Best Free Online Backup Sites

Introduction

Do you know when the absolute worst time to think about backups is? It’s the moment when the tech support guy tells you your hard drive has died and your data is lost.

One error that the free online backups will not help is recovery of a file a split second after you delete that important presentation or cherished photo. Most free services do not save deleted files but write over the old file.

The free online backup services will save your files off-site to the cloud. If your hard drive crashes your files are not lost. Your first line of defense should be an external hard drive to back up your hard drive or a jump drive for your documents.

An online backup provides 24/7 access to your files from any Internet connected computer, smartphone, or tablet style device. Data storage in the cloud is one of the quickest means to data archiving and recovery.

The requirements to judge the online backup are listed below:

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 In a hurry? Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 

Discussion

There are a number of products and vendors that promise you online data storage and backup. Here are my recommendations:

#1  IDrive (www.idrive.com)

IDrive's parent company IBackup has been in business since 1999 and therefore meets the long term reliability requirement. The service has 5 GB of free storage. While not a lot by today's standard it is better than 2 GB. IDrive does provide pre file transfer encryption. You provide the private key which will be known only to you. This will secure your files from being read by others without your permission.

IDrive has both scheduled and continuous backup. The default is scheduled backup. IDrive also has versioning. In this way if you accidentally delete a file, it can be retrieved.

Your files can be stored in any place on your hard drive. This allows you to keep your current file structure. It will not be necessary to move your file to a special folder for backup.

#2 Google Drive (http://www.google.com/drive/about.html)

I just noticed Google drive now has 15 GB of online storage.  It is still not encrypted and you still have to put all your files in the Google Drive folder on your PC.  Google is an established company 15 GB is a large amount of storage.

I have moved Google Drive to #2 because it has 15 GB of storage available.  I have tested it and confirmed there are 15 GB..

Google drive has the follow good features.

  • First, it available storage is a large 15 GB.  
  • Second is the stability of the provider.  Google is going to be around for a long time and cloud storage is a key company service.
  • Third, it is easy to use.  Just go to your Google account ( assuming you have one), and down load the software.  
  • Finally you documents are automatically synchronized.

 Google Drive has two negatives: no security and files locations.

  • Your file are not encrypted locally before being uploaded to the "cloud".  Do not store files that you do not want others are to be able to read. While it is not open to anyone on the Internet who doesn't have the password, law enforcement agencies can obtain copies of your files without your knowledge.
  • Another negative is your files have to be stored in the Google Drive folder.  At first I thought this would be a problem, but after using the service there is not issue using the Google Drive folder for your files.

#3  OneDrive [Previously known as SkyDrive] (https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/)

Microsoft has changed OneDrive. It is now 7 GB if you are a new subscriber to the service. If you are an old subscriber and had 25 GB of storage you get to keep your 25 GB.

I dropped OneDrive's ranking because of its reduced storage space, no encryption and the annoying OneDrive folder you have to use. It is built into Windows 8 and the service is expected to be around for a long time as it's provided by Microsoft.

OneDrive's storage size is 7 GB. This is not very large by today standards. OneDrive originally was 25 GB. A new user can't get 25 GB free anymore. If you have an old Hotmail account you may have 25 GB.

OneDrive is easy to use. Once installed just copy or move the files you want to backup to the special OneDrive folder. Only files in the OneDrive folder will be stored online. It may be less convenient for you but the advantage of this approach is that you know exactly which files are being stored online.

You also have control over whether files are only stored online rather than on your local Windows device (PC, tablet, phone). Many users use OneDrive to synchronize files between two or more Windows devices. On each individual device you can specify whether a particular folder is stored offline (on the local drive) or online-only on OneDrive. If you store a large folder with several GBs of data on OneDrive then other devices that synchronize with that account will usually have online access so you will have to change it to offline to get a copy of the files.

One of OneDrive's weaknesses is the lack of encryption which means that you should not put files on OneDrive that you don't want other people to ever see. While it is not open to anyone on the Internet who doesn't have the password, law enforcement agencies can obtain copies of your files without your knowledge.

A combination of back-up solutions may be the best strategy. Use OneDrive for your photos and non critical documents like kids homework, your non-financial files, and family pictures. Then use Spideroak or IDrive for your taxes and financial files.

#4  Spideroak (http://spideroak.com)

Spideroak has end-to-end encryption. If you have documents you do not want anyone else to have the ability to see them, this is the service for you. The files are encrypted before they are sent to the Spideroak server. Since you own the encryption key, only you can open them. The downside for this service is that it only offers 2 GB of online storage.

The files Spideroak saves to the cloud can be stored in any place on you computer. A separate folder does not need to be created.

If you need to securely backup more than 2 GB of files, a free service is not for you. If you have more than 2 GB of files you want to keep and make sure no one can read them without your permission then I would suggest a paid service. Also, it automatically synchronizes files.

I am using Spideroak because I was able to increase my storage by entering several limited time promotions.

#5  Dropbox (www.dropbox.com)

It offers 2GB free storage to start while multiple paid options are also available. Dropbox offers file syncing between the PC / Mac / Linux and the cloud. Load the desktop client or upload through the web interface and begin adding folders to the Dropbox folder. Once in the folder, Dropbox synchs the file between the PC and the cloud and any other devices that you have enabled with Dropbox including mobile and tablets. Quick, light and in the background, Dropbox is a must try and is my preferred Online Backup Solution. One drawback to Dropbox is a folder named "Dropbox" which has to be created, then all the folders and files have to be moved to the "Dropbox" folder.

#6  Mozy (http://mozy.com/home/free)

Like most of the online backup providers, Mozy offers 2 GB for free and the option to add more through paid services. Mozy comes with PC and MAC clients, schedule backups and even file encryption. The encryption capabilities provide some peace of mind to those looking for an Online Backup Solution but concerned about privacy.

#7  ADrive (http://www.adrive.com/)

This site has been tested for the past month. It meets one of three off-line backup requirements. The storage size is very large at 50 GB. The down side is that it does not sync files. Longevity of the free service needs to be proven.

#8 Wuala (https://www.wuala.com/en/download/windows)

I am a Wuala to the list.  It has 5 GB free storage, Wuala does provide pre-file transfer encryption.  It is a LaCie product.  LaCie a hard drive manufacturer has been in business since 1987.  Therefore the it has longevity.  I am listing it at #8, but further comments and testing could change its ranking.

 

Other Thoughts

While 2 GB seems to be about the standard when this section first started. Now it is hardly enough. 2GB is roughly equivalent to 250,000 text emails, or 300 songs, or 250 pictures. We all have more the 250 pictures and will run out of space using only a 2 GB of storage.

Since this web site is all about free software, etc., I suggest using two online backup services. Use the sites with pre file transfer encryption for your important documents such as tax returns, then use OneDrive for photos. OneDrive has 7 GB. If you were lucky enough to have had OneDrive before they changed their service, you may have 25 GB of storage.

Besides the storage capacity, the ability to quickly get your data and long term service are other key factors to consider. Some of the above recommendations do not have proven track records but well known companies are likely able to provide long term service for you. Your data should be available and controllable by you. Being able to move your data from one provider to another or even duplicate it amongst providers for redundant backups are also key considerations when choosing a cloud storage solution. The first four suggestions above offer quick accessibility and easy exporting of the data so that you can take to another provider should the need occur.

Finally, regardless of the method or type of backup, whether online, disk to disk, imaging, CD / DVD copying, or floppies (hopefully not!), having a recent backup of your data will ensure that you never have to face that dreaded split second after your data gets ruined.

Dropped From The List

  • Windows Live Mesh: Microsoft dropped it in favor of OneDrive exclusively.
  • Bee Cloud is ceasing operation in March 2012.
  • Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail have been dropped from the list. These are not really back up systems.
  • CX:, The terms of service has changed, therefore it is no longer free.  Existing users can keep their free account with certain condition, but new users have a 15/30 day trials.

NB: Do you have a great free online backup solution? If so, then tell us about it in the comments section.

 

Quick Selection Guide

IDrive
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Files can be located any place on you computer. Does have pre/post file transfer encryption. It has versioning.
Only 5 GB of Storage Not well known
http://www.idrive.com/index.html
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
512 MB RAM, 10 MB Free Hard Disk space for installed program, 20 MB or more recommended for local caching
Google Drive
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
15 GB of Storage Easy to install and use Automatically syncs files
No file encryption All files have to be in the Google Drive folder
https://drive.google.com/
746 kb
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows, Mac, IOS, Android
OneDrive
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
25 GB of Online Storage for old subscribers or 7 GB if you are a new subscriber; User files on your hard drive will automatically sync with Skydrive.
No encryption; All files to be syncrhonized must be located in the Skydrive folder on your PC.
NA
4,780 GB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
32- or 64-bit Windows 8, Windows 7, or Vista. 1GB Ram,1.4 GHz or Higher Pentium IV, 1 GB Ram.
Spideroak
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Pre and Post File Encription
Only 2 GB of free storage
https://spideroak.com/
18,246 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
More to come

 

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Victor Laurie. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

by MikeR on 4. September 2014 - 11:48  (118370)

BOX. . .

Which actually predates the more famous dropbox, but isn't as well known because it has always concentrated on corporate customers, not domestic consumers.

I'd never heard of it until I did some work for one of the largest US corporations around. . . and discovered, they used box for cloud storage after an evaluation of its security / date protection.

That was three or four years ago. I signed up for a free home-user account (at that time, 15Gb, though it's less than that now due to demands on its server space)and have been a happy bunny ever since. Box rarely if ever gets a mention in any comparative evaluations so here's the upside and downside of a free account:

* UPSIDE: maximum storage allowed: 10Gb

* DOWNSIDE: maximum single upload size allowed with free account: 250Mb.

For me, that's no problem: I upload folders with personal and financial information in encrypted pdf form as well as batches of digital photographs from the family home album. I *don't* save videos to my Box account because (a)I've no interest in doing so -- my home videos are backed up locally to external drive(s) and (b) Box's 250Mb limit rules out video uploading.

I have never had a single problem with Box over the years and at no time have had any worries about the level of security it affords to its users -- domestic, and big corporates alike. Finally. . .

Anything that keeps me clear of monolithic private data harvesters like Google, Microsoft and Amazon suits me fine. Apart from resenting their ultimately unhealthy dominance, I won't use 'em (nor Dropbox) for the same reason that I've never used Internet Explorer: if someone is going to spend time and effort trying to burglarise something, they'll direct their criminal efforts to stuff which has the potential to yield the most treasure (data)because it is numerically the most popular in usage.

The box.com website is very informative and also explains its synching facility. (Disclaimer: I don't have the slightest connection with box other than as a satisfied free user.)

by Jay Fora on 3. September 2014 - 10:05  (118355)

The purpose of my comment is to possibly save someone making the same mistakes I did. If I had done the maths in the first place, I would have saved myself all the shopping around just by testing upload speeds on my data connection first.
I am a home user, and was looking for free cloud back up with a generous quota to sync my 100Gb music collection to (I only use lossless formats, and files are huge). I have an ADSL 2+ internet service with reasonable speed. After trying out several, and even being gifted 300Gb by one company, and being given permission to open 2 free accounts by another, I realised, belatedly, and after a few trial runs, that uploading it all would take many days non-stop, and in the case of the 300Gb gift, 100Gb would take a couple of weeks at the rate that application ran on my computer. Syncing after that would be painfully slow due to the size of the files. I was using the option to use full bandwidth.
I was wanting to avoid using an external drive, but have given up and started looking into free Synch tools to use with one.
A note about a mistake that can be made with Mega...I tried out both Megasync, and iDrivesync, to sync between devices, and these were both fast and efficient, and I was able to see files on other devices very quickly,with smaller, normal sized files. I made a mistake in Mega, and deleted files on my phone app, and these were all simultaneously deleted in the source folder on my computer too! And the instructions on Mega's help page for how to recover accidentally deleted files didn't work.Thankfully,I had other back up on a hard drive.
.

by chris1984 on 2. September 2014 - 10:09  (118342)

there is a difference between backup and "dropbox" or other sync folders.

a dropbox is used as a network folder - which you can delete files
a backup is used to backup - where you cannot delete backup files

I use mega.co.nz as my sync folder for sharing / deleting , and playing around.

and using your free 50giga for syncing stuff with mega.co.nz

{Moderator's note: Mention and price with link to commercial service deleted}

by crombierob on 31. May 2014 - 6:08  (116527)

I like 'KISS' and in fact live by it.
I would prefer a service that does nothing in/to my computer -
- No shadow folders
- No syncing
- No installing
- No anything else

Ideally one would just use our browser to upload/download.
I could live with an installed program, if all it does is upload/download (but still no special/shadow/sync/ folders required).

Rob

by kyengineer on 2. March 2014 - 16:19  (114743)

I suggest checking out Onedrive. They have a new promotion where you can increase your storage to 100 GB. Normally I do not like promotions because you have to recommend your friends and family. This one is different. It still has the recommend to friends feature but you can build up reward points by using the Bing search.

To get additional 100 GB you need 100 reward points. By signing up, Microsoft give you 20 points. Then you can obtain up to 15 point per day by using Bing.

I am not sure you want to keep your tax return on Bing, but it would be great for backing up family photos.

by Jojo Yee on 3. March 2014 - 9:35  (114752)

Good info kyengineer.

This offer for 100 GB of OneDrive storage maybe be available in US only according to this article. The storage is for one year and after which any unused storage will vanish but existing files won't be deleted, as noted from this article.

by qtpie247kris on 2. February 2014 - 4:49  (114139)

I am doing an article for school about online storage...we have to choose one free and one paid and discuss the features and differences of each. I was researching Spideroak. I was surprised how you discussed that it only offers 2 GB of free space so if someone wants to securely store more than 2 GB the service isn't for them, but that you are using it because you were able to increase your storage by entering several limited time promotions. Why didn't you mention the refer-a-friend program? Spideroak has a refer-a-friend program so the free account gives you 2 GB of storage, but for each friend you refer you and that friend get 1 GB of storage and you can get up to 10 GB free through the refer-a-friend program. So that means you can get up to 12 GB of storage.

by MidnightCowboy on 2. February 2014 - 5:32  (114140)

Free is free as in what the base product provides or what might be obtained from periodic offers. When getting more than this has strings attached, then it is not free. MC - Site Manager.

by UltraCraig64 on 21. January 2014 - 6:58  (113803)

This article seems heavily outdated, so I wanted to bring light to some other free online backup services.

First, there is Mega. As in the Megaupload guys. Mega allows for a whopping 50gb of cloud storage space. There is end-to-end encryption, and if you lose your password, it's lost forever. Very secure. See what you guys think. https://mega.co.nz

There is also Mediafire, which has been around for quite a few years now. You can get 10gb, and there is also a desktop app which makes the whole process more convenient. They also have mobile apps, so you can connect with multiple devices.
www.mediafire.com

Then there is Surdoc, which offers 100gb of cloud storage space. Wow. They also have mobile apps, and encrypt the files, although I'm not sure of the specifics with that.
https://www.surdoc.com

Shared.com offers 100gb as well, and also claims to provide some type of security with your files.
https://shared.com/

And lastly, Copy.com offers 15gb of cloud storage space. They offer shareable storage space between different users and everything is syncable. They use Barracuda's cloud storage servers, which may provide extra security.
https://www1.copy.com

I hope this helps with updating the article. I would be very curious to know if the ones who offer more would come out ahead, or if the ones who offer less can compenstate for a lack of space with a competent user experience.

by kyengineer on 2. March 2014 - 16:27  (114744)

As the former editor, a count of free online backup sites was well over 30. It's great to list new services, but before I would recommend them, I tested the service in a virtual machine. I ran into a few services that did not work well.

If you have used any of there services perhaps you could write a review that can be incorporated into this site.

by mariola on 10. January 2014 - 17:09  (113514)

I would recommend checking Box.com
They have 10GB free storage space, apps for all mobile platforms, support symlinks to be able to sync any folder from your PC and with the (Android) mobile app you can easily choose which files or folders to sync for offline use.
After SugarSync is not free anymore, Box is my choice no.1

by DavidFB on 20. December 2013 - 6:09  (113056)

Fred Langa recently did an article about using a pre-encryption tool combined with your existing combination of online storage for a secure online backup.
http://windowssecrets.com/top-story/pre-encryption-makes-cloud-based-sto...

Boxcryptor is free for basic, non-commercial use (encrypts the file but not the file name at that level). The only gotcha I ran into after install is it requires .NET4, something I've tried to avoid adding.

(and you REALLY have to safely store your password - it is not recoverable)

Theres a few others I saw that only work with Dropbox. These 2 work with the big ones that create a local virtual drive.
http://blog.cloudfogger.com/
http://stefanstools.sourceforge.net/CryptSync.html

by Zirthiel on 1. December 2013 - 11:58  (112667)

SugarSync as of late has changed it's stance about the 5GB free accounts. They are now all on a 90 day trial basis. I think you should update the review as soon as possible.

Also thanks for this review it helped me choose an alternative to SugarSync in the form of SpiderOak. ;)

by kyengineer on 31. December 2013 - 20:39  (113304)

Hey thanks for the update. I will remove it from the list.

by sicknero on 1. December 2013 - 12:02  (112668)

That's worth knowing, cheers. I've had a Sugarsync account for a couple of years but stopped using it in favour of Dropbox and Googledrive. I'll close the Sugarsync one then , if they're no longer freebies.

Re- Comodo. I did give theirs a spin ... if you install cDrive it creates a virtual drive in My Computer and does indeed sync on-line without using any local hard drive space. Pretty handy to know but not something I think I'll personally find much use for.

by sicknero on 4. November 2013 - 9:56  (112003)

@kyengineer, I can't help wondering about your comment that 250 pictures fill 2Gb of drive space.. is this an error?

by mkg_just4u on 4. November 2013 - 0:11  (111989)

what about www.ccloud.com , it is from comodo. I think it should be listed here...thanks

by MarkIt8Dude on 5. November 2013 - 17:34  (112051)

They are based (or at least have offices) in the US. It's a no-go area to me after all the NSA hassle. Apart from that they offer nice deals.

by sicknero on 5. November 2013 - 17:48  (112052)

I suspect it's somewhat naive to think that the security agencies of other countries are any less invasive than the NSA...

by MarkIt8Dude on 5. November 2013 - 17:52  (112053)

that is right. Snowden was quite specific on USA only. bout the others we can only guess.

by sicknero on 4. November 2013 - 9:49  (112002)

Thanks for that link, I tried Comodo's on-line storage ages ago and it was excrutiatingly slow. I just had a look at the site a minute ago though and it all looks very different so I'll give it another try.

I'm especially intrigued by the choice of software download ... cCloud looks like the usual HDD folder that syncs with your on-line storage but there's also cDrive which "offers the posibility (sic) to access your cCloud storage directly, with any program, without consuming any local disk space." Interesting.

10Gb isn't bad either for a freebie.

by haawi on 2. November 2013 - 16:28  (111960)

How about Mega giving 50GB of free storage with end-to-end encryption.
https://mega.co.nz/
It is still a young site but with increasingly popularity.

A client for synchronization is also available as a beta release
https://mega.co.nz/#F!LYIxgCwK!PyrZYH1nDKsP8t4EQhE0Vg

Cheers,

by porcelainpunk on 9. October 2013 - 16:37  (111340)

JustCloud claims absolute freedom and unlimited space. I get the feeling I will be stung by a free trial etc when signing up. Can you confirm if it really is a FREE, UNLIMITED service?! I'm suspicious!!!

by Anupam on 9. October 2013 - 19:35  (111341)

It is not free, and therefore will not be considered here. The comment will be deleted in due time.

by felipep on 21. August 2013 - 17:10  (110245)

I have been using CrashPlan for a couple of years now and I think it is great, I was surprised to not see it even mentioned!

by Anupam on 21. August 2013 - 17:17  (110246)

The free version of CrashPlan does not allow online backup. Whereas this article is about services which provide space for online backup. Don't think CrashPlan will be considered on this review.

by dlibertine on 1. August 2013 - 6:21  (109846)

If you're worried about longevity, I've used ADrive for quite a few years, and with no difficulty. It is slow to upload material, and it is a bit cumbersome, but I've never had a problem with it. They say you can only keep stuff in a public folder for a limited amount of time, but they clearly don't monitor that, and I have stuff there indefinitely.

On the other hand, Dropbox is a pain-in-the-ass. I have about 3.4 GB of space that is only about half filled, and rarely has anything been downloaded from my public file, except by my instructions. The other day, they accused me of too much activity and suspended my account for 72 hours. I'm in the process of moving all my stuff to ADrive, and Dropbox can get bent. I can so all the syncing I need on my network.

by kyengineer on 2. August 2013 - 1:07  (109862)

Hello,
Thanks for the comment. I have tested ADrive. The free 50 GB of storage is great.

The downside is you have to use a web interface in your browser, although it is easy to upload files to there service. But what the heck, 50 GB free is a great deal. It would be a great for archiving files that do not change.

kyengineer
Best Free Online Backup Sites Editor

by kyengineer on 1. August 2013 - 4:30  (109845)

I have had changed of heart about Google Docs and Skydrive using dedicated folders for there systems. The dedicated folders are not an issue as I first thought.

Using both these systems you can have either 22 GB or 40 GB of online backup. If you had a Hotmail, Skydrive, or other Microsoft account you were grandfathered in with 25 GB.

The backup strategy I am using is to create the Skydrive and Google Docs users folder. i.e. C:\Users\"Users Name"\Skydrive. Do not store just anything in the folders you do not want other to see such as tax returns, legal docs, etc. Storing old papers, homework(yes graduate school)pictures, resumes, etc. would not pose a problem if someone else saw them. Yea, many people have their resume posted in several places on the internet.

kyengineer
Best Free Online Backup Sites Editor

P.S.

Please be aware we only review free software and services or the free component of paid version. Your comment may not be posted if you are promoting paid software or service.

Also, limited time trials are not reviewed.

by Fixer_MED on 27. June 2013 - 22:32  (108762)

A few days ago i read about Copy: https://www.copy.com/about/pr

15 GB of free storage, 5GB of additional free cloud storage for each referral, upload and share files of any size, Included data verification inspects data before Copy accepts it into the user’s cloud storage. File-level ownership is verified prior to transferring anything to other devices. Copy also allows users to share files privately using Copy’s built-in identify verification. works across Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux computers and offers mobile device support for Apple iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) and Android, with Windows Mobile coming soon.

Too good to be true, but is worth to check it.

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