I know how confusing it can be to figure out what‘s free and paid when it comes to cloud storage. As your personal tech guide, let me walk you through exactly what Microsoft offers for free cloud-wise, what the limitations are, and when it makes sense to upgrade to paid storage. I‘ll even throw in some pro tips to maximize that free OneDrive space!
The Short Answer:
Microsoft provides 15GB of free cloud storage across OneDrive and Outlook to all users. This is enough free space for most light personal users to store documents, photos, videos and music. But heavier cloud storage users would benefit from upgrading to a paid OneDrive subscription.
Here‘s a detailed look at what you need to know…
OneDrive: Microsoft‘s Cloud Storage Workhorse
OneDrive is Microsoft‘s main consumer and business cloud storage service, deeply integrated into Windows, Office 365 and other Microsoft apps.
It gives you access to your files from any device, allows online collaboration with others, and serves as a backup solution.
Every Microsoft account (Outlook, Hotmail, Live, Xbox, etc.) gets 5GB of free OneDrive storage. This is yours to use for life just for signing up!
Now 5 gigs may sound small compared to the hard drive on your laptop. But it‘s enough space to store thousands of Office documents, photos, mp3s and standard-definition videos.
Expand Your Free Storage with Bonuses
Don‘t stop at just 5GB, you can grow your free OneDrive space through bonuses like:
Camera Upload – Automatically save photos from your smartphone to OneDrive and earn up to 5GB of extra free storage.
Refer a Friend – Get more free space by convincing friends and family to start using OneDrive. You can score up to 5GB per referral.
Outlook Connection – Link up your Outlook email account to OneDrive and redeem an offer for 100GB of free storage.
With those bonuses, you can expand your free OneDrive capacity up to 25GB!
The Total Free Microsoft Cloud Allowance
Now that 5GB OneDrive allotment is part of the overall 15GB free cloud storage you get with a Microsoft account.
The 15GB total allowance spans:
Outlook.com email attachments
Office app documents saved to the cloud
So between OneDrive and Outlook, you get 15GB free to cover your basic cloud storage needs.
When You Should Consider Paying for OneDrive
So is 15 gigs enough free cloud space?
For storing the occasional Office docs, photos and music files, absolutely.
But for larger storage needs involving high resolution media or collaborating on big design files, 15GB can fill up fast.
Here are some signs it may be time to upgrade to a paid OneDrive subscription:
You‘re a photography buff shooting lots of 20MB RAW images.
You edit and store large video files from your DSLR or drone.
You collaborate on gigantic files like CAD models or Photoshop edits.
You need to backup or sync hundreds of gigabytes of business data.
You want complete protection via fully automated computer backup.
Basically if you‘re a media mogul or constantly handle huge files, that 15GB freebie just won‘t cut it for long!
Paid OneDrive Subscription Options
When you outgrow the standard free storage, OneDrive offers reasonable paid subscription upgrades:
$1.99/month or $19.99/year|
$6.99/month or $69.99/year|
Family (up to 6 people)|
$9.99/month or $99.99/year|
Family (up to 6 people)|
$14.99/month or $149.99/year|
A 1TB personal plan gives you tons of space for only $70 bucks a year. Compare that to a 1TB USB drive for over $200!
For businesses and heavy users, Microsoft 365 plans bundle OneDrive storage with Office apps and advanced cloud tools.
Squeeze the Most From Your Free OneDrive Space
Before you pony up any cash for a OneDrive subscription, let me share some tricks to maximize that free storage you already have:
Enable camera upload – Have all your phone‘s photos automatically saved to OneDrive for safekeeping and bonus space.
Delete what you don‘t need – Remove unused files like old projects or backups you can archive externally.
Compress files – Use Zip tools to shrink huge media files so they consume less OneDrive capacity.
Buy an external drive – Offload "cold storage" like old photos to a cheap portable hard drive.
Cleanup multiple versions – OneDrive saves file history. Delete old unwanted versions to free up gigabytes.
See, with a little cleanup and optimization, you can stretch 15GB a lot further these days!
What Happens If You Stop Paying for OneDrive?
Let‘s say you sign up for a paid 100GB OneDrive subscription but then decide to stop paying. What happens next?
Well you‘ll lose access to any storage above the free 5GB base amount. So if you‘ve uploaded 80GB of data, 75GB of that will no longer sync and be inaccessible.
But none of your files are instantly deleted when your subscription lapses. You just can‘t add new stuff until you delete enough data to get below 5GB again.
So make sure to set calendar alerts to remind yourself to offload files before unpaid OneDrive access gets cut off!
Should You Pay for Cloud Storage?
Thanks for sticking with me on this cloud storage deep dive! Let‘s recap the key points:
Microsoft provides 15GB free across OneDrive and Outlook.
This is often enough for most people‘s basic document and media storage needs.
Upgrading to paid OneDrive makes sense for larger storage and advanced business use.
You can expand free storage through bonuses and optimization tricks.
So carefully consider your personal or business storage requirements. For moderate home users, OneDrive‘s free 15 gigs should fit the bill. But power users and creative pros needing 1TB+ of space will want a paid OneDrive or Microsoft 365 plan.
Hope this guide gave you clarity on what‘s free vs. paid with Microsoft cloud storage. Let me know if you have any other Office or OneDrive questions!