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Best free cloud storage service of 2021

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

The best free cloud storage service makes it simple and easy to backup and share your files and folders in the cloud, without costing anything.

The best free cloud storage service

Click the links below to go to the provider's website:

 

1. Google Drive

2. Degoo

3. Nextcloud

4. Mega

5. iCloud

With the rise of cloud storage in general, we have of course seen an increase in the amount of freebie cloud storage lockers. While these can be seen as a vehicle for getting users on board, with a view to them subsequently signing up for a subscription plan to get more storage, you can still get plenty of capacity for nothing in the world of free cloud storage. A surprising amount, in some cases, as you’ll see.

But given the many offerings out there – and the many different ways in which they work in terms of being able to up your storage limit without necessarily having to pay – it can be difficult to choose the right free cloud storage service.

That’s where we come in, and in this guide we’re going to break down the pros and cons of some of the top cloud storage products currently among the massed ranks of freebie solutions.

Read on to find out our picks for the best free cloud storage providers, the most suitable of which will, of course, depend on your exact needs. Raw storage capacity isn’t everything, and some users may be more interested in the security offered, or perhaps other features like a diverse range of apps across many platforms, or ease-of-use of the client interface.

idrive

1. IDrive is the best cloud storage provider
IDrive, the cloud storage veteran, delivers tons of storage online for an incredibly small outlay. 5TB for $3.48 for the first year is unmatched till now and so is the support for unlimited devices and the extensive file versioning system available.

Shells.com TechRadar Exclusive
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2. Free unlimited cloud storage is now included with ExpressVPN
Backblaze has teamed up with ExpressVPN to offer free unlimited cloud storage when you sign up for an annual VPN subscription. Secure your devices online while storing your photos safely in the cloud.

pcloud

3. pCloud provides a lifetime cloud storage subscription
The Swiss-based company is more expensive than the competition but the one-off payment means that you won't have to worry about renewal fees that can be very horrendously expensive. $350 for 10 years is less than $3 per month.


(Image credit: Google)

1. Google Drive

The best free cloud storage

Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Generous free storage+Backup and sync

Google Drive is a natural choice for owners of Android devices as it's already integrated, but users of other platforms may appreciate the generous free storage too. 

You can also store unlimited high definition photos on your mobile phone with companion app Google Photos, and make use of Google's own office suite (now known as G Workspace). Also, individuals upgrading to paid Google Drive plans will join Google One (although it might not yet be available, depending on the region).

The array of features delivered by Google Drive via One - which ties into Google's Cloud platform - is bewildering and evolves continuously. At the time of writing, Google engineers were rolling out the ability to request approvals for Drive items and lock approved versions.

The 2TB tier - which offers 10% back in Google Store credits - allows the main account holder to invite up to five other additional members and costs $99.99 per year.

Downsides include the fact that the web interface isn't very easy-to-use, although Windows and Mac users can download a desktop app to drag-and-drop files easily. Drive also integrates Google's powerful AI and search technology, probably one of the best in the world.

Google One

Google One (2TB) | $99 for 1-year
Google offers One as a membership, a quasi-lifetime commitment that's not unlike Amazon Prime. Although you get unlimited storage for your photos (terms and conditions apply), you "only" get 2TB to play with via Google Drive. You can share it among up to six members, and Google Experts are only a phone call away should you need them.

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(Image credit: Degoo)

2. Degoo

The biggest free cloud storage company in the world right now

Reasons to buy
+Available on multiple mobile platforms+Slick and intuitive interface+Free tier with 100GB of storage space
Reasons to avoid
-No desktop application, just a web app-Short on serious backup features

Degoo may not be a name you’ve heard of before, and indeed it was only formed back in 2019, but the Swedish firm has managed to make a big impact on the cloud storage scene in a very short timeframe nonetheless.

So what has made it attractive enough to quickly pick up a large user base (some 18 million plus), and indeed be rated top of our best free cloud storage rankings? The headline storage capacity is certainly a big draw, as you get 100GB on the free tier, which is a huge chunk of space compared to rivals.

Even better, Degoo has partnered with us to give TechRadar readers double that storage for the first year. 200GB of cloud storage for nothing is a pretty impressive offering to say the least (although note that it will revert back to the standard 100GB after that initial year is over).

Other strengths of Degoo include 256-bit AES end-to-end encryption to keep your files secure, and two-factor authentication using your Google account. It also offers some nifty benefits for uploading and storing photos, including AI routines which are designed to help surface your best snaps.

Note that the free plan is advert-supported, and also lacks ‘zero knowledge’ encryption and some other features which are reserved for paying subscribers. There’s also a stipulation that if you don’t use your free account for 90 days, your files will be ditched.

Those caveats are a relatively small price to pay though, given the amount of free storage you’re getting here, and folks looking for an alternative to the big players won’t do any better than Degoo, certainly when it comes to capacity.

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Exclusive Degoo 10TB cloud storage backup | $239.76 $99.99 for 2-years (58% off)
TechRadar and Degoo have partnered to provide a one-off exclusive. You can get a staggering 10TB of storage for just $99.99 for two years. That’s a 58% saving compared to the standard price of $9.99 per month, and is exclusive to TechRadar. It's a price that's far less than the cloud storage competition. That price is a locked-down one as well and will not change.

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(Image credit: Nextcloud)

3. Nextcloud

One of the best DIY cloud storage solutions

Reasons to buy
+Open source platform+Huge amount of flexibility+Packed with features
Reasons to avoid
-Software can be a bit clunky-Takes more time to implement

Nextcloud is a popular open source file sync and online collaboration solution. More specifically, it’s a free piece of software which you can use to implement a cloud storage service on your own server, with all the benefits therein in terms of precise control.

So yes, it’s true that this isn’t an online cloud storage provider in itself, but there’s enough power and flexibility in this solution that it’s well worth highlighting – with the obvious caveat being that you need to know what you’re doing when it comes to putting all this together.

There are other benefits of this DIY approach to cloud storage, with the fact that the server is local to your network obviously being great news in terms of speeds, and of course security (you are free to use whatever encryption you might want, and you can go to town on that front).

All that said, we do come back to the point that you must know what you’re doing with Nextcloud, and that’s particularly important on the security front (the last thing you want to do is leave holes in the system which could be used to compromise your data).

For those who don’t have the necessary technical know-how to pull all this off, it is possible to buy a preconfigured Nextcloud Box with a 1TB disk that can be used in conjunction with a simple Raspberry Pi (the famous compact computer board) to keep your data synced. 

Nextcloud offers some powerful features including the ability to share documents and collaborate on them, as well as syncing files. Indeed, it bills itself as a “self-hosted productivity platform” offering not just collaboration facilities but a communication platform featuring Slack-style chat, plus video calls and much more.

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(Image credit: Mega)

4. Mega

Cloud storage with a premium on security

Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-use UI+Extremely generous free offering+Sync client is open source
Reasons to avoid
-Basic business support-Limited extra apps and add-ons-Lacks collaboration options

Mega is a well-known cloud storage provider with a free plan that offers you a good chunk of storage, at least to begin with. Initially, you get 50GB for free – which is far more than the likes of Google or Microsoft will give you – but note that this is just for the first 30 days.

After that, you will be reduced back down to 15GB, although that’s still a reasonable capacity for a free service – and you can always earn more Gigabytes through Mega’s ‘achievements’ (essentially rewards for taking various actions).

Mega says that those running the free plan get the same fast transfer speeds as paying subscribers, with no throttling of performance for free users, which is good to hear.

This cloud storage operation is also transparent in that Mega makes the source code of the sync client available, so security pros can rifle through it and help to ensure that there are no vulnerabilities in the software.

The service offers end-to-end encryption for your files, with user-friendly apps for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as Android and iOS (the mobile apps also include voice and video chat facilities, along with messaging, which is also encrypted).

Note that Mega has a bunch of paid plans for businesses which offer vast amounts of storage (up to 16TB) and various premium features like password protection, or the ability to set expiry dates for files which have been made public.

Overall, Mega has some impressive functionality on offer, and the free plan is one of the better ones out there, although the company should make it clearer that you don’t get to keep 50GB of storage forever on the free tier (but as mentioned, your storage amount is tied to completing the various ‘achievements’).

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(Image credit: iCloud)

5. iCloud

Apple’s competitively priced cloud storage

Reasons to buy
+Reasonable pricing+Tight integration with Apple’s platforms
Reasons to avoid
-Still lacks some advanced features-Few options for power users

Apple’s iCloud is, of course, one of the big names in the cloud storage world, and it offers a backup and sync service. iCloud can be used to back up your photos, videos, contacts, calendars, documents, notes, as well as the likes of bookmarks and other data, all of which is seamlessly synced across your iOS devices (plus you can access that data from a Mac or PC via a web browser).

iCloud has 5GB of storage on the free tier, which isn’t very generous, but the good news is that any photos – which are automatically backed up online by the Photo Stream feature – don’t count towards that limit. So that could effectively give you a lot more capacity if one of the primary considerations for your cloud storage is photos (you can, of course, buy more capacity as well; at pretty reasonable rates too).

Similarly, there are other files which get a free pass in this respect, and don’t count towards your 5GB storage limit with a freebie iCloud account, and they include media purchased from iTunes, or stuff you’ve bought from the App Store or Apple Books. 

Naturally, iCloud is a service which is targeted primarily at Apple users, whether that’s iPhone or iPad owners, or Mac users, although those running Windows can sync files with iCloud Drive, and are able to access features like the ability to share folders with friends directly from File Explorer on the desktop.

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology in a career spanning four decades. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.