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OneDrive vs. Google Drive vs. Dropbox: A cloud storage comparison for Windows users

With so many cloud storage solutions available, which one should Windows users choose? Which company has the track record or reputation for being secure? How do you know the value to expect?

Out of the many clouds services available today, there are three leading options that come to mind: Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.

Each service in its own right is great at syncing, sharing and keeping files safe. We've decided to take a walk in the clouds to see how these giants stack up. Eyes to the sky, folks!

For this comparison, we'll be looking at the individual, consumer versions of these three cloud storage solutions rather than their business or enterprise services.

Free and tiered price plans

OneDrive

OneDrive price plans USD

OneDrive currently gives users 5GB of storage. Referrals will net you and your invited friend an additional 500MB each. This referral program limits you to a maximum of 10GB. After that, OneDrive has a few options available. You can increase your storage to 50GB for 1.99 per month. You can also go with two Office 365 packages that include OneDrive. Office 365 Personal is available for either $69.99 annually or $6.99 monthly, with 1TB of storage. This version allows you to install OneDrive on one Mac or PC, one tablet, and one mobile phone. Office 365 Home is $99.99 per year or $9.99 a month. It gives your group 1,000GB per person. Your installation limit then increases from one to five for computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Both Office 365 packages also come bundled with full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. And they include features such as the ability to scan long documents and convert them to PDFs, and OneDrive mobile increased sharing limits.

Google Drive

Google Drive price plans

Google Drive gives you 15GB for free. After that, you can upgrade to one of the many price plans. 100GB is available for $1.99 month, or you prepay annually and pay $19.99. 1TB will cost $9.99 monthly or $99.99 annually. The remaining plans are available on a month-to-month basis: 10TB for $99.99; 20TB for $199.99; and finally 30TB for $299.99. Keep in mind that your Google Drive storage space is shared with Gmail, which could potentially limit your overall storage capacity. As with OneDrive, Google Drive allows users to create and edit files, such as documents and spreadsheets. Before you download to your device, you will need to convert them to Google-friendly formats first.

Dropbox

Dropbox price plans

For Dropbox, the free offering starts off at 2GB with the ability to gain more through referrals. For each person who signs up for Dropbox, you both receive an additional 500MB of storage, but it is capped at 16GB. Should you choose to upgrade to Dropbox Plus (formerly Dropbox Pro), your storage is then increased to 1TB (1,024GB). Additional features include remote device wipe, encrypted and expiring link access and view-only access. Dropbox Plus will cost you $9.99 monthly, or you can pay annually for $99.00, which works out to $8.25 per month. There is an option for extended version history for $39 that allows users to access previous versions of files, and deleted items, for up to one year without impacting your storage.

The 1TB package tends to be the most popular. This is more than enough to help you back up your essential files. As we are looking at personal pricing rather than business, both OneDrive and Google Drive offer much more choice. That being said, the 1TB plan from OneDrive is cheaper than what Google Drive offers. In fact, for the same price of Google Drive's individual 1TB plan, OneDrive gives you 1TB per person, up to a total of 5TB, plus full versions of four essential Office programs. So OneDrive is by far the best option.

It's not always about the size of your storage; it's also how you use it. To increase productivity surrounding your files, there needs to be a way to manage them. All three solutions grant users the ability to do more with their content, but how far you can go with it may vary.

Managing documents

New file in OneDrive

In either Google Drive and OneDrive, you have the ability to create new files or edit existing file from the get-go. This makes it easy to update and compose from just about anywhere and at any time. OneDrive by default is fully integrated with Microsoft Office, which allows Windows users to use the same programs they're already comfortable with. This ease of use translates just as well between desktop, online and mobile versions.

Google Drive manage

For Google Drive, you'll experience a sense of familiarity with Google's own lineup of office apps. At the surface, they are essentially the same as other word processing apps, though with Google Drive you can edit documents offline through Chrome. Google Drive also has a plugin that allows you to work with Microsoft Office instead.

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox sports integration with Microsoft Office, but it literally comes at a price. Unlike the other two contenders, which allow document editing and creation at any price plan, you have to be at least subscribed to Dropbox Plus for access to the feature. Paper from Dropbox allows for creation and editing of items, but only those found in Paper. You cannot transfer items from your Files to Paper or vice versa.

Syncing

Arguably, one of the most important features of any cloud service is the option to synchronize your files.

Dropbox sync speed

Dropbox always syncs smaller files first, allowing for numerous files to be uploaded quickly, rather than waiting in the queue behind a much larger file. To further speed things along, the company also adopted incremental syncing into its functionality. With the Dropbox desktop app installed, all files found within the Dropbox folder will be automatically synced. From the desktop app, you can alter your upload and download speeds.

Google Drive sync speed

Both Google Drive and OneDrive allow you to choose specific folders and subfolders rather than all items to sync. As with Dropbox, these folders must be located in the program's specific location.

OneDrive sync speeds

What makes OneDrive stand out is the fact that it's baked right into Windows 8 and Windows 10. Through Cortana, I can easily search for files found in OneDrive. While synchronization is fairly even across the board, it's the ease of searching without setup that sets OneDrive apart. On top of that, OneDrive helps to organize your files by type, making it much easier to find files quickly. Taking the time and location that photos are taken, OneDrive organizes them into galleries automatically. You can also access your files from "non-computing" devices, such as your Xbox One.

Sharing

OneDrive in-app share

OneDrive allows sharing of files or folders through direct email invites or a link that be shared through a variety of means. This can be done from OneDrive.com or directly within a program. So you could compose a Word document and choose to share it without leaving the file. When you share, you can opt to allow or deny editing capabilities. It's a Microsoft product, so it can manage Office files without limitation. This includes viewing and retrieving previous versions. You can also create a shared folder with another OneDrive user, allowing for easier access for offline work.

Google Drive share

If you want to share with Google Drive, it works the mostly same way, either through an email or a generated link. Items must be located in the My Drive folder by default. Google Drive offers advanced options for permissions, such as view-only or editing. If an item is mistakenly edited, you can always restore a previous version. Beyond editing, you can prevent copying, downloading and printing. Honestly, it makes for a slightly complicated sharing experience.

Dropbox share

Dropbox also promotes sharing a file or folder through a link or email. As a Dropbox Plus user, you can create a required password for or even set an expiry date on a link. The free Dropbox option also includes previous version retrieval but has a limit of 30 days. The previously mentioned extensive version history for $39 annually extends this to a year.

Final verdict

Each contender has proven to be a versatile and reliable cloud storage solution. But for those who use Windows 10, OneDrive is a clear winner here. Full integration and the "already included" experience it boasts with Windows and Office products makes it feel less like a standalone product and more a part of the entire Microsoft environment. It's nearly effortless to use, and it feels perfectly natural to save or share using OneDrive within Excel or PowerPoint. OneDrive.com is also, more visually appealing and fluid to manage. The Microsoft interface carries over smoothly into OneDrive.com, as you edit a document in Word online, and you don't feel as though you're in another program.

From a frugality standpoint, OneDrive gives you a better value for the 1TB tier than Google Drive, and it also gives you more options on the free plan than Dropbox.

Microsoft users, if you're searching for the right cloud service for you, look no further than your own backyard.

56 Comments
  • One drive does everything I need, so reliable..
  • OneDrive works well and is integrated with Office Online. I had thought OneDrive had offered the least free storage as Microsoft has taken storage away, but DropBox is even smaller.
  • Unfortunately, my university is using gmail and google drive for education, so I got unlimited storage. I have used all three services, I found that google drive is still the best. It is fast upload and download, little file restriction. Dropbox is slow and its suite is not attractive. Onedrive is good to integrate with office and windows, but its collaboration speed is much slower than google doc
  • I presume you mean that OneDrive via Office365 let's you install Office on one laptop, tablet and phone, not OneDrive...?
  • I depend upon and really like OneDrive, but for my most important files I also use Dropbox simply because the sync engine is more robust without the need for my attention. OneDrive has a way of getting itself confused on syncing/uploading, which then means I have to figure out how to choose the right version to keep. This is something I can do, but I would never want to obligate, say, my wife to figuring out how to do this without accidentally over writing the latest version. Dropbox is bullet proof for this kind of thing, therefore safe for mere motels to use.
  • This is the big problem. Onedrive is, in a word, unreliable.
  • No comparison here!! One drive is way better!!!
  • yes! I wish was same for windows phones!
  • Your One Drive account should work on your Windows Phone just fine.  It should also give you access to full Office apps if you go with the 1TB or Family 5TB plans.  I'm considering it, since photos are backed up to One Drive on my Lumia 950, and I'm out of space.
  • Been a longtime Dropbox user, 99 dollars per year is worth it for me. Especially working with previous versions of a file is very good. I guess it all comes down to personal preference.
  • For $99/yr, you get 1TB OneDrive storage plus full Office 365 suite for 5 users (total 5TB). If you can get everyone to pay their share, it brings the individual cost down to $20/yr each. [Apologies: after reading further down in the comments, I see someone else already mentioned this plus it's in the article, but worth repeating I think.]
  • Two things. Pcloud. And pcloud with encryption. None of the others seem to have that. #sure I trust google LOL
  • All Dropbox traffic is encrypted and it is not very difficult these days to encrypt your files yourself before uploading.
  • For new users, Google Drive is the better offer. For those of us with OneDrive storage gotten when they were offering decent storage, that's the better one.
  • I keep Onedrive and Google Drive because for Photos Google drive will upload and not count for storage!
  • Yes, I wish Google Drive was an option on Windows Mobile.  Considering One Drive Premium for that reason, I maxed out my photo backup pretty quickly...
  • That's on Google. They have a track record of not answering calls from Redmond.
  • Oh yes, well aware.  I just wish it was an option...
  • You really can't beat the home version of office 365. You get 5 users with1TB. For $99 bucks a year. There are no restrictions, so you could theoretically get 4 other family members/friends and split the cost . At $20 a user for 1year of 1TB of storage +full updated versions of word, Excel,PP, Outlook, Access, Publisher,etc. It's a terrific deal Imo.
  • But that depends if you need all of that, for a lot of people something like Libre office will do the job and say a free dropbox account, or even a the free once drive account. the problem with something like office 365, is that if you lose your internet you are stuffed, also office 365 is flipping slow.    
  • Not really true, since OneDrive is a folder on your computers you have all of your files at your disposal at any time. Only need the internet to sync to see on other devices. $20/ year (per user) for 1 TB of storage is clearly the best value considering you get all the office products.
  • good value if you need it, but do you really want to trust Micrsoft with your documents?  
  • You'd rather trust google!?
  • Nope, I rather my documents to be on my own storage devices, be it hard drives or usb memory sticks.  
  • I trust Microsoft as much as I trust any cloud company, which is more than I trust local drives in the long term. Also, Google Docs is significantly slower than Office 365 apps in my experience.
  • You can not really beat local drives for storage as long as you are sensible, I have drives here that are over 12 years old and still work fine, but then if you are smart you do not just rely on one drive. Anything important is stored on three drives and the nas. One drive is off the property and that is alternative with the second drive each week.  I only ever had two drives go down on me with no warning, one was a conner and the other seagate.   when my drives are unplugged from the computer they are not going to go wrong. I do not use google docs, but sadly I do have to use office 365 for work once in a blue moon and I find myself wanting to tear my hair out it is so slow.  even simple thingslike reading documents is slow.        
  • I just did this, pretty good value when u split the cost
  • if you use Office go for OneDrive if you dont go for Google Drive simply
  • I miss SugarSync. It was even better integrated into Windows file management than Microsoft's own OneDrive. Choosing folders to sync was available simply by right-clicking in Windows Explorer instead of having to go to a separate settings utility in the System Tray.
  • OneDrive is great except for the countless of times I have to repair my OneDrive-business account because of sync issues. Also it doesn't allow me to type numbers in folder name, without syncing issues. Google Drive on the other hand just have a bad interface; Just try to upload properly name folders and see what they look like on your phone. Also Google have problems syncing multiple folders at once.
  • One of the  problems with one drive for me is that it is not supported on Linux, drop box is supported on linux, so i can sync between Linux, windows and my android devcices. The other problem with one drive is that the only way to sync is to change from a local account to a MS account., the other thing is I would not trust Ms with any of my data. i am not a fan of cloud storage anyway, so all I have in my drop box are two files and they are encrypted and even if someone got hold of them and managed to decrypted them they would find nothing of interest/  
  • OneDrive is awesome, but i'm still pretty pissed that they removed the legacy storage bonus. I've been a Windows Phone user since 7.1 and while i don't expect the moon, they should have let me keep 15Gb, it really doesn't cost them anything to keep a long time user happy and not have to start re-thinking storage solutions now that i have to trim my content. It's not like i had 1Tb+ of stuff, just right around 5Gb which is now incredibly inconvenient.
  • It sounds like you don't understand how economics work. It does cost money and you obviously don't pay anything.
  • You could have opted in to keep the 15GiB...
  • Ok. What about download speeds. I use Google drive for Plex Cloud. Half the time it says skip to next video because it can't play. What gives. Maybe Bcoz Plex Cloud is still new?
  • OneDrive is available for everyone no matter what platform they use, but google cloud is not available for the Windows Phone audience. Dropbox is also universal to everyone and I like it. Anyway, I use OneDrive for a lot of years and I have 30gb of free storage. I prefer it because it's available everywhere, I get more free storage, it's built in my favourite PC and Mobile OS and it's super smooth and reliable.
  • I'm OK with OneDrive. I'll be more OK with it when they bring back Placeholders or equiv. Thought CU was bringing it back, but I guess we have to wait till some future update.
  • They forgot to include At&t locker which offers 50 GB free for those on the att network
  • if the put At&t service they they had to put other network companies services aswell
  • I like OneDrive and prefer it for most things with the 5TB included free with Office. However, DropBox, even the free version, supports DEPOSIT access, which I need. That is, I can send a link to a folder to a bunch of people and whether they have a DropBox account or not, they can drop files for my review into the DropBox folder through their browser. They can't see what anyone else has put in the folder. There is no equivalent in OneDrive. I have requested OneDrive add this through the Feedback Hub, but so for no luck. I suspect MS wants to require all users have an account so they can increase their total userbase. Possibly good business, but at least for this feature, unfortunately, it pushes me to use DropBox. If OneDrive included this, I could drop everything else and just use OneDrive.
  • Just. Need. Versioning for all files and I could recommend it 100%
  • One Drive on my Windows Phone is easy. I don't have to think about it until it gets close to 5GB. Now though I have been keeping my photos in VK a Russian Facebook thing. There I can keep an unlimited amount of photos. I just take some time once a week or once every two weeks and put my photos into folders and that's it. It's free, it's unlimited and easy. Not much need for more.
  • So my onedrive library completely disappeared from file explorer. Torobleshooting and updates didn't work. So I've been cloudless on my expensive laptop for months. 
  • Let the consumer market decide. Its good for MS to get their act together. Competition is good. Glad others are making their offerings on MS platform. Only the strong will survive... and so far, MS does not have a good reputation.
  • OneDrive seems to get confused about file synchronization from time to time. Enpass with OneDrive sync stopped working after a couple of days to weeks. I switched to Dropbox for this and never had an issue again. What is missing about the storage size discussion: you can upload unlimited photos up to 16 Mpixels to Google Drive without being counted. Similar for google music - 30.000 songs IIRC. For OneDrive every bit uploaded counts...
  • Just bought a Seagate 4TB for $99 recently and added to my NAS accessible via HTTPS. Sure, it could "crash" you'll claim whereas companies have redundancy, but it's my own avail drive anywhere. I do have 365 1TB but backup is purely for mobile device stuff or for fun at work
  • I love onedrive but simply put, no mobile platform for phone means i will not invest in onedrive. Its my favorite cloud service but mobile is also pne of 4 devices i use prodominantly in my life. Windows dont have a good enough mobile offering for me and even if they did things like gestures speakerphone option is still missing and even other developers like paypal here maps and many more are either not updateing or leaving windows 10. Gestures is a mocroaft app and they didnt even bring it to wi dows 10. They had 2 years to do that. I cant help but feel let down by microsft. The only reason im still on windows 10 is that mac and android dont offer that pc gaming experience. Cloud is great bit whats the point qhen the other offerings all have devices, intergration and sheer software numbera compared to the mobile 10 offering.
  • Also why is a single song i bought on itunes, showing up on my android and apple cloud yet baned from my onedrive cause of copyright infringment lol.
  • Why do i get 15gig free with my windows phone yet with mu s7 edge i get 100gog free.  In what planet does microsft live on?
  • I use OneDrive but their sync engine is terrible. It's great that you can't select folders to sync but the client keeps "forgetting" the selected folders and tries to download my entire drive (which is a problem when you have 1TB of data on there). It also keeps crashing. What makes it worse is that they already had a very good solution with the placeholders where you could see all files and only the files you want to open will be synced. 
  • I have both OneDrive and DropBox. DropBox integrates with more web sites to save purchased content (like e books and pdfs) directly to DropBox, so I use that primarily for that purpose and sharing photos with family members who also use DropBox. I use OneDrive as my longer term storage for misc documents and my phone backups and such.
  • Mobile matters more, and OneDrive simply doesn't work as well on Android and iOS as their first party solutions. That's not even mentioning other devices like Chrome and MacBooks, etc. This is a hard battle to fight, since Microsoft doesn't own those platforms, but I don't choose cloud storage based on Desktop. It's all about mobile to me, and Windows Phone still isn't a viable solution for me at this point. 
  • My 5Gb is about to be filled, however, I don't see the $1.99. Option.
  • I'm really surprised Amazon Cloud isn't mentioned. I have well over 10TB in mine, and for $60 a year. The interface isn't as nice as the others, but the amount of space and the size per file is much better. I have 25GB files uploaded with no problems. Last I tried the others didn't allow for files that large. I can create 100GB+ backups and upload them. I have the backups created in 25GB chunks.
  • It's great value, office on your devices and heaps of storage all seamless between devices
  • I switched to OneDrive from Google Drive about a week ago.  I tried OneDrive a few times during the past several years but Google Drive was way ahead.  OneDrive couldn't preview file types like Photoshop files or Illustrator files, etc.  That alone was a deal killer, but Google Drive had better features in general.  But at this point, OneDrive has some aspects that I really do like so I'm making the switch........verrrryyyyy slllooowwllyy.  Upload speeds for OneDrive are horrible.  It would take me probably 3 days to get my 3 hundred gigs of data up to Google Drive.  It looks like OneDrive might need 3 weeks or so.  That's one thing that Google Drive still has over OneDrive. OneDrive Positives: The ability to preview the contents of folders.
    Larger Images in general.
    When you zoom the browser, OneDrive both reflows, and keeps the images sharp. Google Drive reflows, but images become a blurry mess. The image previewer in OneDrive does better with zooming, panning, etc.
    If there's a file with a problem uploading, OneDrive points it out and lets you go straight to it.  Google Drive will not upload the file, and not mention it.  You won't know that your document isn't being uploaded. Google Drive Positives: Starred Documents/Folders.  This one is great.  You can go straight to high use folders no matter where they are.  With OneDrive I've resorted to foolishness like putting an A in front of the folder title. Far faster upload speeds.
    Better email, if you're working between drive and email. Google Drive can preview many document types right in the email.  OneDrive does not.  That's a serious drawback. No harassment.  Microsoft, harasses you to no end with pop ups about apps, automatic creation of albums, emails about the albums, no way to disable it, and on and on.  Microsoft just doesn't leave you alone to get on with your work.  If there's one thing that is tempting me back to Google Drive it's this one.  I've alread given up on Microsoft Windows.  My next PC will be a Mac.  Microsoft is advertising like crazy right in Windows 12 Explorer.  There's no way to accept that. Almost any kind of file can be uploaded.  Microsoft OneDrive had a problem with tons of files that Google had no problem with.   For now, the most important aspect of OneDrive for me is the way it presents the content, nice and big.  It lets me see more and better.  As a graphic artist, that is really inspiring.  But Microsoft's practices will probably have me giving up on OneDrive and seeing how I can get along with Dropbox at some point.