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Best free cloud storage in 2022

man and woman working on computer in office
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best free cloud storage services are ideal for personal use, and are more than adequate for the average individual's data storage (opens in new tab) needs. Important personal files, documents, and photos can be backed up and saved with even a small amount of free storage. It's also easy enough to upgrade if more storage is needed. 

Many of the best free cloud storage platforms are provided by the best cloud storage (opens in new tab) platforms offering premium plans. This in itself is a sign of a strong and competitive market, particularly for those looking at reducing cloud storage costs (opens in new tab).

We'd note at this point that free cloud storage is not ideal when considering the best cloud storage for business (opens in new tab). Free plans are restricted in comparison to paid packages, specifically by having lower maximum storage levels and fewer advanced features and tools.

However, for personal use—and for freelancers or those working on small projects with little to no budget—free cloud storage can be perfect. You can easily and simply collaborate and share files, without worrying about the cost. 

We've evaluated the best free cloud storage services on their free storage capacity, the strength of their security, file access and size limits, any limitations, and additional features and tools.

Our top cloud storage deals

If you're willing to pay for cloud storage, but have a tight budget, take a look at these industry-leading deals offering storage from top providers at huge discounts.

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IDrive: get the best cloud storage for only $3.98 (opens in new tab)
IDrive offers the best cloud storage (opens in new tab) for premium plans, the best secure cloud storage (opens in new tab), the best encrypted cloud storage (opens in new tab), and the best cloud storage for photos (opens in new tab). It offers large amounts of storage at highly-competitive prices, support for unlimited devices, and an extensive file versioning system keep it top: for a limited time, get 10TB for only $3.98 for the first year! (opens in new tab)

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Get Backblaze cloud storage for free with every ExpressVPN purchase (opens in new tab)
ExpressVPN (opens in new tab), our choice for the best VPN service (opens in new tab) , is offering free unlimited cloud backup via Backblaze (opens in new tab) for a whole year with an annual subscription! Secure, business-grade online backup is available for everyone, with no strings attached.


Which is the best free cloud storage service?

Cloud providers, compared

• IDrive vs Backblaze (opens in new tab) 

• pCloud vs Dropbox (opens in new tab)

• OneDrive vs Azure (opens in new tab)

• IDrive vs OneDrive (opens in new tab)

• Google Drive vs Dropbox (opens in new tab)

• OneDrive vs Dropbox (opens in new tab)

• Google Drive vs OneDrive (opens in new tab)

For free cloud storage, our top-rated provider is Google Drive, due to its 15GB of free storage, top-drawer apps, and its integration with Google's Workspace productivity tools. 

pCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, and MediaFire also make our list of the top five free providers, and merit your consideration when looking into cloud storage as they offer a range of free storage as well as enhanced security and other tools or features.

The best free cloud storage providers, compared
Cloud storage providerFree storage capacityEncryption
Google Drive (opens in new tab)15GBEncrypted transfer
pCloud (opens in new tab)10GB (can increase to 20GB)In transit and at rest
Dropbox (opens in new tab)2GBIn transit and at rest
Microsoft OneDrive (opens in new tab)5GBAES 256-bit
MediaFire (opens in new tab)10GB (can increase to 50GB)N/A

The best free cloud storage available right now

Google Drive logo

(Image credit: Google Drive)
Beefy cloud storage coupled with online office tools

Specifications

Free storage capacity: 15GB
Encryption: Encrypted transfer

Reasons to buy

+
15GB of space for free 
+
Full access to Google Workspace
+
Backup and Sync desktop app

Reasons to avoid

-
No password protection
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No file expiration

With 15GB included at zero cost, Google Drive is one of the more giving cloud providers. Do note that all files from your other Google services (Gmail, Photos (opens in new tab), etc.) are also stored within this capacity, meaning each email attachment you download takes up space. 

However, a Gmail address isn’t mandatory to sign up. Create a new Google account and you’re good to go, but don’t be confused if you see Google One, the rebranding of paid Google Drive storage as part of Google Workspace. 

As for the current service, there are mobile apps for Android and iOS users, Google’s own office productivity tools, and a nifty Backup and Sync desktop app that enables you to automatically duplicate files in the cloud, just in case your laptop or PC dies or gets pinched. 

Read our full Google Drive review (opens in new tab).

pCloud logo

(Image credit: pCloud)
Smooth-running, user-friendly service

Specifications

Free storage capacity: 10GB (can increase to 20GB)
Encryption: In transit and at rest

Reasons to buy

+
Elegant and intuitive interface
+
Simplified sharing options 
+
Users can double the free storage

Reasons to avoid

-
Generic interface
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No real-time collaboration

The free pCloud package starts with 10GB of file space, which can be increased to 20GB through a combination of completed offers (4GB) and referrals (1GB each). As a bonus, there’s 50GB of downlink traffic bandwidth allowance available on a monthly basis. 

The appealing and highly functional interface makes storing files easy, whether through finely crafted desktop and mobile apps or pCloud’s website. File sharing features are as simple as they can be, with the ability to share files with non-pCloud users. Built-in streaming features, and no restriction on file size, mean you can freely send large files like HD videos to others. 

pCloud also offers appreciable deals for upgrading to a paid service. 500GB storage will cost you $3.99 a month, while there are also affordable annual and lifetime subscriptions if you’re looking to save some money. 

Read our comprehensive pCloud review (opens in new tab).

Dropbox logo

(Image credit: Dropbox)
Popular cloud storage provider with broad third-party support

Specifications

Free storage capcity: 2GB
Encryption: In transit and at rest

Reasons to buy

+
Wide array of supported platforms
+
Lots of useful features

Reasons to avoid

-
Measly 2GB allowance

Let’s get to the bad news first. For such a respected service, Dropbox doesn’t do itself any favors with only 2GB of free storage, one of the least generous allowances around. However, there are multiple ways to rake up additional space that include completing the starting guide (250MB), referring people to the service (500MB per referral, up to 16GB), and contributing to the Dropbox Community forum (1GB). 

Once you get past that initial drawback, Dropbox reveals some crafty tricks. For instance, Dropbox Paper is a collaborative tool that allows seamless file sharing between different users, and syncs photos automatically via the desktop app. 

You can also request users upload directly to your Dropbox account with the File Requests feature, and edit files without downloading them when working on the web version.

The service also exhibits serious flexibility, with a bundle of desktop and mobile apps that include all the regulars and some uncommon platforms like Linux and Kindle. This allows access to your storage from virtually any device, accompanied by a wide range of supported third-party apps and services. 

Read our Dropbox review (opens in new tab) and our Dropbox Business review (opens in new tab).

OneDrive logo

(Image credit: Microsoft)
Stellar storage solution aimed at Windows users

Specifications

Free storage capacity: 5GB
Encryption: AES 256-bit

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent integration with Microsoft products 
+
Documents can be edited online without download 

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 5GB of free storage 
-
Inconsistent user interface

One would expect that a tech giant like Microsoft would offer more file storage space for free to users, but that’s not the case with OneDrive: you have to make do with 5GB. Granted, the basic paid plan offers 50GB for a fair price, and Microsoft 365 subscribers get 1TB of space for their trouble. 

Therein lies OneDrive’s biggest appeal: much like Google Drive, the service will primarily find a home with Microsoft users, thanks to its close relationship with Office apps and automatic Windows 10 integration. For users on the go, there are mobile apps that allow easy cross-platform use.  

OneDrive makes collaboration easy, as it doesn’t limit use to OneDrive users, and you can even customize access and how you share files with others. Remote document storage also includes the ability to work on files online without downloading them, which certainly simplifies things.

Read our Microsoft OneDrive review (opens in new tab) and our OneDrive for Business review (opens in new tab).

MediaFire logo

(Image credit: MediaFire)
Highly capable cloud-based storage solution

Specifications

Free storage capacity: 10GB (can increase to 50GB)
Encryption: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Very inexpensive plans
+
Supports file sharing
+
Unlimited bandwidth

Reasons to avoid

-
No file encryption
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No file syncing across devices

MediaFire starts you off with 10GB of free space, which you can then increase fivefold through various usual activities, such as referring other people or following the company across social media. You’ll end up with 50GB of free cloud storage, but note that you’ll have to suffer through advertisements. 

The service has been around for a long time, and it has had plenty of time to work out some kinks, such as speed and ease-of-use for file management, though its security is still very poor compared to the competition.

MediaFire supports files up to 4GB in size, with no download limit. Apart from the impressive web version, the service is available for Android and iOS users through apps that work well, and have a few practical features, such as automatic photo and video syncing and streaming options. 

Read our comprehensive MediaFire review (opens in new tab).


What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage stores data on a physical drive, and shares it via an online software platform with users whenever and wherever they want to view it. Many providers rank among the best apps to share files (opens in new tab) as a result. It takes three main forms.

Self-hosted uses on-premises (on-prem) infrastructure and managed in-house by a business's IT team. This involves no external file storage.

Storage as a service (StaaS) uses third-party, externally-managed data center infrastructure for economy of scale and large, affordable storage levels. StaaS products are often called storage and syncing platforms, as they're designed for collaboration.

Hybrid cloud storage (opens in new tab) combines on-prem infrastructure and cloud storage to take advantage of the strengths of both for increased security and improved performance.

Cloud sync technology, utilized by StaaS providers, allows users to seamlessly upload, access, edit, track changes to, and share files from any connected device. This encompasses file versioning and link sharing, and consequently StaaS cloud storage products provide cohesive, integrated digital environments.

How to choose and use cloud storage

If you want to learn how best to choose and then use cloud storage, take a look at our video below.

How secure is cloud storage?

Cloud storage services (opens in new tab) offer a range of security and encryption (opens in new tab) options, with two to keep an eye out for.

End-to-end encryption means providers are essentially all but hack-proof, and zero-knowledge architecture means not even providers' staff can access data, even if law enforcement compels them to. In-transit and at-rest encryption mean data is indecipherable even should it be intercepted.

StaaS organizations' highly-secure data centers see data and infrastructure protected by round-the-clock security, biometric authorization for entry, and frequent security auditing.


Further reading on cloud storage

Learn more about pCloud in our interview (opens in new tab) with the company's Ivan Dimitrov, who discusses its top successes and its plans for the future. If you want to pay for cloud storage but have a strict budget, read our feature exploring reducing cloud storage costs (opens in new tab)

It's worth also looking at our other cloud computing buying guides, including the best cloud computing services (opens in new tab), the best cloud management software (opens in new tab), and the best cloud HCM software (opens in new tab).

Will is an editor, who previously focused on a range of ecommerce verticals across IT Pro Portal, Tom's Guide, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro. He has over 12 years of B2B experience across both online content and magazine production.