- Strengths & Weaknesses
- Alternatives for OneDrive
- OneDrive PC Backups
- Real-Time Collaboration
- OneDrive Features Overview
Few businesses have the advantage that Microsoft does in providing its services to almost all PC users. That’s why Microsoft OneDrive is such a popular cloud storage provider for consumers; you don’t need to do much to use it because it’s already installed on your Windows PC. This is great for users looking to quickly store their important files in the cloud.
OneDrive does have some unique features and options that might make it stand out from the competition, but the biggest selling point is its integration with the Office suite. OneDrive is completely integrated with other Microsoft services, including Office, Skype, OneNote and Outlook, making document sharing and collaboration a convenient and streamlined process.
Its features are limited on a free subscription, though, so you’ll need to pay to get the most out of the service. However, the biggest mark against OneDrive is its middling privacy features, with the most glaring omission being a lack of zero-knowledge encryption.
The fact that Microsoft holds your encryption keys is a downside, but one you might be able to overlook. If not, our best cloud storage services list will help you find a provider that offers zero-knowledge encryption; for our money, Sync.com is a great choice.
There are plenty of very compelling reasons to choose OneDrive as your online storage solution, but there are also a few drawbacks you probably shouldn’t dismiss out of hand. You can read our quick explanation of what OneDrive is, but let’s take a look at OneDrive’s strengths and weaknesses in this comprehensive OneDrive review to help you decide for yourself.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Complete Office 365 integration
- Perfect for document collaboration
- A large variety of features
- Fast file syncing
- No zero-knowledge encryption
- Limited file versioning
- Fairly limited customer support
Alternatives for OneDrive
OneDrive is a feature-rich service, with a focus on Office and Windows integration that puts it ahead of some of its main competitors. The different pricing options determine the features you can ultimately access, but you’ll probably need a Microsoft 365 subscription to get the most out of it.
One word sums up the biggest benefit to using OneDrive: Office. Microsoft products like Office and OneDrive are the ultimate productivity tool for students and office workers. Rather than risking a lost or corrupted drive, you can store, edit and work on your Office documents from your OneDrive storage itself.
You’ll need a Microsoft 365 Personal or Home subscription to be able to download Office and use it with OneDrive on your PC, but standard OneDrive users have free access to the mobile and web apps. Similar services are available if you’re using another operating system, such as macOS, with OneDrive for Mac users getting a similar experience.
If you’re a business user, you can combine OneDrive with other Microsoft tools, like SharePoint, to become a one-stop shop for all of your essential business documents. It’s also why OneDrive is one of the top recommendations on our best cloud storage for collaboration shortlist.
A more unique security feature of OneDrive is the OneDrive personal vault. Using this feature, you can select a file, snap a photo, record a video and then have the files immediately added to a digital vault. You can only access this vault by providing your fingerprint, a SMS code or another secure method for confirming your identity.
Free OneDrive users, as well as users with 100GB of storage space, can save up to three files in their personal vault. You’ll need to purchase a better subscription to store more files, up to your standard space limit.
OneDrive PC Backups
If you’re worried about losing files, you can turn OneDrive into an automated backup solution by syncing your desktop, documents and pictures folders to your OneDrive online storage. Not only will this protect your files, but it’ll also allow you to share stored files between multiple devices.
This means you can review and edit your files on any device, as long as you have OneDrive installed. You can also share files and folders with other users via email or directly through messaging apps and services.
For users with limited storage space, you may prefer to try OneDrive “files on-demand” feature, which allows you to save space on your PC. With it, you can access files when you need them, but your files stay off your drive until then, remaining solely in your OneDrive cloud storage space.
It’s a valuable feature, especially if you find that you’re jumping between devices a lot while you’re working (for instance, between home and work). With OneDrive’s files on-demand feature, you can edit files from your PC as if they were stored locally, picking up with ease where you left off on any other device.
All OneDrive subscribers can take advantage of document collaboration — after all, it’s OneDrive’s winning feature. However, other services, such as Google Drive (and Google Docs alongside it), offer a similar collaboration feature, as our Google Drive review will explain.
Using OneDrive, you and your collaborators can edit a compatible document together in real time. Any changes you make will be seen immediately by everyone looking at the file. It’s a great tool for reviewing documents or going over notes, and you can keep track of what edits are made and by whom.
Features like these make OneDrive a sensible cloud storage solution for document creation, whether it’s for work or school.
OneDrive Features Overview
- : No
- : No
- : No
- : No
- : No
- : No
- : AES 256-bit
- : No
- : US
- : No
- : No
- : No
If you’re worried about cost, OneDrive has a number of potential subscription plans that make it an affordable choice. It’s one of the best free cloud storage services, with 5GB of space available on Windows and other platforms at no cost.
- : 5 GB
- : 100 GB
- Comes with Office 365 Personal
- : 1000 GB
- : 1000 GB
- Comes with Office 365 Home
- : 5000 GB
- Price per user
- : 1000 GB
- Price per user
- : Unlimited GB
- Price per user
- : 1000 GB
Although this article focuses on OneDrive for Home, we’ve included OneDrive for Business pricing as a comparison. Many of OneDrive’s plans are integrated with a Microsoft 365 subscription, which includes access to Office desktop products and other services.
For more details on OneDrive’s plans for professionals, check out our OneDrive for Business review.
OneDrive Home Pricing
No commitment is required to try OneDrive out because, as we’ve mentioned, you get 5GB of storage for free. All Microsoft account holders have access to this, and you’ll find OneDrive installed on Windows and integrated with Office desktop apps so you can try things out.
If you want to upgrade, you can increase your storage to 100GB for just $1.99 per month. This is on par with Google Drive, which offers the same storage at the same monthly price. This option is perfect for casual users who are unlikely to push past this limit, unless they’re storing lots of media content or have a lot of backed up files.
If it isn’t enough, you can massively increase your storage with a Microsoft 365 Personal subscription. With 1TB of OneDrive storage included, subscribers also gain access to the full Office suite, with desktop versions of Office applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote — included for $6.99 per month.
These services combine to create an integrated product subscription, which might not be of interest to you. You may prefer to consider an alternative like Amazon Drive instead, which offers 1TB of space at $59.99 for an annual subscription. This is nearly $10 less each year than a Microsoft 365 Personal subscription at $69.99 a year, as our Amazon Drive review explains.
Families will need more, and that’s what the Microsoft 365 Family plan offers at $99.99 per year. Up to six people gain access to Office apps, as well as 1TB of space for each user. This makes it a great option for household members who want their own storage, giving them the ability to have shared files as a family, too.
OneDrive for Business Pricing
For comparison, OneDrive for Business has fewer plans, but it could also be an option for users who are looking to get unlimited cloud storage.
The OneDrive for Business Plan 1 requires an annual commitment, but it’ll give you 1TB of storage per user at $5 per month per user. Plan 2 costs $10 per month per user, but if you have five or more users, you’ll gain unlimited storage space. As our best unlimited cloud storage shortlist reveals, only services like Dropbox Business compete here.
With more features — albeit at the cost of less available storage — is Microsoft 365 Business Standard. It comes with 1TB per user, as well as extra features, such as Office applications, and business-related products, including SharePoint and Exchange. You’ll also gain 50GB of email storage space, which is a bargain for busy businesses.
All three business plans come with in-transit and at-rest data encryption, though the lack of zero-knowledge encryption lowers the overall security that OneDrive provides. This could be a problem, as we’ll cover in the “privacy” section of this review. If you want something that is immediately secure, you’ll need to consider a service like Sync.com instead.
Ease of Use
The best word to describe OneDrive is “polished.” Because it is well integrated within Microsoft’s core services, the user experience should be familiar to almost everyone using a Windows PC, making it an easy-to-use service.
Like Dropbox and other major competitors, OneDrive uses a single-sync directory with its own sub-folders and files on Windows PCs. The contents of this directory are then stored online, with no extra effort needed to back up your files.
By default, this folder takes up space on your hard drive, but you can also set up OneDrive to support a virtual drive. This allows your files to appear as if they’re on your PC, but they won’t take up space. The downside is that if you lose your internet connection, you lose access to any files that you haven’t set up to be accessible offline.
The positive to this, of course, is that you save space, which is perfect for PCs with low-capacity solid-state drives or a lot of saved files already.
If you need quick access to your files on other devices, you could use the OneDrive web app. The web interface is simple and straightforward to use, and it will offer no surprises to Microsoft users. You can drag files onto the page to upload them, as well as download files you need by right-clicking the file.
You can also use the web interface to quickly change your settings, start Skype calls and access OneDrive’s help menu. Like other Microsoft web products, you can easily access other services, like Office 365 or Outlook, from the top-left menu icon, too.
OneDrive Mobile App
A similar experience is available on mobile for OneDrive users. Not only does it support most of the major features you’ll see in the web and desktop clients, but there has been a lot of effort put into the user design to make it as simple as possible for Android and iOS users.
Microsoft’s app designers have made sure that the experience between a larger PC screen (generally landscape) and the smaller portrait layout of a mobile device translate seamlessly together. If you’re switching from desktop to mobile, the experience should feel extremely similar.
You can quickly view your recent files or see a full overview of your stored files and folders, allowing you to download files for an offline view. The mobile apps for OneDrive give you the option to automatically upload the photos and videos that you take. This is handy, especially if you lose your phone, because your content will be safely backed up for you to restore elsewhere.
You can also switch to the “shared” tab to set up or view content you’ve shared with other OneDrive users.
File Sharing & Sync
File syncing and sharing is important for any cloud storage provider, and it’s something that OneDrive does particularly well (though we do have a guide for if OneDrive is not syncing).
As we’ve mentioned, any file in your desktop, documents or photos folders are automatically synced to OneDrive by default. A OneDrive folder is also available for you to store files that you specifically want to sync with your online storage.
The sync folder functions in a similar way to Dropbox, offering a specific location for files and folders on your hard drive that are synced with Microsoft’s servers. If you’re curious, check out our Dropbox review to learn a little more about how that service works and the similarities it shares with OneDrive.
If you have a file that exists outside of any of the locations that OneDrive natively selects, you can right-click on that file and click the “move to OneDrive” option.
This works only with files, though. If you want to move a folder, you will need to manually cut and paste that folder into the sync location that’s automatically created with OneDrive.
Sharing a file in OneDrive is as easy as right-clicking on the file and pressing “share” to get started. From there, OneDrive will open a menu, allowing you to select who you want to share your files with, as well as copy the link to your clipboard for you to share elsewhere.
OneDrive’s web-based sharing feature has several options. You can make a file read-only or editable, set an expiration date and set a password, which you share separately with the recipient. You can also share a link directly to a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.
Other cloud platforms, such as Sync.com and Google Drive, have a better-implemented sharing mode, but OneDrive works perfectly fine as a solution for file and folder sharing. If you need to share a lot of content with other collaborators, then take a look at our Sync.com review for an alternative option.
You don’t want to wait around for files to upload, so speed is a pretty important consideration when it comes to cloud storage. With that in mind, we put OneDrive to the test, looking at upload and download speeds from our reviewer’s base in the United Kingdom.
We tested both upload and download speeds using a 1GB file with OneDrive’s web-based interface. The connection we used had an average of 80 Mbps download speeds and 6 Mbps upload speeds.
Overall, our experience with the speed of syncing files was pretty positive, as indicated by the data transfer times below.
|First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:|
OneDrive does support block-level file copying to make it easier to quickly edit files without fully uploading them again, but it only supports this with Microsoft Office file types, such as DOCX. This limits its usefulness to a certain degree because you’re unlikely to upload huge Microsoft Office files. This means you probably won’t see any speed benefits in day-to-day use.
Although OneDrive has plenty of positives, it’s time to take a look at one area that isn’t completely positive: security. A lack of zero-knowledge encryption (like the kind we’d see in a cloud service like pCloud) is an unfortunate downside to the service, especially as it’s U.S.-based, which isn’t known to have the best cloud laws for consumers.
For file transfers, OneDrive’s cloud storage does use and support in-transit and at-rest encryption.
The at-rest encryption utilizes Microsoft’s own BitLocker encryption to secure files, adding a 256-bit encryption that was previously unavailable. It’s nice to have encryption implemented because the extra layer of security reduces the risk of exposure of your private data to malicious outside forces.
For in-transit encryption, OneDrive uses TLS with AES 256-bit encryption. This makes sure that your data remains completely secure as it moves in and out of its data centers.
In the event of a data breach, OneDrive has an automated notification service to alert you, which is a useful feature. Once notified, you can use any connected device to restore compromised files, change your password and activate additional OneDrive security features.
The addition of two-factor authentication also helps keep your data secured from unauthorized logins. It’s a nice inclusion and — as with all of the features of OneDrive — it’s easy to set up and use, especially if you’re already using the Microsoft Authenticator app to secure your account.
If you do lose access to your account, you can take advantage of OneDrive’s “files restore” recovery feature. This was previously limited to OneDrive for Business users, but it’s now been expanded to all users with a paid OneDrive or Microsoft 365 subscription.
Unfortunately, the biggest gap in OneDrive’s security capabilities is its lack of zero-knowledge encryption. At a basic level, zero-knowledge encryption gives you full control over the encryption keys that encrypt your data. Nobody involved in the service you’re using can access it — no staff, no hackers and no law enforcement.
Unfortunately, OneDrive doesn’t support zero-knowledge encryption, which means that your data is stored on a Microsoft server without you having the control over your data. If a hacker or a nosy government agent is so inclined, there is a chance that somebody other than yourself could gain access to that information.
As a U.S.-based service, this risk is even higher, thanks to laws — for example, the Freedom Act — giving authorities the ability to access your data, should they want to. If the lack of zero-knowledge encryption is a deal breaker, take a look at our best zero-knowledge cloud services list for all of the details.
You could also think about sticking with OneDrive and encrypting the files using a service like Boxcryptor, which allows you to encrypt your files before you upload them to OneDrive or other cloud storage services. Check out our Boxcryptor review for more information about how this service could work for you.
We briefly covered OneDrive’s personal vault feature earlier in this review, offering a way for users to add extra security and protection to their files. It’s a nice idea, but don’t be fooled: it doesn’t encrypt your files.
However, it can add additional layers of protection, such as two-factor authentication, to sensitive documents to stop hackers from gaining access to them so easily.
Ideas like the OneDrive personal vault are clever, but they mask a fairly middling focus on privacy from one of the world’s largest technology firms. Microsoft talks a big talk, but the truth is a little merkier.
Again, to point out the obvious, U.S.-based firms have a distinct disadvantage when it comes to privacy. Companies like Microsoft have a legal requirement to engage with law enforcement if asked to do so, with laws like the CLOUD Act making it impossible for a U.S. service to refuse the request.
If the United States government wants your data, it’s going to get it. With that in mind, you need to remember that it doesn’t matter what features OneDrive has to help keep your data private, because Microsoft will hand it all over if the law directs it to do so.
You have some control over your data, though, with the Microsoft privacy dashboard letting you view and clear certain content, such as your browsing data.
However, for OneDrive users, there isn’t a huge amount to offer here. You could delete your account, but Microsoft will still keep some of your data, depending on how that data is saved. You can contact the company directly with your privacy concerns, but it doesn’t change the reality.
The options are pretty limited for direct control over your data, but you can opt out of some Microsoft privacy tracking, including the ability to stop personalized ads across your account. You may be able to tweak your Windows 10 privacy settings to further limit this level of data tracking.
Overall, if you’re really worried about privacy, you’re not likely to want to host your data with services that are based in one of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing nations, such as the United States. If it’s a concern, a service like Tresorit (based in the Netherlands) would better suit you. You can find out more in our Tresorit review.
OneDrive does fairly well with customer service, as you might expect. The easiest way to contact support for OneDrive is through the Microsoft website, where you can ask questions on community forums or by checking out helpful how-to articles on various topics.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for using the built-in search, you can also email Microsoft support with any questions. Response times will vary depending on where you’re based and your subscription level, but you shouldn’t have to wait too long for an answer.
The company’s community forums offer a useful resource for users. This vault of question-and-answer posts cover a number of unusual queries and issues, but it isn’t as active as you might think. However, it is staffed by helpful support agents and volunteers, with relatively quick response times.
If the forum doesn’t help, Microsoft does offer a chatbot that can guide you to common answers, support articles or links to different parts of the site that you may have missed. If this doesn’t answer your query, you can request to “speak to a person” to get answers from a live support agent, but you may need to wait in a queue before you can speak to someone.
If all else fails, Microsoft does have a general support phone number that you can call if you need urgent assistance. Availability does vary depending on your location, but you can expect usual working hours to be covered.
Because it’s a general support line, your best bet to get answers quickly is trying the above methods before resorting to a phone call.
Our verdict on OneDrive is simple: it’s great in many ways, but not so great for privacy.
Is Microsoft OneDrive Good?
Thanks to Office 365 integration, a good variety of pricing plans and robust collaboration tools, there are enough advantages to using OneDrive to make it a good option for many users, especially if you’re a Windows PC user.
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid the biggest problem with OneDrive, and it’s a problem that impacts Microsoft more generally. U.S.-based firms always have a disadvantage when it comes to privacy, and with no zero-knowledge encryption, your data remains available for U.S. law enforcement to control and access, should it wish to (unless you read our guide on how to disable OneDrive altogether).
This could be a problem for some people, which is why we’re happy to recommend services like Sync.com and MEGA as alternatives. That said, OneDrive has plenty of positives, and it remains a service that we’ll warmly recommend for many users, especially if you’re using Windows or the Office suite.
What Are the Advantages of Using OneDrive?
Being able to launch any other Microsoft service — such as Skype or Word — directly from OneDrive makes it a seamless experience that integrates incredibly well with the overall Microsoft ecosystem. You don’t need to do much to use it or set it up, either, because it comes packaged with a Microsoft account and is included on your Windows desktop. You can also manage multiple OneDrive accounts.
With home and business plans available, users will likely find a feature set and price point that’s right for them, with a solid free plan to get the ball rolling. You can purchase monthly or annual subscriptions, giving you flexibility on how you decide to commit.
Before you do that, though, don’t forget to check out our other cloud storage articles for alternatives. Services like Tresorit, Sync.com and MEGA (see our MEGA review) set the bar for security, but don’t be afraid to list your own recommendations in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.