Dropbox foolishly limits its free user accounts to a mere three devices

The cloud storage market is very crowded. With behemoths such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offering competitively priced offerings (not to mention free options), how can any other company compete? Dropbox, for instance, is a great service, but the writing is on the wall -- pundits and analysts have been predicting its acquisition by one of the aforementioned three companies for years now. True, Dropbox is still successful now, but it can't afford to offer cloud storage at a loss, while the big guys can if they choose. Capitalism!

With all of that said, Dropbox would be foolish to make any wrong moves that could drive users away. And yet, the company has quietly done just that. You see, as of this month (March 2019) Dropbox is now limiting its free users to a mere three devices. While that may be enough for some, it can add up very quickly. Want to use the free Dropbox with your phone, tablet, and laptop? Well, you are now at your limit. Got another computer in the household? Maybe a Linux box? Sucks for you, bro.

ALSO READ: Dropbox makes the cloud rain poop on Linux users

Here's the thing, Dropbox is in a tough situation. Free users are probably a huge drain on its bottom line, so wanting them to upgrade to a paid account is understandable. Unfortunately for Dropbox, there are countless other free options that they can switch to. At the same time, losing free users -- even if they are unprofitable now -- will lower overall usage numbers, which investors won't like either. Ultimately, you never want to drive your own users to a competitor.

The good news is, Dropbox won't be removing devices that are already linked, so if you are a free user with more than three devices currently linked, you are OK -- for now. However, if you get a new device in the future, say a smartphone upgrade, you won't be able to add it until you get below three devices. For example, if you have 11 devices linked today, and you need to add a new one, you must first remove nine of those 11 -- or upgrade to a paid account, of course.

Will this limitation force you to leave Dropbox? Will you upgrade to a paid account? Please tell me in the comments below.

Photo credit:  Yeexin Richelle / Shutterstock

40 Responses to Dropbox foolishly limits its free user accounts to a mere three devices

  1. Peter Schott says:

    Only thing I really use dropbox for is its "request files" feature that lets people send me files for an event without needing an account. I use OneDrive for its 1TB of storage and my other sharing needs.

  2. 1DaveN says:

    Google monetizes all your personal information. Microsoft sells you Office 365 every year. I don't see how Dropbox can compete, given that they've got no way to parlay the free account into revenue.

    • MyDisqussion says:

      After a couple of years, that Office 365 starts turning into real money.

      • TechFan says:

        Loosing all your files, photos, videos and cost you more :)
        It's like 5 bucks a month, in the big picture, it's nothing. It's don't go to Starbucks one day, take your lunch to work one day, handle your cable bill to save 5 bucks a month, go all LED bulbs and save 3 times as much a month. The list goes on. Sh*t, babysitters get 10 bucks an hour so....

      • adevar says:

        Office 365 is $100 a year so it's more like $8+ a month.
        And if you don't really NEED Office 365 (any of the free desktop or online Office alternatives satisfies most people's requirements for personal use - Office 2007 is still perfectly fine for me...) and can get by using any of the several free storage options, it's $100 in your pocket every year... and I haven't lost a file, photo, or video yet. :)

      • ɥʇᴉǝpɹO says:

        It's $100. My money makes that for me while I sleep. Ain't capitalism grand?

      • adevar says:

        Spare me... the trick is for that money to be yours when you wake up. I didn't become financially independent before age 45 spending the $ my money makes while I sleep on stuff I find unnecessary.

      • ɥʇᴉǝpɹO says:


      • James Kelly says:

        That is only the beginning, thanks to Windows-as-a-service.

      • Dustojnik Hummer says:

        A lot of people pay for OneDrive and Office is just a bonus

  3. Adrian S says:

    I use it for two docs only and on three devices, desktop, laptop and phone.
    That is i really

  4. adevar says:

    Limitation will probably eventually get me to leave Dropbox, yes. I like Dropbox service/features and would be willing to pay something proportionally less for maybe 50 to 250 GB of storage... but I'm not going to pay $8.25/month for 1 TB of storage I don't need just because Dropbox apparently doesn't want to deal with anyone paying less than $100/year.

    OneDrive would be my second preferred option but I suspect Microsoft will soon cut off OneDrive support for Windows 7 - so that means Google Drive or maybe the Amazon service since I already have a Prime account. I've been less than impressed with my previous spins with Google Drive and Amazon Photos but sounds like it will soon be time for another look.

  5. James Kelly says:

    "Want to use the free Dropbox with your phone, tablet, and laptop? Well, you are now at your limit. Got another computer in the household? Maybe a Linux box? Sucks for you, bro."

    As we discovered the other day, this only affects 2.14% of all desktop users, approximately 32 million active users of Linux. Just a drop in the ocean.

    • MyDisqussion says:

      Sigh. Once again, your eyes have glazed over and you failed to see what is right in front of your face. The limit applies to any tablets, workstations, servers, phones, or other devices, above the limit of three.

      • James Kelly says:

        Only 2.14% of which (Source: Netmarketshare) are running Linux.

      • adevar says:

        Except since we're talking about multiple devices, some of the owners of that 2.14% are (like me) also part of the other 97.86% - thus for which this new restriction is decidedly inconvenient.

      • Reagan_ConservativeUSA says:

        It takes someone with knowledge of the market to understand how to interpret such numbers. Obviously you lack such knowledge. Not surprising, given your attitude and failure in reading.
        If you can't understand or use have enough technical knowledge to use Linux, blame yourself, not anything else.

      • James Kelly says:

        Netmarketshare, the source for that data, was previously described by regular users of these boards as 'very reliable' and 'highly refined'. On that basis, you don't appear to know what you're talking about.

      • Reagan_ConservativeUSA says:

        you don't appear to know what you're talking about.

        Says someone who couldn't understand how these statistics are collected. Arguing with people like you, brainless Windows minions, is like arguing with a brick wall, except the brick wall does not hurl nastiness when faced with facts.

      • James Kelly says:

        So you're just someone else who'd rather believe a single sole-outlier source than trust 5 independent sources. Right.

      • Reagan_ConservativeUSA says:

        Blah blah blah.
        You still fail to understand how these statistics are collected, and fail to even read them.
        Like I said, arguing with people like you is a waste of time. I'll leave you to live in your world of ignorance.

  6. roborat says:

    Apple has a clever way of making you pay for more cloud storage. Once you hit the free 5GB limit the annoying iCloud ad messages keep coming in. If you try and for example remove photos from iCloud sync it says you will lose all your photos! Who isn’t afraid of such message!?!

    • MyDisqussion says:

      Easy. Shutterfly has unlimited free photo storage (although not videos), and Degoo has free 100GB of storage for photos and videos.

      Flickr has 1TB stor....(well, they did once.) You can store unlimited photos if you mark them as Creative Commons. I wonder, do they have to be available from the Internet if they are marked as CC?

      • TechFan says:

        I tell a lot of people about Shutterfly, if just photos. In the end, after fighting it for a couple years, I paid the 60 bucks for Office365 which give you 1TB of OneDrive Storage. Turn out it was awesome, I have access to my stuff just about anywhere, as MS supports just about anything out there.

      • John says:

        I imagine it's assumed by anyone who visits BN that you use OneDrive and think it's awesome Techy.

      • 1DaveN says:

        Interesting question.

    • TechFan says:

      As someone new to iPhone, it's a bit annoying how much that pops up. I use OneDrive, and sync my photos/videos there. My iCloud is my iPad and iPhone backup... no photos.

  7. ms_t_rie says:

    Fortunately, I do use it on just 3 devices. Phone, tablet and laptop. Great for sharing things between them. I don't want to deal with multiple sharing apps, just one for storing it all.

  8. Azmodeus says:

    I have 2 tablets, 2 phones, 2 pc's and 2 laptops. I haven't used my measly 5GB Dropbox since I get 1TB of OneDrive free with my Office365 subscription on any number of devices.

    • ɥʇᴉǝpɹO says:

      And OneDrive makes use of FUSE and GVFS in Windows 10. The download on demand works great.

  9. realDonaldTrump says:

    Not a problem at all. Simply unregister one device and register the fourth. You're still within the three device limit.

  10. adevar says:

    I assume (or at least hope...) you meant $70 a year rather than $70 a month. Otherwise - yikes!

    • 1DaveN says:

      Haha yup - a year. Occasionally you can find it even cheaper, and the one-user version is always cheaper.

  11. Reagan_ConservativeUSA says:

    Why is it "foolish"?
    They are a business, not a charity. A service like dropbox has no other way to generate revenue form the end user with their free tier. There is no advertising or similar options for the free tier. They are paying for your network generated traffic, and the storage, and you are demanding unlimited devices?
    If you like the service that much, pay for it. Some of us did.

  12. MyDisqussion says:

    Brian, I don't know if your Linux box mention was a troll to James Kelly, but it worked perfectly.

  13. fizux says:

    I use nextcloud, self hosted at home. It has been very good to me. My only complaint is that it does poorly with very large files (like wim images).

  14. Dave says:

    I will never use dropbox ever again. So many times accounts get hacked and data stolen, they are evil company that killed good services which people used.

  15. Fred_EM says:

    Nextcloud is a good solution.

    You pay for electricity but you have full control and do not get cornered by changing business models.

    Nextcloud is not for everyone but if you can set up a Nextcloud server using the snap you can do away with Dropbox and others.

    Once you have a Nextcloud server up and running you also might install a Plex server as well (or the other way around).

  16. Dave Gomez says:

    Really foolish limitations, cause it doesn't concern third-party apps. I easily connect my Dropbox account from more than 3 devices via CloudMounter.

  17. LillyAnna Johnson says:

    pCloud does not have this limitation. Great overall service (easy, fast and secure) and outstanding
    responsiveness and assistance when I had an issue (my own mistake).
    Great value for money, I strongly recommend pCloud!

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