MEGA Cloud is a good solution if free storage is all you want. Great security features. Decent usability and speed, but minor bugs with file sharing.
By Eric Bradley – Last Updated: 08 Jan'18
MEGA is one of the most controversial cloud storage services out there: it was founded by the infamous Kim Dotcom in 2013, a year after his previous cloud storage service, MegaUpload, was shut down by the FBI.
Kim Dotcom is no longer associated with MEGA, which now markets itself as “the privacy company” on account of its use of zero-knowledge encryption and its headquarters in privacy-friendly New Zealand.
MEGA comes with a lot of baggage, but its approach to encryption and the offer of 50GB of free storage will make it too enticing to pass up for many people. If you’re ready to give it a test run, head to MEGA and sign up for a trial. If you’ve decided that maybe MEGA isn’t the right cloud storage for you, there are still plenty of great options to pick from, which you can find detailed in our best cloud storage roundup.
If you’re still on the fence, the ensuing MEGA review should help you get off of it.
- Free 50GB storage
- Nice web interface
- Local files not wiped
- Overwrite protection
- No file versioning
- Accounts expire
- Very slow
- Support isn’t very supportive
- Controversial background
- Privacy issues
The greatest weaknesses of MEGA is that your free account will expire if you don’t access it at least once every 90 days, which could be inconvenient for some users.
MEGA has many of the same features found with many competing services, but they feel a little incomplete at times. A good example is the way MEGA handles images.
The image viewer is functional and provides good quality, but unfortunately puts the image handles (those little arrow icons you use for navigation) directly onto the image. This is not the smartest way to handle that, nor is being unable to create an automatic slide show a ringing endorsement, either.
The image viewer is the only multimedia tool available with the MEGA web client: currently only the mobile apps support an audio player, video player.
MEGA does support a chat system, unique among cloud storage providers, allowing you to perform instant messaging with any other MEGA user. MEGA claims this chat is a secure replacement for Skype and other IM systems.
MEGA is designed to be used primarily for file storage and supports remote file access with a web client or mobile apps. Like most cloud storage service, downloading the MEGA client on your desktop also creates a sync folder. Any files placed in this folder are uploaded to the cloud and sent to other devices with MEGA sync clients installed.
There is also a command line client available for those who prefer to use it.
MEGA’s biggest hook is that it offers 50GB of free cloud storage, which we believe is only topped by Degoo and it’s 100 free gigabytes. If you need more space, you’ll find the prices below, though please note that MEGA’s pricing is in euros only and the amounts below are an approximation; for an up-to-date overview go to MEGA.
|Plan||Free||Pro Lite||Pro I||Pro II||Pro III|
$ 5 94monthly
$ 59 53yearly
$ 11 90monthly
$ 118 96yearly
$ 23 80monthly
$ 238 04yearly
$ 35 71monthly
$ 299 90yearly
MEGA’s pricing beats some competitors, like SpiderOak. However, services like pCloud and Sync.com offer better value even without factoring in all the features MEGA lacks. Both have 2TB plans for $2 less than MEGA’s 1TB plan.
The simple browser-based nature of MEGA means there is not too much for new users to learn. Access to primary features is provided by a left-side toolbar with icons to represent different areas of the system.
Secondary features are accessed from a hamburger menu in the top-right corner of the screen. Performing actions on individual files requires clicking on a drop-down menu on the file itself. Uploads, downloads and folder creation can be done using file system controls on the top menu line and you can control the on-screen layout using the view controls.
MEGA follows the Dropbox-model when it comes to sync, which revolves around a simple sync folder. Desktop sync clients are available for PC and Mac. There are also mobile apps offered for Android and iOS that are pretty straightforward.
MEGA performs admirably when it comes to file synchronization, at least in terms of mechanics. There do appear to some issues with upload and download speeds, which we address in the next section.
The service doesn’t use block-level file copying, meaning even with better full file transfer speeds, it will never be as fast as Dropbox. However, MEGA has a good excuse for not doing so: Because it’s a zero-knowledge service, the company has no visibility into your file content, which it needs in order to perform it.
MEGA does support selective sync, which lets you turn sync off for certain folders so that they are only stored in the cloud and not on your device. This feature is key for saving hard drive space, which for many people is the primary value proposition of adding a cloud storage solution.
MEGA also supports upload and download throttling to control the impact of sync processes on your system resources.
File sharing with MEGA is approached somewhat differently from most cloud storage services. There’s no option to permit file access to specific individuals based on their email address. Instead, you can only generate and share a link pointing to that content.
However, this link retains zero-knowledge encryption: MEGA can’t see what you’re sharing. For others to use this link, they’ll need a decryption key. This key is generated when you generate the link. You can either attach it to the link or distribute it separately for better content control.
If you have a Pro subscription, you can also create a link expiry date, which is a nice feature if you tend to forget what content you’ve allowed access to.
Unlike with specific files, you can share folders with your contacts via email address. When doing so, you can grant individuals read, edit or full access to that folder.
While MEGA’s approach to file sharing isn’t perfect, it’s better than many other cloud storage services we’ve tested.
In order to gauge MEGA’s upload and download speeds, we performed a series of tests using a 1GB zipped test folder comprised of various file types. Here are the results:
|@ 5Mbps (625KB/s)|
w/ DTAC, Thailand
|First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:|
The upload speeds are about 25 percent slower than we’d hope for, even at 5Mbps: 26 to 30 minutes would have been in the right range. The download speeds aren’t far behind.
We did notice that small files under 20MB moved without hitch. For small document synchronization, you should be fine with MEGA. Video uploads, however, will be more problematic.
During upload, there were peaks and troughs in connectivity, which occasionally resulted in uploads failing. Download transfers were more steady and did not fail as often, resulting in better times.
MEGA provides zero-knowledge encryption by default, making it a direct competitor to security-first cloud storage services like pCloud, Sync.com and SpiderOak ONE. That means that nobody at MEGA can ever view your file content. It also means that MEGA couldn’t hand over readable copies of your data to law enforcement officials or participate in government surveillance programs like PRISM even if it wanted to.
The level of encryption uses is 128-bit AES. While not as strong as 256-bit AES, it’s believed that AES has yet to be cracked and, in fact, that it would take a supercomputer billions of years to do so.
MEGA protects traffic in transit by TLS encryption.
Another nice security feature provided by MEGA that is not found with many cloud storage and online backup services is connection history. This can show you up to the last 250 connections made on your account, so you can check if anything looks strange, such as log-ins from countries you haven’t been to.
While the security setup is strong, the truth of the matter is that your files are only safe so long as your password isn’t compromised, and weak passwords are much easier to crack than encryption keys. A good way to prevent against this possibility is two-factor authentication.
Unfortunately, MEGA doesn’t offer this option. Because of that, if you really want a secure a cloud storage service, we’d highly recommend going with Sync.com, a service that gets just about everything right when it comes to data protection.
These days, Kim Dotcom himself has proclaimed that you can’t trust MEGA. However, it’s difficult to know if his warnings are genuine or the result of having lost control of the company.
Some of the more interesting highlights from the MEGA policies include:
The sincerity of a service calling itself “the privacy company” really has to be called into question when it openly suggests that it is going to track what you do even after you have left the website.
If the encryption truly works, it is reassuring for MEGA to mention that it can’t gain access to what you have stored.
It’s actually fine for MEGA to assist with investigations because people should not do illegal things, however the problem is that if the service truly is zero-knowledge, it shouldn’t be able to assist even if there is a desire to.
New Zealand has quite good privacy laws, and it’s good that people from anywhere can request their privacy information from those who are holding it. This is in contrast to the European Union, which only requires companies to release privacy info to EU residents. MEGA’s compliance with this law is a good thing.
As noted in the previously cited Register article, security experts have expressed serious doubt over MEGA’s ability to provide deduplication and zero-knowledge encryption at the same time.
MEGA claims this is possible only on shared files, but the flaw is that when a file moves from one encrypted location to another, it needs to be encrypted again with the new password, which would change the file hash, which would make it impossible to detect that the content was the same.
It is a fair point that people should not use MEGA (or any other service) to violate copyright, but if MEGA doesn’t know what you are storing, there really isn’t any action it can take if somebody does. We contacted MEGA about this and the response was unsatisfactory and evasive.
Here again, MEGA is not supposed to know what you are storing, so even if you store something offensive, MEGA couldn’t do anything about it.
This last item is only of interest because it is not encouraging trust when a company states that it reserves the right to terminate your service for absolutely no reason at all.
MEGA’s customer service failed to make a strong impression.
Response times were slow compared to many other services, especially pCloud. The responses received were not always good answers to the questions posed, and were typical of services that provide support staff with a manual to look up stock answers from.
When a question touched on anything potentially controversial – for example, we requested information concerning whether MEGA had assisted in any civil or criminal prosecutions against its clients ‑ the question was evaded, with the response simply directing us to look at the policy.
The online knowledge base is reasonably detailed, if a little difficult to navigate. There is an internal search function to help locate topics, but it is a bit over-specific. If you can spare the time to search through the topics, you should be able to find answers to most questions you might have.
MEGA is a good choice for those who want a generous free storage space for documents and other small files. Small files upload quite nicely, even if you have a lot of them. Large files, on the other hand, are likely to be painful to wait for.
We feel reasonably confident that the encryption offered by MEGA is genuine, but with the warning from Kim Dotcom, as crazy as it may sound, it is probably best to manually encrypt your more sensitive files yourself prior to uploading them, just to be totally certain of their security.
MEGA won’t suit users who need total reliability and fast speed. It’s also not the best choice for people who want to frequently access their files or work on files across a range of devices.
What it is good for is using it as a backup space to store archives.
If you didn’t have to log in at least once every 90 days to avoid losing your files, it would be perfect for this purpose. As things stand though, MEGA just doesn’t feel complete enough to recommend it highly.
|Free Storage||50 GB|
|Price||Starts from $ Array per month|
|Free External HD Backup|
|Bare Metal Backup|
|Exclude File Extensions for Backup|
|File Size Limit||Unlimited GB|
|Share Photo Albums|
|Server Side Encryption||256-bit|
|Keeps deleted files||Unlimited|