Microsoft gives OneDrive users until July to shrink their storage

Users must reduce what they store in the cloud or face locked accounts and file deletions

Microsoft has given users of its OneDrive cloud storage service a 90-day notice that their free allowance will be scaled back from 15GB to 5GB in late July, according to emails and reports from customers.

The 67% reduction in free storage space will take effect July 27. On the same day, Microsoft will also eliminate the 15GB free "Camera Roll" bonus it once gave to anyone who asked. The result: Users who formerly had 30GB of free storage will have just 5GB.

Those reductions were announced in early November, when Microsoft said it was retreating from its prior promise of unlimited storage for the consumer-grade Office 365 subscriptions, the $70 Personal and the $100 Home plans. Office 365 subscribers will instead have 1TB of storage space for each user. (Office 365 Home allows up to five users; Personal only one.)

The shrinking free allotments were also announced in November. At the time, Microsoft said it would enforce the new limits "in early 2016."

onedrive notice

OneDrive users who asked Microsoft before Jan. 31 to let them keep their 15GB free storage allowance and 15GB 'Camera Roll' bonus received this email recently, confirming the retention of the larger space allowance.

In December, however, Microsoft apologized for the clumsy way it had handled the announcement and said then-current users had until the end of January to request that their 15GB Camera Roll bonus and the additional 10GB of standard storage be retained. Microsoft has honored those requests.

As part of the storage space cuts, Microsoft eliminated two paid plans that had offered 100GB for $2 per month and 200GB for $4 a month. Instead, it now offers only a 50GB plan for $2 per month.

When it broke the bad news to OneDrive users last year, Microsoft said it would give them a 90-day notice before it made the files read-only in accounts that exceeded the 5GB limit. Those users will be able to view and download their files, but will not be able to add new files to the cloud space. Other restrictions were to follow, including a locked account after nine months and possible file deletion after one year.

OneDrive users railed against the decision last year, and the news of the July deadline got their hackles up again.

"What's the reason for moving from the 15GB to the 5GB as I was very happy with the service until this announcement was made," wrote Deirdre Donohoe in a message posted to the OneDrive support forum. "Does this mean we will have to pay for a service that was once free?"

Although Microsoft said the reductions had been triggered by abuse -- in November the company said, "A small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings" -- the decrease of the free allowance could be a financial gain for the company.

According to Computerworld's calculations, if Microsoft convinced just 10% of the OneDrive estimated free user base to switch to the lowest-priced paid option, it would record almost $1.1 billion in new revenue annually.

Other OneDrive users portrayed Microsoft's changes as bait and switch.

"A year ago Windows 10 comes out with OneDrive integrated. The size of free storage was what made it a useful tool to try out and to use," said someone identified as Sid Cheeseburger last week on the support forum. "Had you started with a 5GB limit I'd have known it wasn't for me. A year on and I have just received an email telling me of intended product changes reducing this storage. I feel like I've been lured in, hooked and now had my service snatched away unless I pay. Am I the only one left wondering whether that was Microsoft's intention all along?"

Sid said he wouldn't be purchasing additional storage and complained that he had to make new plans. "So once again I'm having my time wasted having to unwind system changes as a result of a Microsoft change of product policy -- after a year," he griped.

In December, Microsoft changed the storage allowances for OneDrive for Business, the cloud-based service available to corporate users whose employers subscribed to Office 365. Rather than unlimited storage for all subscribers, Microsoft said it would scale back space to 1TB for all but workers on the more expensive E3, E4 -- since discontinued -- and E5 plans.

More information about the changes to OneDrive can be found in an FAQ that goes into detail about how the company will handle accounts that exceed the new 5GB allotment.

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