MEGA is an interesting cloud storage service that has been through a lot of changes. In its current incarnation it's as secure as it always was, but has shrunk its allotment of free storage space; sharing has improved, but could be better, still. Read on for the full MEGA review.
Not that long ago, MEGA cloud storage was synonymous with “alternative cloud storage.” It was the online repository of choice for torrenters and others who eschewed mainstream options like Google Drive and Dropbox. That was in part thanks to a generous allotment of free storage and bulletproof security, but also the counterculture bravado of its former chief, Kim Dotcom.
Kim Dotcom is no longer with the company, having been ousted from MEGA by a Chinese investor. That may or may not be a good thing. What’s decidedly unfortunate, however, is that MEGA no longer gives away large amounts of free cloud storage.
In reducing the amount of storage you get for free, the service must now bank primarily on its security profile to attract customers. As we’ll see in the upcoming MEGA review, that profile is mostly sound thanks to the inclusion of zero-knowledge security. Moreover, MEGA does have a few decent price plan offerings, including 4TB for $20 a month and 8TB for $30.
For those in search of secure cloud storage, we rank Sync.com ahead of MEGA thanks to better file-sharing controls and two-factor authentication, but overall MEGA still deserves a place among the best cloud storage services out there. It just isn’t quite as compelling a service as it used to be.
Stick with us as we run down all the pros, cons and costs to find out if MEGA is the right cloud home for your files. For those looking for something different, we have a full library of cloud storage reviews for your consideration as well.
- 15GB free storage
- Stream media
- No link download limits
- Poor customer support
- No two-factor authentication
MEGA provides remote server space designed to declutter your hard drive and serve as a middleman for syncing content between your devices. One thing to be clear on, though: it isn’t an online backup service (what’s the difference?).
Unlike more mainstream cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive, MEGA puts more emphasis on security than utility. That security includes zero-knowledge encryption and good file-sharing features designed to improve content control. We’ll look at both measures in detail later on in this review.
MEGA provides a few different ways to upload and access data: a web interface, desktop clients for Windows, Mac and Linux, and smartphone apps for Android and iOS. It’s actually one of just a handful of providers with a Linux client, which almost automatically places it among the best cloud storage for Linux options.
For those that enjoy a more hands-on feel, MEGA even has a command-line client.
Unlike many other privacy-oriented cloud tools, MEGA still lets you preview files, including streaming music and movies, making it a nice option for media, even if not ranked among the best cloud storage for photos and videos.
Until recently, MEGA didn’t support file versioning. It does now, and you can turn the feature on or off from the web interface. However, previous file versions do take up server space.
For sync, MEGA uses the familiar sync-folder model now favored by most cloud storage services. In addition to the primary sync folder, you can create sync relationships between your computer and the cloud for any folder in your file system. Other sync features include selective sync and sync throttle controls.
One feature that you won’t find among most personal cloud storage services that MEGA includes is a text and video chat tool. By adding contacts to MEGA, you can engage in secure real-time chat with them. MEGA claims these conversations aren’t logged by or visible to the company thanks to end-to-end encryption.
While the implementation is a bit clumsy and occasionally bug-ridden (as reported by some users) with file syncing, MEGA has a nice feature set overall and we tend to hear more good than bad. Up next, we’ll take a look at how much it all costs.
For years, the big hook MEGA employed to attract new users was a nearly unmatched offer of 50GB of free cloud storage. That offer was taken off the table with little acknowledgment from the company in 2017.
You’ll still get 50GB when you sign up, but 35 of those gigabytes vanish after a month, leaving you with 15. That’s an offer that manages still to land MEGA among the best free cloud storage deals available, but it’s also a bait-and-switch that makes some of MEGA’s blemishes a bit harder to overlook.
You can earn some of that space back by completing actions like installing the MEGA Android app or referring friends, but any storage you get still expires, this time after a year, with no way to get it back other than paying for the service.
MEGA Storage Costs
The cost of storage with MEGA doesn’t overly impress, either, though there are certainly more expensive cloud storage services out there, like Tresorit (read our Tresorit review).
|Plan||Free||Pro Lite||Pro I||Pro II||Pro III|
$ 5 79monthly
$ 11 59monthly
$ 23 19monthly
$ 34 80monthly
|Storage||15 GB||200 GB||1000 GB||4000 GB||8000 GB|
Earn more free storage with an incentive program, although rewards expire after a certain period.
We like that you’re not forced to go right to a 1TB subscription, but $5 for 200GB isn’t a great deal. The $10 1TB plan, meanwhile, puts MEGA on par with Google Drive and Dropbox.
While you get the advantage of zero-knowledge security with MEGA, making it arguably a better value than Dropbox, at least, fellow zero-knowledge services Sync.com and pCloud both give you 2TB of storage for just $8 a month (see the best deals in cloud storage).
Perhaps the best offer in MEGA’s lineup of plans is its 4TB plan, which at $20 a month represents nice value. For those of you with massive music or movie collections, the company’s 8TB plan for $30 a month hits the spot as well.
While we applaud MEGA’s rare price-plan flexibility, the service does have one handicap that you won’t find with most modern cloud storage services: monthly bandwidth caps. The caps are roughly twice your storage allotment, however, so we don’t think this fact will prove too much of an impediment for most people.
The MEGA web interface provides a dashboard that you can use to oversee your entire account, including total storage used, as well as the number of files in your storage and total files shared.
To access your files online, just click the cloud icon below the dashboard icon in the left-hand margin. This is called the “MEGA Cloud Drive.” The pane to the immediate left displays your folders, while the main pane shows the contents of whatever folder is selected.
There are three primary default folders: “MegaSync,” “MegaSync uploads” and “camera uploads.” Of course, you can create more folders, too. Do this by clicking the “+new folder” button near the top of the interface.
You can also upload entire folders from your desktop or individual files using the interface.
Most often, however, it’s easiest to work with MEGA directly from the desktop client. You’ll first need to install and sign into the client, but that should only take a minute or so.
While MEGA creates a sync folder automatically, you can configure more sync folders if you’d like to, which is a luxury not granted by most cloud storage solutions. We’ll look at the general sync process more in the next segment.
Desktop installation also gives you access to a settings tool.
Using this tool, you can check your storage allotment, configure MEGA to launch on startup and update automatically, add new sync folders, play with your bandwidth settings, set up a proxy and configure advanced settings.
Overall, MEGA makes cloud storage management pretty easy. If you’ve used Dropbox or Google Drive, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem using MEGA. However, file sharing with MEGA is a bit poorly implemented, as we’ll discuss in the next section.
Once you’ve downloaded the MEGA desktop client and signed in, you’re given the option of performing either a full or selective sync.
A full sync will download every single file in your MEGA cloud drive onto your computer, while a selective sync lets you pick which folders in your drive get downloaded. You can play with this some later, which is important; without selective sync, cloud storage would do nothing to help you free up hard-drive space, after all.
The client creates a MEGA sync folder in your file system.
As with most cloud storage solutions, dragging files into this folder stores them on your hard drive and sends them to the cloud.
MEGA Sync Folders
As mentioned, you can create more sync folders if you’d like. That way, you can have separate sync folders for work documents, videos, photos or whatever else. Generally speaking, though, it’s easiest just to stick to one primary folder with subfolders contained within it.
MEGA actually lets you restrict certain file types from being synced, which is yet another uncommon cloud storage feature. To do so, access “settings” via the MEGA taskbar icon and select the “advanced” tab.
A few file types, like system and temp files, are already excluded for you.
Selective sync, a feature we mentioned earlier, lets you turn sync off for entire folders. Doing so means the files in those folders are only stored in the cloud and not also on your hard drive. This feature is commonly offered by most cloud storage services today and is key for clearing up hard-drive space.
Sharing with MEGA
You cannot share folders or files stored in the MEGA cloud from your desktop. For that, you’ll need to go online.
To share a folder, you can either generate a link pointing to that folder or invite another to access by inputting their email address. Sharing via email address, you can also grant read-only, read and write or full access. With full access, the person whom you’ve invited can grant folder access to others.
When sharing individual files, you can send that file to anyone you’ve added as a contact via the MEGA interface. However, they’ll need to be a MEGA account holder, too.
To share files with anyone, regardless of whether or not they use MEGA, generate a link instead.
Any file shared with MEGA retains its zero-knowledge protection, which we discuss more in the security section of this review. You can either create links with the decryption key attached or you can cut the encryption key and distribute it separately. For security, we’d recommend the latter approach, as anyone who obtains that link can access your files otherwise.
If you subscribe to MEGA Pro, you can also set expiry dates and separate link passwords. Such measures are useful for maintaining control of your content. Unlike Sync.com and Tresorit, two other security-minded storage solutions, you can’t set link download limits or create separate upload links.
Overall, however, we like MEGA’s approach to file sharing. Our only real complaint is that MEGA doesn’t have a separate view for auditing folders and files you’ve shared, just one for seeing what content other MEGA users have shared with you.
Sync speed and reliability are both critical for many users to the overall cloud experience, particularly those that use cloud storage for work. In fact, mentions of failed or slow file syncing are some of the most frequent complaints we hear from our readers here at Cloudwards.net (not just for MEGA).
As with most cloud storage providers, user reports about speed and reliability are all over the place with MEGA. Some users report speeds that are better than Dropbox, while others report waiting an entire day for just 1GB of data to upload.
Contributing to those discrepancies may be that MEGA maintains multiple data centers around the world: Luxembourg, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand. While more data centers are generally good since it will reduce the distance to server and congestion, some data centers may offer better I/O than others.
Of course, we tested MEGA’s sync speeds ourselves, as we do when reviewing any cloud storage service. In conducting our tests, we uploaded and downloaded a 1GB test folder over a WiFi connection.
Our test folder was made up of many different file types and our WiFi connection had approximately 20Mbps download and 10Mbps upload speeds. Here are the results:
|Test One:||Test Two:||Average:|
|Upload:||32 minutes||40 minutes||36 minutes|
|Download:||8 minutes||8.5 minutes||8.25 minutes|
With 10Mbps upload speeds, we would expect slightly below a 15-minute upload time. Our 36 minute average was nearly twice that, so not good.
A 1GB download at 20Mbps, on the other hand, should take a little over seven minutes. Our 8.25 minute average was comfortably in range of that speed.
For the record, we ran these tests out of Canggu, Bali. Presumably, we were using the New Zealand data center, but there’s no way to check or change that, unfortunately.
Summarily, our upload tests were much slower than most cloud storage services on average, while our download speeds were on target.
With 50GB of free storage no longer on the table, the most compelling reason to choose MEGA over a mainstream cloud storage service is its use of private, end-to-end encryption.
Also called zero-knowledge encryption, MEGA includes this protection for free. Of the best zero-knowledge cloud storage services, Sync.com and Tresorit also offer zero-knowledge encryption for free, while pCloud charges extra.
The main advantage of zero-knowledge encryption is that only you can decrypt your files. MEGA can’t read your files unless you give the company your password, which means your files can’t be used for marketing purposes or rolled into a government surveillance program like PRISM.
The level of encryption is AES-128. That’s not quite as strong as AES-256, but that shouldn’t matter since neither protocol level has been cracked (to the best of anyone’s knowledge). Brute forcing AES-128, in fact, would take a supercomputer several billion years to complete.
Both file content and filenames are encrypted. Files in-transit are also protected using transport-layer security (TLS), which is expected.
Where MEGA falls short of options like Sync.com and Tresorit is in not offering two-factor authentication. While encryption keys may be impossible to crack, weak passwords aren’t.
With two-factor authentication, anyone who steals your password would be forced to enter an additional security code, usually sent to your mobile device, when logging in from an unfamiliar computer. Without this feature, your data may be at risk.
If you do go with MEGA as your cloud storage provider, make sure you take steps to create a strong password and change that password frequently.
As all cloud storage services must, MEGA has taken steps to comply with the EU’s GDPR rules, implemented on May 25, 2018, to better protect user privacy. Many companies are extending these new protections to all customers rather than just EU users.
We reached out to MEGA to see if that included them. While we didn’t get a straight answer, MEGA’s own page on GDPR doesn’t specifically restrict those policies to EU customers.
MEGA provides direct technical support via email. There are no options for live chat or telephone support, although such channels aren’t usually offered by cloud storage services, anyway.
We shot off a few test questions to MEGA to gauge response time. Responses came back in 24 to 48 hours, not all of our questions were answered and those that were answered weren’t directly answered. Instead, we got copy-and-paste answers and links that were only tangentially related.
Our conclusion: MEGA isn’t big on customer support.
MEGA does maintain a dedicated support page. There, you can search or browse articles based on platform, including web browser, desktop, iOS and Android. There’s also a list of FAQs on the main support page.
We did find the search option to be more or less useless, however. For example, there are no articles on “zero knowledge” and when we ran a search for “encryption,” a bunch of completely unrelated articles came back.
Articles themselves are also rather skimpy on content and MEGA could make better use of screenshots and other visuals to help new users out.
MEGA may not be the service it once was but it still has value. The inclusion of zero-knowledge encryption is the biggest benefit, while affordable price plans help it compete, especially for those with 4TB or more of data to store.
Reasons to stay away include frequent bug reports, though we didn’t run into any issues in our own testing. The biggest failings, in our view, are lackluster customer support and no two-factor authentication.
All that said, we do think MEGA deserves mention among the best cloud storage solutions, even if that’s mostly because there really aren’t that many exceptional solutions out there. How about you? Share your thoughts on MEGA below, and thanks for reading.