©2015 Donald R. Snow

This page was last updated 2015-09-21

These Freeware Corner notes are published in TAGGology, our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG) monthly newsletter, and are posted on  where there may be corrections or updates.


There are several websites where you can store files of any kind online and retrieve them wherever you are.  Most have a free version that has enough storage space for many files and then paid versions for more storage space.  I don't know of any that are free with unlimited storage space, but there may be some.  Whatever you do, don't use one of these, or even a commercial online storage site, as the only place you have your files, since you never now how long they will be in business or if you will be able to access them in the event of a disaster.  To me a combination of local, e.g. external hard drive, and online storage seems the best.

There is a difference between online backups and online storage.  Backup websites, e.g. Carbonite, Mozy, and Backblaze, back up your computer files automatically, but only keep them on their servers for 30-60 days after they are deleted on your computer, whether you are aware of the deletions on your computer or not.  So, if you inadvertently delete a file from your computer and don't know it for more than about a month, it's gone from both places.  If you have a computer crash, you usually know it and can get your computer repaired or a new computer, and then retrieve the files from such a backup company and that can be a lifesaver.  Online storage, e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, and Open Drive, is different than backups.  They store the files you upload, whether they remain on your computer or not, but they don't do it automatically and you have to decide what you want to upload and store.  This means you probably don't have all your latest work stored in online storage.  However, with online storage, no matter what happens to your computer, your files stay on the storage company's servers, as long as you pay the bill and the company stays in business.  Most online storage websites have a free version which allows you to upload and store a few gigs of files for free, but you have to pay for the premium versions to store more.  For the free versions, you usually have to access your account periodically to keep it active, but that may only be about once a year.  Again, a combination of local storage in an external hard drive and online storage on such a website seems like the best option to me.  Then, in the event of a disaster at your home where both your computer and local external hard drive backup are gone, you can still access the files from the online servers.  And if their servers all go down or the company goes out of business, you have the files stored on your own external hard drive.  In this note we will discuss a few of the online storage websites and their free properties.  We will discuss backup websites in another note.


Dropbox is a widely used online storage website.  The free version gives you 2 gigs of storage space and by referring others you, and they, get more free space.  For a cost of $99 per year you get 1 terabyte (1000 gigs) of storage space.  There are versions of Dropbox for all types of computers and mobile devices and they have slightly different appearances and properties, but all can access the files you store in your account, if they can get to the Internet.  The Internet version has an option to show who owns the file (who set it up) and who the owner has allowed to edit or just see it.  The Internet version also has icons to show the types and properties of all files you have stored.  For example, clicking on Photos shows all the photos in your account, their dates, owners, etc.  There are icons to do this for Files, Photos, Shared files, and Links.  There is an Event icon on the Internet version that has a complete history of all files in your account and by clicking on the Calendar in the upper right corner, you can go back to the way your account was at any previous date, so you can retrieve an earlier version of the file, if you need it.  Clicking on your name (upper right corner) shows how much of your total storage space you are using, so you will know if you need to delete some files to make more space.  These features only seem to be on the Internet version and not the computer version.  When you set up an account, Dropbox sets up a Public Folder in your account where you can place any file which will then be given a unique URL to send to anyone, so they can see and/or download it, even non-Dropbox users.  Other files and folders you set up can be Shared, but you have to click on the Share icon to do this, unlike in the Public Folder, where it is done automatically.  There is an official Dropbox Help Center at  and many helpful tutorials and videos on YouTube and elsewhere.  Dropbox is very helpful in family history in many ways. 


To get to Google Drive click on the 3x3 app icon ("Tic-Tac-Toe" box) in the upper right corner of the Google home page.  You'll see Drive listed with several other icons such as Search, Maps, Docs, Sheets, etc.  Log in with your Google account (free) or else set one up to log in.  If you have a Gmail address (Googlemail in England), you already have a Google account.  If you have forgotten your Gmail address and/or password, Google can send them to you, if you know the email address you subscribed from.  You get 15 gigs of storage free and can pay for more, if you need it.  When Drive opens, you will see a list of the files you have stored there, including Google Docs (text files), Sheets (spreadsheets), Slides (Powerpoint-type slides), and files and photos you have uploaded.  In front of each will be an icon which will tell you the type of file it is.  If it is a folder, it will contain other files and/or folders.  Shared files or folders will have an icon that looks like the head and shoulders of two people after the name.  To the right of the name list will be a column showing the owner of the file, date last modified, and the size.  The icon labeled "AZ" in the upper right corner has several options for sorting the files, but folders always sort first, as in Windows Explorer.  If you have lots of files, it helps to organize them by forming folders and moving the files into them.  To form new files or folders click on New (upper left corner) or else MyDrive (also upper left corner).  It is important to remember that these files are not stored on your computer, but on the Google servers and to get to them you must be connected to the Internet.  TheiHelp menu is accessed by clicking on the "Gear" icon (upper right corner).  The 3-dot vertical icon opens more actions available, such as uploading or downloading files to your computer and moving or renaming items.  The "i" icon (circle with "i" in the middle) opens the list and dates of recent actions you have performed on Drive.  If you have set up nested folders, when you are at lower levels, you see the folder hierarchy path listed at the top and can get to any other folder higher up by just clicking on the name there.  If you share a file with someone and allow them to edit it, you will see changes they make in real time and their changes will be marked with a different color.  To have a copy that stays the same on your computer and doesn't get changed, make a copy and change the name slightly and not share it.  In our family we have done this for files we wanted others to be able to edit, but keep the changes they make private.  The 2x2 icon in the upper right changes the view of the files and folders to what is called the Grid View which shows the folders as tabs with the other files below them.  There is much more to Google Drive and it is helpful for families and family history.


This is a very useful online storage website from a company that won't be going out of business soon.  It gives 25 gigs of online storage space free and they have various paid plans for more space.  I signed up for a free account several years ago and uploaded two large genealogy book pdf's and have had them stored there ever since.  They were both OCR'd (Optical Character Recognition) before I uploaded them, so when I click on them in OneDrive now they are completely every-word searchable there with the OneDrive search box.  There is a button to click to "Edit In Word", so I tried that on one of the pdf book files, but after a couple of minutes it said, "Sorry.  We have run into a problem.", and quit trying to convert it.  Perhaps it was too large a file and a shorter pdf would be converted.  To upload files or folders you can just drag and drop them onto the main page.  To form a new file click on the word New (upper left) and you see options to create a new folder, Word document, Powerpoint, or Excel spreadsheet, etc.  I don't know if you have to have those programs on your computer to be able to do that with the free version of OneDrive.  There are various ways you can sort your files and folders and it is easy to drag and drop files into other folders.  I haven't used it very much, but it seems to have many properties that I like.  


This is an online storage website that I just recently learned about and on which I signed up for a free account.  You get 5 gigs of storage space free and can subscribe for other amounts with a credit card.  It is easy to just drag-and-drop files on it to upload them and you see a percent listed at the upper right corner of how much of your 5 gigs you are using.  I uploaded 3 large Powerpoints and a pdf and it still says I'm only using 1% of my free space.  It doesn't seem to allow you to look at the file without downloading it, which is a disadvantage.  Also, it won't allow me to run my Powerpoints that I uploaded, like Dropbox and other programs will.  Other programs will even allow you to save 
changes you make to it when running.  OpenDrive has two different views of the files, List View and Grid View, from the icons in the upper right corner.  Clicking on the "Gear" icon (left side) opens your "Dashboard" chart showing your type of account, how much space you are using, and graphs of when you uploaded files and the bandwidth used.  It has folders already set up for Documents, Music, Pictures, and a Public Folder.  Moving items from one place to another is not just drag and drop, but requires right clicking > Move > Selecting the folder to move it to, and then clicking Move; very clunkly.  I can't find a way to move more than one file at a time, but there may be a way.  For uploading and downloading files it seems easy to use, but organizing your files in the program is not easy.  But with 5 gigs of free storage you may find it helpful for simple things.  


There are many other such websites.  Here are some articles and comparison charts that you might find helpful.,2817,2413556,00.asp 

Most of these rate Dropbox very high.  You can find more articles, comparisons, and information by Googling things like "online storage", etc.  Be careful when using Google, or any search engine, since companies pay to have their websites listed near the top in searches, so keep looking further down in the list and even onto the next Google pages.  If you find online storage websites that you like and recommend, please let me know and tell me why you like them.  Thanks.