Microsoft OneDrive vs Dropbox: Which is best?

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Cloud storage solutions are changing the way in which we work. We are now less reliant than ever before on in-house servers as we transition towards an online future.

In a race to get to the top, tens of companies battle with what they think is the ultimate cloud drive, each proposing a slightly different configuration in terms of encryption, business functions, and indeed storage space.

Two of the heavy hitters in this space are Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox - but choosing between the two isn't easy. Although our Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage review and Dropbox cloud storage review will help, comparisons can be tricky. Both platforms have a good range of features, are constantly updated, and have the weight of a technology juggernaut behind them. That's why we've created this bespoke comparison looking at Microsoft OneDrive vs Dropbox. 

There are many things to consider when coming to an informed decision on whether OneDrive or Dropbox is the right cloud storage solution for your needs. First of all, individuals need to formulate what exactly their cloud needs are. Are budgeting concerns top of your list? In that case, you might want to see if either of the platforms is vying for the title of the best free cloud storage service. Or perhaps you're looking for the best cloud backup or the best cloud document storage.

In this head-to-head, we pitch the popular OneDrive against one of the original offerings: Dropbox so you can answer your cloud queries a little more easily.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Dropbox: Features

There is one key aspect that separates this pair of cloud drives, and that is the company behind them. Because OneDrive is owned by Microsoft - creator of the Windows OS - it has become the default option for many users, both personal and business. This has increased the pressure on Dropbox, which has responded by adding new features and finessing the existing ones.

Both solutions can save a whole range of file types, including documents, images, videos, PDFs, and many less common types. While both do require you to have separate apps installed to open many files - Photoshop, for example - Microsoft does bundle its suite of Office apps into many of its subscriptions, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. To open a Word file in Dropbox, you will also need to have bought Microsoft Office, or have subscribed to Office 365.

The best experience by far comes from installing the desktop clients, which both handily sit inside the computer’s file management system like File Explorer or Finder. OneDrive sits a little more integrated into Windows computers with various tabs for aspects like Photos and even files saved on the Desktop, much like iCloud Drive works for macOS users, however, the key functionalities of both remain virtually the same.

Both have some of the best mobile apps for cloud storage drives, with access to things like offline files and automatic photo and video backup. If you use Dropbox Passwords - the company’s password manager - there is a separate app for this which is handy to carry any passwords saved on your computer over to your smartphone or tablet.

Dropbox has also branched out into e-signatures with its HelloSign feature, which resides inside any Word or PDF document. It’s worth noting that, while available on all plans, there is a cap of three signatures per month so for business users, it’s unlikely to replace other tools - or indeed a handwritten signature.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Dropbox: Performance

Unlike the Box desktop client, OneDrive’s computer software does allow for user control of network usage. Options include unlimited, an automatic limit, or a custom limit where the user can set a predetermined maximum bandwidth allowance, in KB/s. The closest Box comes to this is a warning on its mobile apps when uploading or downloading files over 20MB on mobile data.

We used the same 1GB test file across a number of cloud drives when drawing comparisons between bandwidth throttling; among these were OneDrive and Dropbox. Both scored pretty averagely with a five-minute upload, though Dropbox was slightly quicker. OneDrive was let down by its slow (but not unbearable) download speed, compared with Dropbox’s lightning-fast sub-one-minute time. That said, these speeds are only an indication and many users will find that their results vary with different broadband connections.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Dropbox: Support

If you’re struggling with something in OneDrive, particularly navigation and settings, chances are you’ll be able to find a self-help article, of which there are seemingly hundreds. If your support request is a little more involving and you need to speak to a person, email and phone support are there, however, we found these hard to find, buried deep in several menus. 

Like OneDrive, Dropbox also provides a catalog of self-help articles. Finding real-time support is easier here, though, like most services, the best support comes from being logged in to your account. There’s an automated chat service that the company called ‘dropbot,’ too, but that’s as much help as many of the self-help articles.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Dropbox: Pricing

Microsoft offers an industry-standard 5GB of space for its free plan, while Dropbox gives users just 2GB which is a little underwhelming. 

In terms of personal plans, OneDrive starts with 100GB for $1.99 (£1.99) per month. If you’re willing to upgrade to 1TB for $6.99 (£5.99) per month - which we imagine most people will - it comes with Office 365, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The Family plan costs $9.99 (£7.99) per month, and with it comes the same 1TB and Office 365 plan for up to six people.

Dropbox offers individual users 2TB of storage for $11.99 (£9.99) per month or 3TB for $19.99 (£19.99) per month, as well as a family plan which provides a single 2TB pot of storage that can be shared among six users. Both plans have access to three e-signatures per month, but there is an additional 3TB solo plan with unlimited signatures which comes in at an expensive $31.99 (£30.99) per month.

Business users will pay between $5 (£3.80) and $10 (£7.50) per month with OneDrive just for access to cloud storage, or between $6 (£4.50) and $12.50 (£9.40) per month for access to Office 365 apps. Dropbox business plans cost between $15 (£12) and $50 (£40) per user per month, plus any applicable taxes. Both have access to an unlimited amount of storage (at a cost), however, we found OneDrive to be cheaper like-for-like.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Dropbox: Our Verdict

If you’re a Windows user, you’ll appreciate how neatly OneDrive integrates with the system and the apps you’re probably already running: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. That said, Dropbox sits in a similar position within the File Explorer window, and for macOS users, the experience is virtually the same too. 

That said, certain OneDrive plans do come with access to the Office 365 suite of apps, which makes it a more well-rounded package that offers something that Dropbox simply cannot. This, and the generally lower pricing, makes OneDrive the winner for us.

Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!

With contributions from