Free cloud storage. It has a nice ring to it, kinda like free money. The good news for bargain hunters is that these days just about every respectable member of the best cloud storage club has a free plan of some kind. It probably surprises nobody, however, to point out that some of these freebies are free for a reason.
To help you find your way, we decided to assemble a list of the best free cloud storage plans now available. Ranging from versatile pCloud to popular Google Drive to secure Sync.com and its bottomless referral program, these capable services will give you all the free space you’ll ever need.
For the more demanding among us, you might be a bit disappointed as many free options are stripped of some of the features that make their paid versions great. If you want a more feature-packed cloud storage solution, check out our best deals in cloud storage. While not free, these deals will still make you feel like you’re robbing a bank.
If there’s a free cloud storage plan you’re eyeing that isn’t mentioned in this article, you can check to see if we’ve included the service offering it in our cloud storage reviews library. Now, before we get to our rankings, let’s talk about some of the things we took into consideration when putting them together.
Best Free Cloud Storage 2018
What Makes the Best Free Cloud Storage?
For some, the word “free” is all they need to hear. So, here is some free advice: not all free cloud storage plans are created equal. The most obvious difference, of course, is that some providers just don’t give you much storage to work with. Dropbox, one of the most well-known cloud storage services, is also one of the stingiest when it comes to free storage.
You only get 2GB with the Dropbox free plan, appropriately called Dropbox Basic. Our top overall pick, pCloud, give you five times that amount. Dropbox does have a program to earn up to 16GB free by getting friends to sign up, but there are more generous referral programs out there, too, like that of our second overall pick, Sync.com.
In addition to limiting gigabytes, many free cloud storage plans also limit the features you get. Picking on Dropbox, again, Dropbox Basic is stripped of key capabilities like passwords for shared links and mobile offline access. There’s a reason we put together an entire Dropbox alternatives article.
When evaluating services for this article, we listed total free storage space as our top concern, but gave features offered for free nearly as much weight. Along with features, we also considered user experience, which plays a huge role recommending pCloud as not only the best free service, but also one worthy of a lifetime subscription if you do decide to sign up.
All of that is to say that this list isn’t a free-for-all. We considered several things in putting our rankings together, which we’ll elaborate on service-by-service as we work through them.
Best Free Cloud Storage: pCloud
pCloud gives you 10GB of free cloud storage for creating an account. That’s not bad by itself. In fact, it’s twice as much as you’ll get for free with OneDrive. However, you can double that with some effort.
As a pCloud user, you have access to a referral link that can be shared with others. If they use that link to sign up, both you and they get 1GB of added cloud storage space. To access this link, you’ll need to go to settings and click “invite friends” under the “current plans” subheader.
You can copy the link and share it manually, or post it to Facebook or Twitter to speed up your march to 20GB.
We should point out that the pCloud referral program has a separate link that gives you money instead of a free gigabyte. If you get someone to sign up with that link, you get $5 after they’ve spent a month with pCloud.
That means you might be waiting two months for five bucks. We like the free storage offer better. That referral gigabyte is immediate and for life.
Any free pCloud account doesn’t include two key features, which are passwords and expiry dates for shared links. For more on those features, see our pCloud review. To get them, you’ll need to upgrade to a 500GB or 2TB account, although both are reasonably priced and included in our list of best deals in cloud storage.
Besides those missing features, the pCloud experience for free users is quite good. We’re especially impressed with the built-in video player and the fact that pCloud can handle HD streaming. It’s also got a nice music player that lets you create playlists using the mp3s kept in your free storage space.
While one of our favorite zero-knowledge services, you don’t get zero-knowledge included even with a pCloud Premium subscription. You have to pay extra for pCloud Crypto. However, as a free user you can sign up for Crypto without also having to pay for Premium.
- 10GB for free
- Expand to 20GB with referrals
- Great user experience
- Zero-knowledge costs extra
- Limited sharing features
You only get 5GB for free with a Sync.com account, ranking it second in this list. Our full Sync.com review is full of praises, but what makes it stand out as a free service is that the Sync.com referral program has no limits. Like pCloud, you get 1GB per signup, but you can extend that invitation as often as you like — sort of.
The provider does, in fact, have a 20GB cap on referrals, but once you hit it, we’ve been told by the company directly that you can email them to have the cap removed. Support staff at Sync.com will take a look at the referrals you’ve made to make sure they look like actual people first, though, so don’t try and game the system.
Technically an unlimited referral program, in theory, you can get more free cloud storage with Sync.com than you can with any other provider on this list (though you’d probably need a Kardashian-sized social media following to get there).
Sync.com also doesn’t trim many features available with paid plans from its free version. Most importantly, you get zero-knowledge encryption included for free, which extends to file shares. Sync.com is the best zero-knowledge cloud service solution by far, and that’s as true for non-paying subscribers as it is for paying ones.
You can even password-protect file shares on a free account. However, if you want to add expiry dates or download limits to them, you will need to upgrade to a Sync.com Pro account. At about Sync.com for 2TB of storage, though, paying for storage with Sync.com still feels free.
If you’re having some trouble picking between pCloud and Sync.com, we don’t blame you. In fact, we based an article on particular head-to-head matchup to help out: Sync.com vs pCloud.
- 1GB per referral with no limits
- Includes zero-knowledge encryption
- 5GB of free storage
- No file link expiry dates
- No file link download limits
- No Linux client
Google Drive starts you off with 15GB for free just for signing up for a Google account, which you have to do anyway if you’re an Android or Gmail user. While that space is shared with Google Photos and your email inbox, it’s enough that many will never have reason to upgrade to a paid account.
Google Drive removes nothing from the free experience that paying subscribers get, either. That means you can use Google Docs, one of the best cloud collaboration tools, for free. You’ll also have access to Google Drive’s large software integration library, which includes many excellent third-party tools which are also free.
The downside of storing files on Google Drive is that the company is dogged by revelations about the fact that it scans your files. One of the most recent was the discovery that Google uses algorithms to scan documents for viruses, spam and “inappropriate” content.
Google also notes in its terms and conditions that it analyzes content to recommend relevant products, which we discuss in our Google Drive review.
The company has to make money somehow, since free storage doesn’t keep the lights on. Still, if targeted marketing and Google collecting personal information about you bothers you, we’ll refer you back to our second overall pick. Zero-knowledge means Sync.com employees couldn’t read your files if they wanted to.
In a similar vein, Google Drive doesn’t have a referral program. That means you’re stuck with 15GB if you don’t want to pay up. If you need more storage, in fact, the best approach is keeping Google Drive free and supplementing that 15GB with a better deal, as we recommend in our Google Drive and Sync.com article.
- 15GB free storage
- Google Docs for free
- Third-party apps for free
- Managed encryption
- Possible privacy issues
- No Linux client
Once upon a time, signing up for MEGA got you 50GB of free cloud storage. You didn’t have to make referrals or jump through any other hoops. Better yet, that 50GB was for life, unless the MEGA servers get seized by the FBI like those of its predecessor, MegaUpload.
In a move that would make a ninja proud, MEGA surreptitiously sliced up the 50GB program in 2017. You still get 50GB for signing up, but only 15 of those gigabytes are yours forever. The other 35GB expires after 30 days.
You can earn your way back up to 50GB by completing certain tasks, and the tasks themselves are quite simple. Download the MEGAsync client for your computer, and you get 20GB. Install the MEGA app for your smartphone, and you get another 15GB. That brings you back up to 50GB.
However, there’s another catch: the rewards for completing these two tasks also expire, and you can’t complete them again. The countdown for that expiration is just 180 days.
You can also now earn free space for each friend you invite. That friend needs to install MEGAsync client or mobile app, but after that you get an impressive 10GB. There’s no limit on how many friends you can invite. Unfortunately, there is a final plot twist: your 10GB referral bonus also expires, this time after 365 days.
The problem with taking advantage of free cloud storage through MEGA’s achievement program is that peace of mind is hard to come by, and peace of mind is exactly what any cloud service should be helping to provide.
You can load tens of gigabytes of photos and other files to MEGA, but if you fail to keep up with your referrals, you can also lose it all. That means somewhere down the road, you might feel compelled to signup for a MEGA Pro account.
Don’t. The service just isn’t worth paying for when there are much better options out there, providing better value and more features. Check out our Sync.com vs MEGA or pCloud vs MEGA articles for examples.
Shenanigans, aside, the options for really good free cloud storage are pretty meager, so MEGA still makes our list. It’s just not in the conversation for number one anymore, if indeed it ever really was. Read our full MEGA review to learn about some other issues we have with this service.
- 15GB free storage
- Zero knowledge
- Free storage expires
- Buggy sync
- Poor design
MediaFire gives you 10GB of gratis storage to begin with. Not bad, but you can increase that all the way up to 50GB.
You get 1GB of space for each friend you refer, with a cap of 32GB. If suggesting MediaFire to others doesn’t float your boat, no worries. You can get 2GB of extra storage just for installing the MediaFire mobile app. There’s also an option to earn extra gigabytes for connecting your Facebook and Twitter accounts to MediaFire.
MediaFire has really cheap price plans, too, offering a whole terabyte for just $5 per month. See our MediaFire review for more pricing detail. However, beyond its free service, MediaFire is tough to recommend. We didn’t even include it in our best cloud storage for Linux guide, despite being one of the few services with a Linux client.
The main complaint is that MediaFire doesn’t do file synchronization between devices. You’re left having to upload and download files manually to and from the cloud. You can read about the company’s decision to ditch its desktop client and sync feature in 2016 in the blog post that made the announcement. Find alternatives, free and paid, in our best cloud storage with sync review.
- 10GB free storage
- Earn up to 50GB free storage
- Cheap price plans
- No file sync
- Poor security
There are a few more free storage offers that, although unable to crack our top five, still deserve mention.Amazon Drive is one. Signing up for the service only gets you 5GB of free storage, but if you’re also an Amazon Prime customer, you get unlimited photo storage. The downside is that Amazon Drive doesn’t encrypt files, which you can read about in our Amazon Drive review. Degoo is another option, especially since we’ll get yelled at in the comments if we don’t mention it here. Signing up for Degoo gets you 100GB of free space. While that’s way more than any other service, Degoo is meant for online backup rather than cloud storage. Also, it isn’t a very good online backup service: our Degoo review will tell you what’s wrong. Our best online backup guide will point you to better backup tools.
Finally, if you’re a student, you get the best free cloud storage offer of all: 1TB of OneDrive with a valid school email address. You also get Office 365, which includes desktop versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, for free. We have a complete OneDrive review if you want to learn more about the service.
Dishonorable Mention: hUBIC
We should probably bring up hUBIC, because like Degoo, it has an ostensibly generous free cloud storage offer that tends to overpower good judgement.
You get 25GB of free with hUBIC, which is more than pCloud and Sync.com combined. Additionally, if you want to sign up for service, you can get a 10TB plan for just over $5 per month. That’s a pretty incredible offer.
The problem we have recommending hUBIC to our readers is that we don’t trust the service. The hUBIC customer support network is unresponsive, a worrisome trend that we detail in our hUBIC review. On top of that, files stored on hUBIC servers aren’t encrypted.
That leads us to worry about misuse of files for marketing or other purposes, along with the potential for cybercrime. We also can’t quite shake the notion that hUBIC is a prime candidate to disappear into the night, user files along with it.
The point here is that free isn’t always a good thing, especially where technology and trust are concerned. Check out our worst free VPN article for some more examples.
Finding free cloud storage is easy. Finding good free cloud storage is less so. Ranking good free cloud storage is downright hard. We like pCloud for the top spot thanks to 10GB of storage, a great referral program and excellent media capabilities, but we can understand opting for Google Drive for its convenience or MEGA or even MediaFire for their generosity.
Those who like privacy as much as saving money, meanwhile, probably lean toward Sync.com, which gets you 5GB of free storage plus an unlimited referral program and free zero-knowledge encryption.
The good news is that you can try them all out and decide for yourself, and it won’t cost you a thing. Let us know how that goes in the comments, below, and thanks for reading.