How to get the most free online storage

With the market for cloud storage services starting to get crowded, we take a look at how to get as much storage from the different providers as possible.

Google Drive. Dropbox. Box. SkyDrive. Cubby. iCloud.

All cloud storage services. All offer a free plan, with varying levels of storage and features. All offer paid upgrades for more storage and yet more features. With pricing becoming such a hot topic, especially with the launch of Google Drive, let's take a look at the free upgrades some of these services are offering, and how you can take advantage of them today.

With so many different cloud storage options out there, some of the service providers are offering free storage in exchange for promoting the respective service or recruiting friends and family.

First, let's get the services out of the way that aren't currently offering free upgrades. SkyDriveGoogle Drive, Cubby, and iCloud all start with a free plan, then if you need more storage you'll have to pay.

SkyDrive recently lowered the starting amount of space awarded to users from 25GB to 7GB, but if you're an existing user, you can still log in and claim your free 25GB of space.

That leaves us with Dropbox and Box.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Box is offering a free 50GB plan if you log into your Box from one of the following devices:

  • Any LG Android phone or tablet
  • A Sony Tablet S and Tablet P
  • HP TouchPad
  • RIM PlayBook
  • Sony Xperia phones

The offer is good, according to a FAQ document on the Box support site, until December 31, 2012. If you don't own any of the devices listed above, but happen to have a friend or family who does, download and install the Box app on their device and simply log in. Once you have logged in to your Box account from a qualifying device, your account is automatically upgraded. You can then log out and delete the app, or allow the device owner to log back into their Box account.

You will then, for the life of your account, have a free 50GB plan.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Now this is where things get interesting. Dropbox offers a healthy list of different ways to earn free storage.

For starters, you can earn 250MB for free just by completing the Getting Started guide. You can then earn another 640MB of storage by connecting your Twitter and Facebook account to Dropbox.

You can also earn up to 16GB of free space just by inviting your friends to sign up for Dropbox. For each person who uses your personal link and completes the sign up process, you are awarded 500MB of storage (maxing out at 16GB).

Want some more space? Help Dropbox test out its new Camera Upload feature. Install the latest version of the Android app, or download and install the latest beta of either the Mac or Windows app and enable automatic camera upload. Upon the initial upload you will receive 500MB for free. For each 500MB of photos and videos you upload after that, you will receive another 500MB of storage, for free. This tops out at 3GB, not including the 500MB awarded for the initial upload. (All in all, another 3.5GB of free storage.)

I'm sure you can do the math and see the potential amount of free storage Dropbox is dangling out in front of you.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Update May 2, at 2 p.m.: Amazon just released a Windows and Mac app for its Cloud Drive service. (The Cloud Drive service isn't new, but the desktop apps are.) Amazon's Cloud Drive provides users with 5GB of free cloud storage. The space can be used to store music, photos, documents and well, anything else you would want to store in a cloud service.

Sadly, the only way to get more space for free is to purchase all of your music through Amazon. Any MP3s purchased from Amazon and stored in your Cloud Drive won't count toward your 5GB limit. Or, if you are OK with paying $20 for 20GB of storage for a year, you can store as much music as you would like in the Cloud Drive, no matter where you purchased the music.

If we missed a service or hidden unlock feature for free storage with one of the providers mentioned (or not mentioned), let us know!


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