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Dropbox Limits Free Accounts to Three Devices

The mobile technology site Liliputing has discovered that Dropbox is now limiting free accounts to just three devices. In a support article, Dropbox says that paid Plus, Professional, and Business users can still connect to their Dropbox accounts from as many devices as they like, but as of March 2019, free Basic account users may use only three devices at once. Happily, if you have more than three devices linked to your Dropbox Basic account currently, they’ll remain linked, but you won’t be able to add any more.

With this change, Dropbox is clearly trying to push more Basic users to the Plus plan, which costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year. If you don’t wish to upgrade, you can instead link and unlink devices to stay within the three-device limit. Those who want to sync between a desktop Mac, laptop Mac, iPhone, and iPad will now be forced to do this linking/unlinking dance—or will be as soon as they’re forced to unlink one of those devices for some reason.

The other alternative is to switch to a different file syncing service. Apple’s iCloud Drive offers 5 GB of storage for free, although that tends to be eaten up quickly by iOS backups, iCloud Photos, and iCloud Mail. Google Drive provides 15 GB for free, although that’s shared with Gmail and Google Photos. Microsoft’s OneDrive gives you 5 GB for free, and if you’re paying for Office 365, you get 1 TB of space.

What’s disappointing about this change is that Dropbox has historically provided the best combination of file syncing between your devices and collaborative file sharing with other people. But it’s hard to complain too much about a free service being burdened by additional limits. Dropbox’s free Basic accounts exist only as a marketing tool to encourage users to upgrade to a paid plan, and when you’re getting something for nothing, it’s not unreasonable for a company to want to reduce the amount of that something eventually.

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Comments About Dropbox Limits Free Accounts to Three Devices

Notable Replies

  1. DropBox needs a tier below the $10 a month level - I don’t need 1TB of DropBox storage, but more than 5GB sure would be handy!!

    I’m on the $1 a month 50GB iCloud account - if DropBox would match that I’d happily give them the $1 a month, but $10 a month is a bit rich for how I use DropBox currently.


  2. Yeah…me too. I have 9.2 GB through some of the image upload offers a couple years back…but a $2.99 per month 100GB or 200GB would work for my wife and I just fine. We’ve got the 200GB family account but for a lot of stuff DropBox just works better.

  3. Dropbox never really hit the family market. I have a 1Tb account which will need upgrading soon. My wife would be happy with 50 or 100Gb. My daughter could use about 10Gb tops. Seems crazy that I can’t offer them some of mine or that Dropbox don’t offer some form of overall family account.

  4. If there isn’t a sharing issue then just use the same login with your wife and daughter…it’s your 1 TB since you pay for it.

  5. The issue then lies with syncing and security. All our company files and accounts are on there. All my photography research too. Happier to keep it as is.

    Interesting that iCloud permits family sharing of my 2Tb there. I wish Apple did offer the level of control and selective syncing Dropbox do though.

  6. I just wanted to point out that in the article it says, “Google Drive provides 15 GB for free, although that’s shared with Gmail and Google Photos.” But for the “optimized photos” (default) there is no limit and the photos don’t count towards your 15 GB.

  7. Thanks for the added detail—I didn’t want to get sucked down the rabbit hole of all the details of the competing services in the article itself.

  8. I would love it if I could create a “datasoup” folder on my iCloud Drive that would permit sharing documents between iOS apps, between Mac apps, and between iOS and Mac apps. That common storage location is what I use my Dropbox for.

    I’d happily pay Apple, as I have more trust in their data integrity than Dropbox’s.

  9. Hi, I would like to warn everyone who uses a language with special characters (I use German) not to migrate to MS OneDrive and take advantage of the 1 TB available via the Office 365 subscription. The synchronisation does not work with files which have names with special characters, those files will not be synchronised. All other services I tried (gmail, icloud, dropbox, Amazon) do not have this problem.

    One of the special characters leading to sync errors is “|” (vertical bar) which is not even a special german character, but it is often included in web sites titles, and so a collection of url files will be affected.


  10. unfortunately icloud does not allow family sharing, so there is no possiblity of using it with two icloud accounts.

  11. Hi Andre. If you have a Family Account, the account manager can share their 2Tb with other family members. This is what we do at home.

    I have a monthly subscription (9.99 storage and 14.99 music) which is shared amongst the five of us.

  12. I think OneDrive is supposed to support diacritics (accents on characters) in file names. If it’s not working for you, I would report the problem, they may be able to correct it. Searching online, I found references to such problems from two or more years ago but they were described as bugs and it appeared they were corrected. I also found a post about OneDrive web filename sorting from February 2019 that had to do with accented characters, which implies that such characters are allowed on OneDrive.

    It’s true that OneDrive does not support the vertical bar (pipe) in filenames. Since it also syncs with Windows, OneDrive’s list of invalid characters matches Windows’s list of invalid characters:
    " double quote
    * asterisk
    : colon
    < less than
    > greater than
    ? question mark
    / forward slash
    \ backslash
    | vertical bar, pipe

    macOS Finder still prevents use of the colon in filenames (the original Mac OS used colons instead of slashes to represent folders) and all of these characters have special meaning on the command line which can complicate working with files that include them.

  13. OneDrive’s long list of unacceptable characters in filenames is very annoying if you try and use it as a replacement for Dropbox etc. For example, I have a lot of saved webpages as Safari web archives, and many of these contain characters which are not acceptable to OneDrive. This essentially makes it impossible to copy over folders from other services or my hard drive into one drive, as I just get huge numbers of sync errors.

  14. One can get rid of problem characters in filenames. Last year, TidBITS had a good article, macOS Hidden Treasures: Batch-Rename Items in the Finder, about what’s built-in to macOS that can help do that quickly.

    For Safari web archive specifically, you can search in Finder for name:.webarchive, select them all, right-click the selection and click Rename. In the Rename Finder items dialog, set it to Replace Text, enter one of the “bad” characters to Find, enter an appropriate replacement in Replace with, then press the Rename button. For most of OneDrive’s forbidden characters, I would replace them with a dash, double quotes could be replaced with single quotes but I would remove them or replace them with underscores, I would remove question marks.

  15. So they all allow the use of Unicode then, I suppose?

    The interesting thing is that Apple allow most of these chars in filenames, while MS still don’t. I think Apple get around it better by substituting the public name you give a file with a private name the OS uses. I thought MS would have improved their version of how they handle this, but seemingly they still haven’t. Maybe they just can’t?

  16. Or does he mean having his own iCloud ac, and a Family ac?

  17. IMO, I think the reason they don’t offer more than 1TB on consumer accounts, is that they strongly dislike users storing their Dropbox folder location off the main drive. And given most users are typically not with more than 1TB in the age of SSD’s (ironically I’m actually the opposite with 2 TB SSD on both my Macs, though!), I recon they think offering higher storage plans would cause more users to move the Dropbox folder externally, then have issues with data not syncing on the slightest disconnect of said external drives, or worse; data loss.

    I should also make people aware of a couple of things I just found:

    1. If you need to update you password; it’ll throw the “3 devices” warning on the forth device. Meaning your then down to the three.

    2. Rather than using their apps (especially on iOS, perhaps), you can still login to the browser on all devices, and access files there. Not as convenient, but doable in most circumstances.

  18. EDIT…

    Andre said:
    unfortunately icloud does not allow family sharing, so there is no possiblity of using it with two icloud accounts.

    Tommy said:
    "Hi Andre. If you have a Family Account, the account manager can share their 2Tb with other family members. This is what we do at home.

    I have a monthly subscription (9.99 storage and 14.99 music) which is shared amongst the five of us."

    jimthing then said:
    Or does he mean having his own iCloud ac, and a Family ac?

    i.e. What does he mean? As obviously iCloud family ac = sharing the data space you as a family pay for.

    Presumably he actually means: cannot share files among a family within the family plan.

  19. Hi Curtis,

    thanks for your answer. The problem has been around for several years, so I don’t think reporting once more would change anything, unfortunately.

    My point was to warn that if someone never bothered about this when using dropbox on the Mac might not be aware that he/she will run into problems when using OneDrive, and have no problems using the service offerings from Google, Amazon and maybe others as well.

    My view of such things is the view of a user who does not go beyond the macOS GUI, which is basically what I am.



  20. I don’t know about other instances of OneDrive but OneDrive for Business at my institution does synchronize filenames with accented characters, I tested it before I posted. If I had files that didn’t synchronize, I would contact OneDrive Support.

  21. As far I know, even family sharing does not allow cross access between family members, i. e. My wife with her own Apple-Id would not be able to access the data stored under my own Apple-Id, and vice versa; and we would not be able to have a common access area or give one another access to the other’s data…
    Is that correct?



  22. Yes, correct. Each is in its own silo. iCloud is personal.

    No sharable links to folders and files, a big issue compared to the offering on Dropbox.

  23. Yes, it’s possible to replace characters, but it’s a pain, and also needs to be done for any new file(s) one might add. This kind of manual tracking of allowed and disallowed characters for how I name my files is not what I want from a sync service where I want to set it up and forget about it. Dropbox and iCloud are both very good at that (haven’t tried Google’s offering, so can’t comment).

  24. Have you ever considered using pCloud - a Swiss based cloud storage provider? They do not have this limitation for free users+They have Lifetime plan and Family plan. The most reliable cloud storage service I have used so far. Love it!

  25. I have been using both services for a couple years. The comparison article does not make clear that pCloud Drive is a non-synced storage of files, which means keeping files only in the cloud while being able to access them as needed (only index is kept locally). In nutshell, one has to tell Dropbox which files one does not want to sync. In pCloud, it is sort of the other way around. Dropbox feels better integrated with Finder, but pCloud allows multiple shared folders and allows to have them anywhere on the local drive (and named whatever you want). I also experience pDrive getting disconnected for no clear reason once a while, but I do not keep it mounted all the time.

  26. The issue might be because of the updates. After updating with the latest version, no issues, whatsoever with pCloud Drive. I am a very happy and satisfied customer.

  27. Dropbox has been such a valuable game changer that I will be upgrading to the $10-per-month plan for my small business, even though my wife already has that plan at our preschool. Sure, other companies have jumped on the bandwagon with their own take and bargains, but I like to validate the originator. I like that my 1Password goes to my accounts on my wife’s computer and my laptop, my iPhones (I have a couple of older backups) and an iPad. Also my wife’s important files come home via Dropbox to be backed up, and mine go to my Dropbox on my account on her computer. Lol…I actually feel a little guilty for not upgrading already. :slight_smile:

  28. I was just trying to do a test for @simon relating to this question:

    But since I upgraded to the iPhone 11 Pro, it’s not included in the three devices I can have associated with Dropbox. (I have quite a few more associated, but those are grandfathered in.) So now I’m basically hosed, since I have four devices that I regularly need to use with Dropbox: iPhone, iPad, iMac, and MacBook Air. And since the iMac and the MacBook Air are starting to show their age (2014 and 2012 models, respectively), they’ll fall off the Dropbox wagon soon enough, and I’ll be forced to pick three of the four when I rationalize it all. Or maybe Apple will ship iCloud Drive folder sharing. Or I’ll switch to Google Drive. Sigh…

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