android and iOS apps available for both services.
MEGA and pCloud both use the familiar sync folder system that Dropbox popularized a decade or so ago. If you’ve ever used cloud storage services before, you’ll find both pCloud and MEGA simple to use with familiar features. Both use system-tray or menu-bar icons on desktop PCs that allow you to access your settings.
We have one minor gripe with pCloud: branding. Its cloud icon is very similar to the ones used by other providers, such as OneDrive, Google and Amazon. If you have multiple cloud accounts, this could get a little confusing (although, we admit, this is probably by design). MEGA has a nice simple “M” logo, so you’re in no danger of confusing it for another account.
The web interfaces of both providers can also be a little clunky when compared to rivals like Sync.com and Dropbox. Dragging and dropping a file into the pCloud web app can only be done with the currently open folder, rather than into subfolders.
With MEGA, the same issue occurs. You can’t just drop a file into a folder on the screen; you have to specify in a pop-up window where you want to place it.
A similar problem exists with the mobile apps. If you want to move a file, you can’t hold it down and drag it around like you can with other providers. Instead, you have to long-press the file and select to move it in the menu that appears once you do so.
In comparison, competitors such as OneDrive and Dropbox allow you to drag and drop files within the mobile app itself, which is far simpler, quicker and more intuitive for users. Check out our OneDrive review to learn more about its app.
Despite these (pretty minor) issues, the apps are otherwise useful. For instance, both pCloud and MEGA make it onto our list of the best cloud storage for Android. There’s really not a huge difference between the providers when it comes to ease of use, so we’re calling this round a draw.
4. File Syncing and Sharing
The basis of all cloud storage is to store and share files. As top-tier providers, MEGA and pCloud do this pretty well.
MEGA allows you to control what files you sync with your PC. If storage space is tight, you can selectively pick which files you want to have immediately accessible, or you can download all of them for easy access. You can add other PC folders as new sync locations from the settings menu.
pCloud uses a different method that (we would argue) is superior and takes out the complexity. When you install pCloud, your sync folder is set up as a virtual drive. The contents of this drive are stored in the cloud and are visible on your computer as if they were stored on your hard drive, but they take up no space on your PC.
If you want to be able to work on files offline, then you can use the sync feature. This allows you to choose local folders on your computer to sync with pCloud, giving you the ability to work on them offline. When you next connect to the internet, any changes you have made are automatically synced to the pCloud servers.
Both providers allow you to create links for sharing files. With pCloud, you can include a password or expiration date, or use a shortened link. However, you can’t share encrypted files from pCloud Crypto unless you have a business account.
MEGA also allows you to set an expiry date and password for shared files, but only if you have a paid account. You can also share encrypted files, with the option to share your links with or without the decryption key.
If you send a MEGA link with the key, anyone with the link can open it. If the key isn’t included, you will need to send the decryption key separately to anyone you want to be able to open the file or folder.
pCloud limits download bandwidth each month for shared links. Free accounts get 50GB, Premium accounts get 500GB and Premium Plus accounts get 2TB.
MEGA has a similar system in place, with paid tiers offering 1TB, 2TB, 4TB and 8TB of bandwidth each month, respectively. Free accounts don’t have a specified limit; MEGA says it depends on the time of day and other factors, but don’t expect more than around 4GB per day.
In speed tests, both pCloud and MEGA were fairly similar with upload and download speeds. Each took around 24 minutes to upload a 1GB file and about three minutes to download one in our quick-speed test.
One major advantage that pCloud has in terms of speed is that it uses block-level sync to split your files up into small blocks. When you edit the file, only the parts — or blocks — of your file that you change are synced, instead of having to sync the whole file.
If you’re syncing large files, this can make a significant difference in speeding up uploads. This is one of the reasons why pCloud makes it onto our best cloud storage for large files shortlist, along with Sync.com and OneDrive.
We like pCloud’s virtual drive approach. It’s simple and easy to understand, and it gives you effectively 2TB of extra space to store your files on your computer. It also uses block-level sync, making syncing large files with minimal edits much faster, making pCloud the easy winner here.
As you might expect, features are plentiful from both MEGA and pCloud, although some features are arguably more useful than others.
For instance, pCloud has a dedicated music player for your music collection, allowing you to build playlists and search by song title, album title or artist. This alone makes it one of the best cloud storage for music picks if you’re storing your music in the cloud. However, if you’re using a streaming service, then it’s probably redundant.
pCloud also allows you to backup files directly from other cloud services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive, as well as from your Instagram or Facebook account. This lets you quickly collate and store your social media photos.
There’s also a file versioning feature that lets you revert to an older version of your files. You can go back as far as 30 days for paid accounts or up to a year for an additional $39. MEGA includes a similar feature, although it’s less easy to use.
There’s an encrypted chat and file-sharing feature for MEGA account users. This end-to-end encryption might appeal to you especially if you’re concerned about the privacy of apps like WhatsApp.
If you’re keen to share large files with other users, you can send them directly using MEGAbird, an extension for the Mozilla Thunderbird mail client. This allows you to send large files through MEGA directly from Thunderbird, regardless of your email hosting service. There’s also a command-line tool that allows you to control and automate your account.
As you can see, these features — outside the typical cloud storage features you’d expect — range from useful to niche. While pCloud’s music player and MEGA’s encrypted chat might appeal to some, the biggest draw will be pCloud’s backup service, allowing you to save files across multiple platforms. With this in mind, pCloud wins here.
6. The Verdict
The contest was fairly tight over the first three rounds, with both providers claiming one win and one draw. pCloud finished stronger, though, taking the last two rounds. With a score of three to one, with one round as a draw, pCloud is the overall winner here.
MEGA came out on top when it comes to security and privacy, thanks to it offering zero-knowledge encryption as standard, even on its free tier. The points were shared when we considered ease of use, with some small usability issues affecting a near-flawless experience for both providers.
pCloud was the clear winner when it came to file syncing and sharing, though, with block-level syncing speeding up file syncing (especially for large files) and the virtual drive system used to free up disk space.
pCloud’s features also earned a win, with the integration with other cloud services proving useful. Price was a little closer, but pCloud took the win by coming out a little cheaper in a like-for-like comparison, even if MEGA does offer more free storage.
If you’re looking for a quality cloud storage service, then both pCloud and MEGA have their strengths and would be good providers for you to use. If privacy is your biggest concern, then MEGA is a strong candidate. If you’re looking for fast syncing or want to access all your cloud files without filling up your drive in the process, then pCloud is an excellent choice.
If you’ve used MEGA or pCloud before and you want to agree or disagree with any of these points, please do. Drop them in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading.