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Sync.com vs pCloud: A Zero-Knowledge Battle for 2020

Aleksandar Kochovski
By Aleksandar Kochovski (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2020-10-13T16:20:29+00:00

If you’re in the market for a secure cloud storage solution, you’ve probably come across the names of Sync.com and pCloud. It can be hard to choose the right service for you, especially when both of your choices are among the best cloud storage providers. That’s why we decided to put pCloud and Sync.com against each other in a head to head to determine who is the true king of the cloud.

pCloud and Sync.com are both very secure cloud services, offering zero-knowledge encryption. Plus, they’re both on our most secure cloud storage list, so you can’t go wrong with either of them. However, there are still plenty of differences between Sync.com and pCloud, and this comparison will help you choose between them.

pCloud offers the best free storage plan out there, though Sync.com comes close. On the other hand, Sync.com provides zero-knowledge security right out of the gate, even for its free users, while pCloud offers it only as a paid add-on. However, pCloud has more features to brag about compared to Sync.com, so it’s still a great deal.

Sync.com vs pCloud: A Cloud Comparison

Each of our competitors will go through six rounds of testing, where we will see how they fare in the most important aspects of a cloud storage service. These categories include features, price, ease of use, file-syncing-and-sharing capabilities, speed, and security and privacy. The cloud service to win the most rounds will be declared the overall champion of this comparison.

You can also check out our full Sync.com review and pCloud review for a closer look at each of our two cloud combatants. Now it’s time to jump into this Sync.com vs pCloud comparison; tho we also have a video version if you just want the highlights.


  1. 1
    • Sync Folder
    • File Link Sharing
    • Folder Sharing
    • Versioning
    5 GB - 10 TB
    $ 500
  2. 2
    • Sync Folder
    • File Link Sharing
    • Folder Sharing
    • Versioning

1. Features

When cloud storage first came onto the online scene, it opened up a whole world of possibilities. Cloud storage providers keep your files on their own servers, so that they don’t take up any storage space on your hard drive. Plus, they synchronize those files across devices so they’re available wherever you are.

With your files in the cloud, you also have a wealth of options for collaborating with other people and sharing files easily. That’s why any modern cloud service worth its salt offers more features than the standard storage and syncing, and our two contestants are no different.

Sync.com

Sync.com’s privacy-first approach to cloud storage doesn’t leave much room for flashy features. It offers a more stripped-down experience than services like Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive, though Sync.com does provide some helpful ease-of-use features.

Even though Sync.com encrypts all of your files and offers previews for them, it supports only a few file formats. For example, you can preview images and PDF files, but not videos, music or Microsoft Office documents. Although this is still impressive, other zero-knowledge services, such as Icedrive and MEGA, manage to provide previews for more file formats (see our Icedrive vs Sync.com comparison).

01_SyncComVsPcloud_FeaturesSyncCom_PreviewImage

One area where Sync.com excels is file versioning. Free users can restore previous versions of files within 30 days, but paid plans can go even farther back. The Pro Solo Basic plan has versioning up to 180 days, and all other paid plans can restore files within a whole year. This makes Sync.com the best cloud storage for versioning.

Sync.com places no file-size cap on its users, unlike a lot of other storage providers. This means that you’re free to store large files, which can be especially beneficial if you’re a video editor working with huge files. Plus, you can use this feature in tandem with versioning to access past copies of the same large file.

02_SyncComVsPcloud_FeaturesSyncCom_VersionHistory

pCloud

Because pCloud uses zero-knowledge encryption only on the files you choose, it’s free to provide its users with more features. pCloud manages to add enough useful options without being overwhelming, although it doesn’t come close to Google Drive and its slew of third-party app integrations (read our Google Drive review).

pCloud offers previews for multiple file formats, including media files, such as music and videos. Plus, you can preview Microsoft Office documents and PDF files, which makes office work much easier with pCloud. You can’t edit these files, though, apart from resizing them if they’re images or videos.

03_SyncComVsPcloud_FeaturesPcloud_FilePreviews

pCloud has an unrivaled music player that lets you search for songs by artist and album, as well as create playlists, just like a dedicated music player app. The best part is that the music player is also available in the mobile app, so you can listen to your songs on the go without having to store them on your phone.

04_SyncComVsPcloud_FeaturesPcloud_MusicPlayer

pCloud loses the file versioning battle, though, because it can only restore copies within 15 days for free users, and 30 days for paying users. It also offers an extended file history, but you have to pay an extra $39 annually for that. On the plus side, there’s no file-size cap for your large files, just like with Sync.com.

There’s also a browser add-on called pCloud Save, which lets you download images, videos and audio files from (almost) anywhere on the internet. You can’t download YouTube videos, but you can save Facebook pictures, as well as Instagram pictures, which aren’t normally downloadable. However, it wasn’t working properly when we tested it, and it couldn’t download anything.

Another useful feature is pCloud’s migration tool that lets you backup files from another cloud service, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. You can also use this feature to backup all of your Facebook and Instagram photos at once, which can be useful if you’re planning to delete your account.

05_SyncComVsPcloud_FeaturesPcloud_MigrationBackup

Round 1 Thoughts

Sync.com focuses on user privacy, so it doesn’t offer too many extra features. The only advantage it has in the features department is its versioning, which can restore files within 30 days, compared to pCloud’s 15 days.

However, pCloud isn’t zero-knowledge by default, which is why it can afford to provide better preview options, including its stellar music player. These features, along with pCloud’s backup and migration options, lead it to victory in the features round.

Round: Features
Point for pCloud
Visit Sync.com0
Visit pCloud1

2. Pricing

A cloud storage provider could have all the features in the world, but if the price isn’t right, it could all be for nothing. An attractive free plan is always welcome — it can be a deciding factor for many users — and both of our contestants have excellent free options.

If you’re a heavy cloud user, though, and you’re willing to shell out for premium storage, you’re in luck. Both pCloud and Sync.com offer some of the best deals for cloud storage, but only one can take the pricing prize.

Sync.com

A free plan with Sync.com gets you 5GB of storage space, which is expandable via referrals. Each referral gets you 1GB of extra storage, up to a total of 20GB of free storage. Plus, its free users enjoy the same encryption that paid users have. Besides the great free plan, Sync.com has four paid personal plans and three business options available (read our Sync.com Business review).

06_SyncComVsPcloud_PricingSyncCom_RewardsSystem

The Personal Mini plan is the cheapest of the bunch, offering 200GB of storage for $5 per month. Pro Solo Basic gives you 2TB of storage space for a monthly price of $8, and Pro Solo Standard costs $10 monthly for 3TB of storage. Pro Solo Plus is the largest personal plan, giving you 4TB of cloud storage for $15 per month.

The three team plans are billed per user. Pro Teams Standard provides 1TB of storage space per user for $5 monthly. Pro Teams Plus costs $8 per month and comes with 4TB per user. Pro Teams Advanced is the most expensive team plan, and it offers each user 10TB of storage at a cost of $15 per month.

However, keep in mind that all of these plans are yearly, with no possibility of paying a monthly fee. Thankfully, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you only want to try out the paid version.

pCloud

pCloud brings a lot to the table when it comes to price. Its free plan is best in class, providing up to 10GB of free storage space. However, you have to unlock this storage by completing tasks, such as confirming your email or installing the desktop and mobile apps.

Unlike Sync.com, you can pay for its premium plans either monthly or yearly, and you can even pay a one-time fee for a lifetime deal.

07_SyncComVsPcloud_PricingPcloud_PlansFeatures

The cheapest paid plan on offer is the Premium plan, giving you 500GB of storage at a cost of either $4.99 per month or $3.99 per month when paid annually. Next is the Premium Plus plan, which gets you 2TB of storage for $9.99 per month or $7.99 per month when paid annually. That’s a great value, especially compared to pricier services like Dropbox.

The Premium plan is also available as a lifetime subscription for a one-time payment of $175. You can also get a lifetime Premium Plus plan for a one-time payment of $350.

pCloud’s Business plan provides 1TB of storage for each user. You need at least three users for the Business plan, and its cost depends on the number of users. It’s available as a yearly subscription, costing $287.64 annually ($7.99 monthly per user). The monthly subscription costs $29.97 ($9.99 per user per month). You can read our full pCloud Business review for more details.

There is one big caveat here, though. pCloud doesn’t include client-side encryption with any of its personal plans. You have to pay an extra $3.99 per month for an add-on called pCloud Crypto. You can always use a free encryption service, like Cryptomator, but that’s a workaround that requires extra effort on your part.

Round 2 Thoughts

Both services have exceptional free storage plans, though they’re not quite as spacious as MEGA’s free plan. pCloud offers nearly identical prices to any Sync.com pricing plan. However, there is one crucial difference in pCloud’s pricing plan: it charges extra for client-side encryption, so you might need to use extra encryption software along with it.

Like pCloud, Sync.com provides great value for its paid plans, but it has more storage options than pCloud. Though there aren’t any monthly payments or lifetime subscriptions available, Sync.com includes zero-knowledge encryption at no cost, unlike pCloud. It’s a close call, but we’re giving the win to Sync.com.

Round: Pricing
Point for Sync.com
Visit Sync.com1
Visit pCloud1

3. Usability

Ease of use is one of the most important aspects of any service, and cloud storage providers are no exception. In this section, we’ll compare how Sync.com and pCloud create their user experience, as well as any issues they might have.

Platform support is also important in this category. Both of our competitors are available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, but only one of them has Linux support. Read on to find out who wins our usability round.

Sync.com

In the browser, Sync.com has a sleek interface that’s very easy to use. It’s cleanly designed, with minimalistic icons and large, legible fonts that make it simple to find whatever you’re looking for. We do lament the lack of a right-click menu, but that’s a downside it shares with pCloud.

08_SyncComVsPcloud_UsabilitySyncCom_BrowserInterface

Sync.com uses the sync folder model that was popularized by Dropbox. The desktop app itself is relegated to the system tray, providing only a settings menu and a few options, like pausing synchronization. The app also adds options to your right-click menu, so you can share directly from the desktop view or add any file on your computer to your Sync.com vault.

Sync.com has a mobile app available for iOS and Android. The app is a breath of fresh air, with an elegant, no-frills design. It doesn’t complicate things by adding useless menus; it simply displays your files and sorts them into a few tabs for navigation. Plus, it supports automatic camera upload, which can free up storage space on your device.

09_SyncComVsPcloud_UsabilitySyncCom_MobileInterface

pCloud

pCloud’s web interface is similarly well-designed, but there are a few misses. Its website is a little more cluttered than Sync.com’s, if only because it has more features that you need to access. The website is very responsive — more so than Sync.com’s — but we found a few minor bugs, such as menus disappearing when you try to click on them.

One particularly annoying feature is a persistent ad at the screen’s bottom if you’re a free user, telling you to upgrade your account. In comparison, Sync.com doesn’t have any ads on its website, and it doesn’t make you feel like you’re using anything less than a premium service, even if you’re not paying for it.

10_SyncComVsPcloud_UsabilityPcloud_BrowserInterface

The desktop experience is a little different with pCloud because it uses a network drive instead of a sync folder. We’ll explain the difference in the “sharing and sync” portion of this comparison. pCloud also adds options for sharing and syncing files to the right-click menu, and its app is similarly inconspicuous, though it offers a bit more functionality than Sync.com’s desktop app.

Like Sync.com, pCloud offers a mobile app for Android and iOS. It automatically sorts videos, music, pictures and documents for easy access. It also has an image and video backup function, and you can choose whether to backup all images and videos, or only newly created ones. The one negative is that it also has an annoying “upgrade to premium” ad.

11_SyncComVsPcloud_UsabilityPcloud_MobileInterface

pCloud has some issues with two-factor authentication, though. When you enable two-factor authentication, you’re logged out of all your devices. This includes the pCloud Save browser add-on, which you can no longer log in to. The mobile app also acted strangely in our testing, and it didn’t let us log in at all with two-factor authentication enabled.

One advantage that pCloud has over Sync.com is its Linux support. It’s one of few cloud providers that supports it, and it’s the best Linux cloud storage service out there. It’s disappointing that Sync.com still doesn’t support Linux, but the feature is on its roadmap for the future.

Round 3 Thoughts

Although pCloud actually makes navigation a little easier on mobile and provides more options on desktop, we found some minor issues, especially regarding two-factor authentication. pCloud is available on Windows, Mac and Linux systems, but Sync.com doesn’t yet support Linux.

Sync.com takes a more stripped-down approach, and we couldn’t find any faults with it. When competition is this tight, the tiniest differences can be the deciding factor. That’s why Sync.com wins the usability round.

Round: Usability
Point for Sync.com
Visit Sync.com2
Visit pCloud1

4. File Syncing and Sharing

Ever since Dropbox took cloud storage into the mainstream, file synchronization has been a quintessential cloud feature. File sync allows you to access your files across different devices, and it keeps your cloud-based files updated as you work on them.

Cloud platforms can be the ideal spaces for collaboration because everything is available remotely and is updated in real time. Sharing files is essential for collaboration, and cloud technology makes sharing files super easy.

Sync.com

Sync.com follows the sync folder model. Installing the desktop app creates a folder on your desktop called “sync,” where all of your cloud files go. Files that you’ve uploaded via the website will be downloaded here automatically, and any files you add to the folder will be uploaded and synced.

However, the sync folder model creates duplicates of files, which take up valuable hard drive space. To remedy this, Sync.com implements “selective sync,” which lets you choose which folders to sync to your hard drive. You can’t sync folders from your hard drive to your Sync.com account, though.

12_SyncComVsPcloud_SharingSyncCom_ShareFolder

File sharing is a real strong suit for Sync.com. It offers plenty of sharing options, though you need a paid account to access the best options. With features such as passwords and expiry dates for sharing links, plus stats about download link activity, it’s no wonder Sync.com is our pick for the best cloud storage for sharing.

Besides using passwords, you can also protect file sharing links by limiting downloads. You can even turn on “enhanced privacy” for sharing links, which will encrypt the download link.

Sync.com also has sharing folders, called “team folders.” You can invite users to contribute to these folders, which will let them upload and edit files.

13_SyncComVsPcloud_SharingSyncCom_FileSharingOptions

pCloud

Unlike Sync.com, pCloud doesn’t have a sync folder. Instead, it relies on a network drive, called “pCloud drive,” for syncing files. A network drive appears as a regular drive on your computer, but it doesn’t use any storage space. It’s an extension of your hard drive, which uses cloud storage instead of local storage.

Unlike a sync folder, a network drive doesn’t create duplicates of your files. To further free up storage space, you can sync any folder on your computer to pCloud. This way you don’t have to manually move files to a sync folder; they get updated automatically as you edit them, plus your folder structures are copied over to the cloud.

14_SyncComVsPcloud_SharingPcloud_SyncOptions

Like Sync.com, pCloud has selective sync for its network drive. With a network drive, all of your files are only available with an internet connection. To solve this problem, pCloud lets you make folders available offline by syncing them to your computer, so you can always access your most important files.

pCloud focuses on folder sharing for its sharing options, and you can only share files via a download link. You can set a password and an expiry date for the download link, and you can view activity stats, too, but that’s about all you can do with it.

15_SyncComVsPcloud_SharingPcloud_FileSharingOptions

This isn’t disappointing by any means, though. Google Drive’s sharing works similarly, and it has some of the best sharing options, but Sync.com’s sharing experience is just unbeatable.

Thankfully, there are more options for sharing folders. You can share folders either using a sharing link or by inviting other users to the folder. Folders shared via a link get an extra option for activating uploads. If you invite a user to the folder, you can give them editing permissions, as well.

16_SyncComVsPcloud_SharingPcloud_NetworkDrive

Round 4 Thoughts

This round is too close to call. Sync.com is the clear winner in the sharing department, but pCloud offers much better syncing options. Like pCloud, Sync.com offers selective sync, though that’s the only thing it does to clear up storage space on your hard drive. On the other hand, pCloud doesn’t take up any hard drive space, and it can sync any folder you want to the cloud.

Though pCloud’s file sharing options aren’t poor by any means, they just don’t compare to Sync.com’s plethora of sharing features. Both services offer passwords and expiry dates for file sharing links, but Sync.com goes the extra mile with download limits and a preview mode for links.

All things considered, the winner depends on what you want. If you value robust sharing options, Sync.com might be better for you. If you need comprehensive syncing features, though, pCloud is the obvious choice. We’ll call this round a tie.

Round: File Syncing and Sharing
No clear winner, points for both
Visit Sync.com3
Visit pCloud2

5. Speed

The speed of a cloud storage platform can have a tremendous impact on user experience. Some services are so fast that you forget you’re a thousand miles away from its server. Slower services, such as MediaFire, can make you want to pull your hair out with endless loading screens.

We performed our speed test at an upload speed of 6 Mbps and a download speed of 32 Mbps, using a 1GB test file. The expected time for downloads is four and a half minutes, and uploads should take 23 minutes and 40 seconds. Keep reading for the results of our Sync.com vs pCloud speed test.

Sync.com

 First attemptSecond attemptAverage timeExpected time
Upload time:36:0236:3036:1623:40
Download time:07:5807:4307:5104:30

Many factors can contribute to a cloud storage service’s speed, including heavy-handed encryption, your device’s hardware, and how close you are to the storage provider’s servers. Unfortunately, Sync.com’s speed suffers because of its encryption. Its servers are based in Canada, so users living closer will experience faster speeds.

Sync.com uploaded our test file in an average of 36 minutes, which is nothing spectacular, but it isn’t too bad, either. However, it took its sweet time downloading that same file, taking just under eight minutes on average.

pCloud

 First attemptSecond attemptAverage timeExpected time
Upload time:29:3729:4029:3923:40
Download time:05:2105:1805:2004:30

pCloud is a remarkably fast service, blowing through the speed test with no problems. Unless you’re encrypting your files, pCloud won’t be hampered by extra encryption time. Plus, it has servers in both Switzerland and the United States, and you can choose the server that’s closest to you.

pCloud took around 29 and a half minutes to upload our test file, which is about as fast as it gets, considering the expected lag from server distance. Download times were similarly impressive, with pCloud taking under five and a half minutes to download the test file.

Plus, pCloud offers block-level sync for your unencrypted files. This means that when you edit a cloud-based file, only the altered parts get uploaded and synced. This can greatly speed up syncing times if you’re editing large files in the cloud.

17_SyncComVsPcloud_SpeedPcloud_FileUpload

Round 5 Thoughts

Unlike the previous round, this one’s a no-brainer. pCloud is the obvious choice. It blazed through the speed test, leaving Sync.com in the dust. Unfortunately, Sync.com doesn’t offer block-level sync, which could greatly improve its syncing speeds, though we understand that it isn’t really possible with encrypted data.

Round: Speed
Point for pCloud
Visit Sync.com3
Visit pCloud3

6. Security and Privacy

If all the iCloud and Dropbox leaks throughout the years have taught us anything, it’s that not even the biggest names in cloud storage are immune to security breaches. That’s why zero-knowledge client-side encryption is imperative for a modern cloud storage service.

Client-side encryption, or zero-knowledge encryption, means that your files are protected using a private end-to-end encryption method, where only you can access the encryption keys. However, even though both of our cloud contenders boast airtight security, there are many differences between pCloud vs Sync.com in how they implement their encryption.

Though we’re sure you always read the terms of use before you click on “agree,” it never hurts to double-check a service’s privacy policy for any suspicious entries. That’s why we’ll be comparing our contestants’ privacy policies to see if they hold any water. Read on for the results of our final round.

Sync.com

Any files you upload to Sync.com are automatically encrypted client-side. This zero-knowledge approach to encryption leaves no room for hackers or unwanted government organizations to access your files. Though pCloud offers the same level of encryption, Sync.com provides it for all files, even for free users, which makes it the best encrypted cloud storage platform.

It protects your files in transit and at rest using 256-bit AES encryption. Plus, it uses the TLS protocol to protect your files from man-in-the-middle attacks, which exploit weaknesses in public WiFi networks. Two-factor authentication further protects your account, even if someone gains access to your login data.

18_SyncComVsPcloud_SecuritySyncCom_SecuritySettings

Sync.com notably keeps its servers under 24-hour surveillance. This level of physical security has earned it a HIPAA certification, which means that it’s safe enough to store extremely sensitive medical data.

With servers based in Canada, Sync.com has to comply with Canadian privacy laws, including PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act). Because it operates in the European Union, it also has to follow the General Data Protection Regulation.

Sync.com’s privacy policy and terms of use are also airtight. They contain no dubious or suspicious language, so you don’t have to worry about Sync.com invading your privacy.

19_SyncComVsPcloud_SecuritySyncCom_SecurityCertifications

pCloud

Although we wouldn’t call pCloud unsafe, there are some minor points where it could improve its security and privacy. For starters, pCloud provides client-side encryption only via a paid add-on called pCloud Crypto, while free users do not have zero-knowledge encryption as an option.

This doesn’t mean that your files are unsafe if you’re on a free storage plan. They’re still encrypted using the same 256-bit encryption and the TLS protocol, which are the gold standard of encryption. However, pCloud retains the encryption keys for these files, unless you pay for a Crypto subscription. Two-factor authentication is also available, keeping your logins safe.

On the bright side, pCloud is based in Switzerland, the absolute best country for online security. This means that not only is pCloud GDPR compliant, it also has to follow strict Swiss privacy laws. However, if you choose to store your files on its U.S. servers, the United States government can still gain access to your files under the Patriot Act.

20_SyncComVsPcloud_SecurityPcloud_SwissPrivacy

pCloud’s privacy policy states that it tracks your behavior when you use its services, though the information it collects is fairly innocuous and clearly only used to enhance the user experience. It collects details about your hardware configuration and what browser you use, as well as how long you stay on its website.

pCloud states that any data it collects is anonymous, so it never links any information it gathers to a specific user profile. It also states that it will never sell or share your data unless it’s compelled by law or a court subpoena. Plus, any files protected by Crypto will be encrypted client-side, so not even Uncle Sam can access those files.

Round 6 Thoughts

Both services performed admirably in our security and privacy round. Sync.com and pCloud both include options for zero-knowledge encryption and two-factor authentication, but pCloud drops the ball with its encryption solution. Because pCloud charges extra for client-side encryption — plus its slight data collection habit — Sync.com wins the final round.

Round: Security and Privacy
Point for Sync.com
Visit Sync.com4
Visit pCloud3

7. The Verdict

We’ve finally arrived at the end of the race, and even though Sync.com is the clear winner, pCloud certainly gave it a run for its money. It was a photo finish for the ages, with one round even ending in a tie, so let’s do a quick rundown of our Sync.com vs pCloud comparison to clear things up.

Winner: Sync.com

The first round saw our two hopefuls duking it out in the features department. Though Sync.com has better versioning and is more suitable for working with large files, pCloud won hands down, offering more features than Sync.com.

In the pricing round, both contestants did very well due to their excellent free storage plans. pCloud has more flexibility with its pricing, letting you pay monthly, yearly or even a one-time fee for a lifetime plan. However, pCloud lost the pricing round by withholding zero-knowledge encryption from its free storage plan.

Round three was all about usability. It was neck and neck, with both services offering their own perks. However, despite pCloud’s Linux support, it had a few too many bugs, and Sync.com won the usability round by a nose.

The sharing and syncing round was the climax of this cloud storage race, with Sync.com providing better sharing features and pCloud offering superior syncing. We decided to call this one a tie.

Sync.com encrypts all of your files, which slows it down considerably. For this reason, it loses the speed round, but it wins the security round, considering pCloud makes you pay for zero-knowledge encryption.

So, the results are in: Sync.com takes three rounds out of six, and pCloud wins only two, with one round ending in a tie. Even though it’s incredibly close, Sync.com is the winner of the Sync.com vs pCloud matchup. Thank you for staying with us for this clash of the clouds. Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.