Cloud storage doesn’t grow on trees (or clouds)… although you’d be mistaken for thinking it was free. In recent years companies including Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, and Box have offered some amount of free online storage as a way to get people hooked on the service so that users of the free service will consider becoming paying customers.

But now Microsoft is cutting back: the company has announced some major changes to its OneDrive storage plans. Free users will only get 5GB of storage space instead of 15GB. And if you subscribe to Office 365, you’ll get 1TB of cloud storage instead of unlimited storage.

Update: Microsoft is now offering a way for existing subscribers to keep their storage… but they’ll have to opt-in.

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Up until now Microsoft had also offered an extra 15GB of free OneDrive storage for users that backed up the camera roll from their mobile device, effectively giving some users 30GB of free storage. That ends soon too.

The company is also eliminating its paid 100GB and 200GB plans an introducing a new 50GB plan that costs $1.99 per month.

Microsoft says the changes will go into effect in early 2016, but users that already exceed the limits will have a few options.

  • If you’re an Office 365 user with more than 1TB of data stored online, you’ll be able to keep those files in the cloud for at least 12 months.
  • If you don’t want to keep paying for Office 365 after the change takes effect, Microsoft will offer partial refunds.
  • Free users with more than 5GB of files stored on OneDrive will be able to access those files for at least 12 months, and Microsoft will offer free vouchers for a 1-year subscription to Office 365 which includes 1TB storage.

Why the change? Microsoft says some people were taking that “unlimited” thing a bit too seriously, storing more than 75 terabytes of data in the cloud by backing up video collections, multiple PCs, and other data.

The company says that a small number of people who were doing that were using 14,000 times the average amount of storage space… although if Microsoft didn’t want you actually using unlimited storage, maybe it shouldn’t have been labeled as unlimited storage.

That explanation also doesn’t really address the decision to reduce the amount of OneDrive storage for free customers by two thirds.

Google, meanwhile, continues to offer at least 15GB of free storage for users of Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos and Box offers 10GB of free storage (although individual files cannot be any larger than 250MB).

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45 replies on “Microsoft is dropping OneDrive free storage to 5GB, killing Office 365 unlimited storage”

  1. First they figured they have to offer cloud service for free, to get us to give up control over our data.

    Now they have Windows 10, tattle-taleing back to Microshaft all day long, so its ok to them, if we keep our data on our own drives, they can just look it up there at no cost, using OUR bandwidth for it too.

  2. so “tacitus” is the new (paid?) pro it giants, specially google, shill here. welcome

  3. This is what’s going to happen to your “Free Windows 10 Upgrade”. You just wait…

    1. Agreed. I had skepticism when I heard “free” and Windows 10 in the same sentence. For me, I’m not going Windows 10 for the foreseeable future. Trust these guys? Yeah right. I would suspect this is the strategy from the top down so the storage is just an inside look at how Microsoft is going to operate their business now. In addition, didn’t I see the nag screen for the Windows 10 update saying something free upgrade for a limited time? Pretty sure there was/is some play on words in the nag screens I get.

      1. Win10 upgrade is only free for the first year after it was released. That’s always been the case. Nothing wrong with that.

        1. Incentive isn’t it? Like free shipping. Get used to it and comfortable with shopping online, then remove free shipping or put minimum orders on it. Like online storage. Get people using it by giving it away free. Once you have all their files, change tactics and start charging or rolling back the amount of storage. Give away Windows 10 for free, then later start some gradual, I dunno, $1 per month subscription fee. Then after 2 years, move it to $3. Then $5 the year after that. Like Netflix. Start low, then screw the consumer later on once they enjoy your service.

          1. It’s not free if you don’t already have a previous version. Those who buy a new computer with Win10 installed, or who by a retail copy to install on their PC will have paid for it. Microsoft is not going to start charging a subscription fee for a product that millions of people have already paid for. Not going to happen.

            Getting everyone onto Windows 10 (i.e. the free upgrade) was actually more about relaunching Windows as a multi-platform OS. This is their attempt to catch up with Apple and Google in the mobile space, and to create a cross-device Windows app store where they can take a cut of every sale, just like Google and Apple already do.

            That’s how they want to make their money. As I said in another comment, I don’t doubt they will be rolling out additional paid features you can buy (they already did that on Win8/8.1) but I’d be willing to bet serious money that the basic Windows 10 OS will remain subscription free for the full duration of its life.

          2. yes, no charge, they’re quite happy with the cash they get from the NSA for Windows 10’s new snooping capabilities, which can be upgraded at any time they please too…

    2. Wait for what? If you upgrade to Win10 within the first year it’s free, after that you have to pay. They’ve said that all along. I have no doubt they will start charging for add on features and will probably also charge for Win11, should they ever decide it’s time for a new version of their OS, but what’s the big deal about that?

      Win10 is an open system, in that you can download and install any desktop application you like. So if MS starts charging for a new feature that is a “must have” then any number of other companies will be racing to provide a cheap (or free) alternative.

  4. Gee, you offer “unlimited” something and people actually use it. THEN when you decide they use it “too much” you say they’re “taking advantage” of it and start capping and/or charging them for the data. If this isn’t a case of the classic “bait and switch” by M$oft, then what is? And where are all the greedy “Trial Lawyers of America” when you actually need them on a case like this? Oh never mind, M$oft gets away free as a lark – because you didn’t actually READ the 120 paragraph “Terms of Service Agreement” you accepted – did you?

  5. For people looking for the best “free” service Google is probably the best right now. 15GB of storage free. Also free unlimited photo uploads that do not count against your storage (but are compressed slightly). Also 10,000 song uploads that do not count against your storage.

    I used to think OneDrive’s additional storage was to compete with those two Google offerings since with OneDrive photo and music uploads counted against your storage, but with this news OneDrive just regressed by 10 years and it’s no competition now. Even Apple is cheaper with their $.50 for 50GB storage versus $1.99 for 50GB on OneDrive.

    Office365 is probably still the best paid storage option. 1TB for $7/mo. I would not be surprised if Microsoft raises the price of Office365 at some point.

    1. The question is whether Google will use your photos for their own use. I do believe there is some sort of catch all wording in their policy/agreement. They love peoples photos for their travel pages. Google has been known to have sticky fingers. Notice their image search? No need to visit the website, they virtually show you what you need without going off of Google.com. They love other peoples content so I would be a bit wary of them.

      1. Yes, that is something people should be aware of when they start uploading their stuff to cloud storage. I would go in with the base assumption that if I upload something to the “cloud” I shouldn’t expect it to stay 100% fully private. My data can be seen by the service and probably employees of that service. Also there is always the chance of a hack or vulnerability that exposes user data. Also, of course as you mentioned the service provider might use my data for something and I would have no idea if they did.

        1. Hacking is always a possibility, but unless you’re storing financial or security data in easily recognized files (e.g. with names like “mypasswords.txt”) then you’re likely to be safe enough. What hacker has the time to trawl through billions of files in the hopes of finding something useful?

          Now, if you’re a celebrity or a big shot politician, CEO, or an investigative journalist working on a sensitive story, then you would need to be more careful, but unless there is a reason to target you, hackers will be looking elsewhere.

      2. No, Google isn’t going to start posting people’s private photos on other sites. They would be crucified in the press if that ever happened.

        The wording of their policy/agreement (similar to any other site that hosts personal data that you’re going to be manipulating, sharing, and showing on your websites, like Facebook and Flickr) has to allow them to store your files, manipulate them (e.g. when you apply a sepia filter to a photo), give access to other users (i.e. when you share them with your friends), and so on. In other words, you are giving Google permission to provide you with a set of services that operate on your photos, videos, or other personal files. You are not giving them permission to take those files and use them for their own purposes.

        1. “Google Photos will not use images or videos uploaded onto Google Photos
          commercially for any promotional purposes, unless we ask for the user’s
          explicit permission.”

          What is commercial use? Google image search takes away the need to visit a website. Explain non commercial. Photos of places that people provide Google is not commercial or promotional.

          For me, the last company I would trust with my photos would be Google. If you post personal photos on your blog, essentially Google is using them to populate their Google image search. Was that your intent in the first place or is it a case of sticky fingers?

          People click permission boxes all the time. Sometimes you need to click accept just to use a service. If you trust the Google, that’s fine. However I’m not uploading photos to a company that could use them somehow, someway. PR might be something you can bank on as insurance against them using your photos, but things change don’t they. Who would think Bing and Google could openly display peoples images right off their site?

          1. So I’m correct. Google isn’t going to publish your photos or videos anywhere else unless you ask their explicit permission. What’s wrong with that?

            Images you post on a public site that show up in Google Image search are a completely different matter.Most people want their stuff to be found, and search is the best way to do that.

            But if you don’t want those images showing up in Google search, you can either put the photos on a password protected page, or simply add a file to the root directory of your site telling Google not to search it. Most hosting services, like WordPress, have that option baked into their settings pages. Google has never posted anything in search from sites where I had the “don’t search” option turned on.

            I get it, you hate Google and would never trust them with your photos. Fine, that’s your choice, but it doesn’t change the fact that Google Photos is a great service and is already being used by millions of people without any of their photos being showing up in places they didn’t want them to show up.

  6. Screw these assholes. Sure, suck people in with BS and then nail them once they use it. Like free shipping for online shopping. Now you see minimum buys before free shipping. This is worse though because people uploaded. Now what? Move crap around, more hassles. I bet these assholes had no intention of ever keeping the generous offerings. Just a BS move. The 15GB of storage has no need to change. If they were idiots, then they should EAT IT.

    1. So is the ethics or lack of ethics of this move affecting anyones appetite for supporting Microsoft and their products? For me this really brushes me the wrong way. Give and take away is about one of the biggest crocks out there. I am not going to be surprised to hear of some Windows 10 monthly or yearly fee at some point. Take it for free, then later we will screw you somehow. Afterall, how do you go from charging $100+ to zero without some back pocket scheme for later? My trust in these guys took a major hit.

    2. Jeez. Way to overreact. It’s not the end of the world, you know, and Microsoft never promised that the free storage, or unlimited storage was forever.

      1. You are the perfect consumer for companies like Microsoft. Low expectation, sheep like qualities and easy to please.

        1. Now you’re being ridiculous. Once you start calling people “sheep” you have lost the argument.

          (And LOL — I didn’t even buy my first smartphone until three months ago, and then it was a 2-year old model for 30% the original price. MVNO prepaid plan, of course, no contract)

          I have been involved in the computer software industry for over 30 years. There has never been a time in the history of computing where software (of all kinds) has been cheaper or more widely available than right now, and it’s not even close. The fact that you don’t appear to understand that is your problem, not ours.

          1. No argument. “Ours”? Speaking for the general population? Check other comment sections around the world. You’re the easy-to-please consumer. Perfect for them. Go along and sing praises because afterall, it’s just so cheap and they love do that out of the love in their hearts.

          2. See, now you’re claiming I’m an MS/Google shill just because I don’t agree with your erroneous claims. As I said, ridiculous. I’ve said everything I want to say, so I will leave it up to others to decide who is closer to reality.

          3. You’re banking on your 30 years in the computer industry as a way of supremacy. You’re in the minority coming to Microsofts defense on this storage issue. Like I said. You’re the easy to please consumer. Great for them, they count on people like you. Check other comment sections and you’ll quickly see that you’re one of the few people who are accepting. One of the most ridiculous comments ever: “Microsoft never promised the free storage, or unlimited storage was forever”. If that’s not LOL then I wonder what is.

          4. Where did Tacitus say that he was a MS customer? And where did Microsoft promise free storage forever? Companies change their terms of service – happens all the time and has nothing to do with being sheepish. I am sorry for those who uploaded their files there and hope they find another cloud storage supplier that fits their needs.

          5. Frank are you his brother? Sheepish is taking it laying down. You and your friend seem to think it’s okay. Well you must be an old school generation because this is the time when social media gives people a voice. Getting screwed isn’t cool. If you don’t think this is an example of getting screwed, then certainly time has passed you by. Microsoft and the older generation are peas in a pod I suppose. It’s okay not to agree with everyone else so I don’t fault you for that. I just find it comical to think people roll over. Some do, most don’t these days. Crap policies have been reversed thanks to good old fashioned PR nightmare via social media. The ball is in the consumers court if you haven’t noticed.

          6. Definitely not Tacitus’ brother, no – but he seems to be a friendly and logical person. Using MS products seems rather sheepish to me – but I’d find it rude to judge somebody by their preference for a service.

            You seem to be very convinced about the power of social media. Does your “ball is in the consumers’ court” imply that Microsoft will take changes back? Will Google bring back its feed reader? Facebook merge the Messenger with the main app again?

  7. Adobe gives a subscriber 20GB to use. Not much if you upload all of your graphics and web designs to their cloud.

  8. Microsoft could probably have tackled the extremely heavy users by enforcing their “fair use” clause, but with the recent fuss over the more blatant “unlimited data” wireless plans (which really means “unlimited at almost unusable 2G speeds”) I guess they decided it was just easier (and probably cheaper) to remove “unlimited” completely.

    I doubt more than a handful of users will be impacted by this, and many of those are probably storing data that isn’t legally theirs anyway (not all, but many). It’s likely that lowering the limits dramatically reduces the number of commercially copyrighted videos being stored on their service.

  9. I still wonder what ISPs think of all this Cloud stuff. At the neighborhood/smaller area level is there the same upstream capacity as downstream, such that people uploading stuff to the cloud they seldom use isn’t really a problem?

    1. Aside from the fact that several ISPs are still trying to implement bandwidth caps (purely as a means to make more money out of their customers — as if charging $8/month for a modem isn’t enough), i doubt there are enough users in any one area who do this to cause an issue. Google Fiber is rolling out their terabit gigabit network, and other companies are scrambling to keep up. Bandwidth is becoming a non-issue (except for the monetizing part).

      Oops — gigabit network. 🙂

      1. It’s not just to raise revenue–given the limits discussed it’s about dealing with these very high users. And perhaps this cloud issue is part of what is causing the ISPs to look for a solution for the small minority of users who do use a lot more data than average.

      2. Don’t like paying $8/mo to rent a cable modem? Buy one. Woot has been running deals on midrange ones for $50.

        And bandwidth caps are exactly the same problem as Microsoft is trying to address. They sold ‘Unlimited’ Internet in the beginning because metering would have scared people away, the average desktop user had no way to meter (still doesn’t, see the tales of woe about the Win10 forced upgrade) little way to see how much is left, no feel for what activities might get them into trouble, etc. But as someone who was in the ISP game I can tell you that 5-10% of the customers were frankly folks you wished would take their business to your competitor… but they had already probably chased them to you.

        In the end, Internet is not like Cable TV, how much you use matters so it is going to be billed exactly like other utilities like electricity, water, etc. The difference could have been ignored until idiots with no clue how much damage it would cause started trying to use packet based Internet as a broadcasting substitute with the rise of streaming video.

        1. I’m on my second bought cable modem (had to upgrade when TWC boosted the speeds past 20mpbs). I wasn’t going to start paying $5/month (at the time) for a cable modem that was several years old and worth about $10 on eBay.

        2. No, the bandwidth caps are quite clearly designed to bring in more profits. Wall Street analysts have been telling ISPs they should do this for years, and there’s little doubt that the fact they didn’t do it from the start is now seen as a major blunder by their management and financial markets.

          All ISPs have fair use clauses, and they’re not afraid to enforce them on their few real abusers, and it’s not controversial either. Meanwhile bandwidth has never been more available and never been cheaper to provide than today, even though the average price for broadband has risen about 50% in recent years. There is no scarcity of bandwidth in wired networks.

          Fortunately, push back from customers, along with competitive pressures from the likes of Google Fiber are helping to stem the tide against bandwidth caps, and that’s a very good thing if you want a thriving internet based economy.

  10. “Microsoft says some people were taking that ‘unlimited’ thing a bit too seriously”

    Of course people would think unlimited means unlimited. Why would MS and cell carriers think unlimited is a synonym for limited and then get surprised when other people have a bit different definition of the word.

    1. agreed…. this pisses me off. If you cant handle “unlimited” don’t sell unlimited.

    2. In this instance I would agree–in others I would side with the company over the consumer. As to the latter, Netflix customers who would rip and return DVDs as quickly as they could, then temporarily unsubscribe while they actually watched them all. That was not within what someone should really consider “unlimited.”

      1. You should NEVER side with corporations, the bane of the Earth. When you have any Entity or Organization who’s only goal is money (shareholder value), this entity should be ended as soon as possible, as subservience to money is a degradation of human consciousness and will lead to an end of war, poverty and starvation.

        1. Well, that would certainly save the use of a lot of brain cells not having to think. /sarc

          Seriously, that’s the stupidest thing posted on the Internet today, and would be a great way to create poverty and starvation. We couldn’t even begin to feed the world’s population without corporate entities creating food in the quantities that they do and then transporting the food.

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