Microsoft reveals why it decided to limit OneDrive storage

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 30, 2015

Microsoft announced some time ago that it made the decision to limit OneDrive storage for many paying and all free customers of the service.

Basically, it made the decision to limit paying customers to 1TB of storage instead of unlimited storage, paid OneDrive plans from 100GB or 200GB to 50GB, and free plans from 15GB to 5GB.

The reason given at the time was that some paying customers where abusing the unlimited storage option by uploading more than 14,000 times the average storage quota.

The explanation fell short as it made no sense to punish free users for that for instance, or users who paid for 100GB or 200GB plans.

People started to look for OneDrive alternatives, and it took a while before Microsoft caved in and decided to provide an option to free users to keep their storage, or at least part of it.

The company did also announce that OneDrive for Business users would get unlimited storage, which added to the confusion.

Episode 445 of the Windows Weekly show, featuring Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela, is a treasure trove for disgruntled Microsoft customers and company critics who don't understand some of the company's actions in recent time.

He addressed Windows upgrade concerns during the show for instance and here especially Microsoft's aggressive pushing of Windows 10 as a free update on older systems.

But that is just one of the topics covered. Another controversial move by Microsoft was the downgrade of OneDrive storage quotas for nearly all customers of the service:

There are big, big business model decisions we made this year [..]

OneDrive take back was a way to anger a bunch of die hard fans particularly in the way we did it. In that case, if anyone would have seen the math, I don't think they would have questioned the actual economics.

Why did we put ourselves in that position in the first place that was another mistake that we have made sort of a year earlier.

The economics were totally unsustainable. The way we did the communication was very rushed because of a major publication that was going to print something that was very damaging and was not true.

According to Chris Capossela, Microsoft wanted to make the announcement a couple of months further down the line and in a way that all changes would be communicated at the same time including those for OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and Office 365.

The reason why Microsoft moved the schedule ahead was that a damaging article was about to be published in a major publication. It is unclear which publication Capossela refers to and what the article would reveal, but what seems clear is that it would be about OneDrive and/or Office365.

Closing Words

The reason Microsoft's Marketing Chief provides paint the whole situation in a different light. Microsoft could have avoided much of the criticism and bad press that followed the announcement by providing a better explanation of the situation.

The move itself would have still been problematic and criticized but it is unlikely that the company would have received as much bad press at it did.

Now You: Should Microsoft be more open when it comes to the decisions it is making?

Microsoft reveals why it decided to limit OneDrive storage
Article Name
Microsoft reveals why it decided to limit OneDrive storage
Microsoft Marketing Chief Chris Capossela explained on Windows Weekly why Microsoft limited OneDrive customers for nearly all customers.

Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Wayfarer said on January 1, 2016 at 8:18 am

    I don’t understand – and have never understood – the appeal of cloud storage. Perhaps that’s because, living in rural Scotland with ADSL services offering less than 2mb/s upload speeds, I don’t care to spend hours uploading a few large files.

    But, apart from that, what’s the point, anyway? I can buy terabytes of USB storage now for prices that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Not that fast (my PC still has only USB 2.00) but still a hell of a lot faster – and infinitely more secure – than any cloud service.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. Velocity.Wave said on January 1, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      I feel exactly the same way as you Wayfarer.

      I never could understand all the excitement and hype of “cloud storage” and “cloud computing”. I want my own local personal machines to have lots of PROCESSING POWER and lots of STORAGE, and not rely on the “cloud” to do processing or storage.

      In fact, the very term “cloud” is starting to become one of those extremely eye-rolling, annoying catch phrases that isn’t hip anymore, and just invokes strong negative thoughts in many people, mainly in relation to Microsoft’s One-Drive fiasco.

      I really hope companies start using new terms that doesn’t invoke the word “CLOUD” anymore, for these types of services, because if I hear someone say “CLOUD COMPUTING” one more time at a business meeting or advertisement… !

      Anyways, so ya, for my own personal offsite backup, I just toss a mini portable hard-drive into my safety deposit box, and leave another copy at my Mom and Dad’s place as well, and leave it at that.

      But I guess if a meteor hits my city, then my data is screwed. So for that eventuality, I also uploaded copies of my most important/precious family photos to a few gmail-storage accounts. Not that anyone would ever be able to access those accounts if a meteor impacted my head! But I guess an even more distant backup of the data can’t hurt…

      Hey wait maybe that can be the new term: meteor-computing: “just in case the big one hits, you need back up solutions across the planet, so why not try our new Meteor-Drive today, with FREE unlimited storage forever and ever: we promise! Cross our heart, swear to die: No take backs!”

      1. JohnMWhite said on January 2, 2016 at 4:58 pm

        As I noted above, the purpose and draw of cloud storage and cloud computing is physical security and reliability. While your mileage may vary on whether it really is secure or reliable compared to having a physical device and storing tapes or drives yourself, for the average user it is no mystery what they see in it. Not everyone can afford a safety deposit box or has access to multiple secure homes. Not everyone sees the bank as a practical custodian of their back-up holiday snaps and video game saves.

  2. Croatoan said on December 31, 2015 at 12:33 am

    I think that Windows 10 telemetry data is the main culprit that abuses space.

    1. Babbaaa said on January 1, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      Awesome :-)

    2. Value said on December 31, 2015 at 9:26 am


  3. John said on December 30, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Thousands of ppl work for M$, and still they don’t have people working there with even a grain of that very rare thing called “being realistic”.

    They could have figured out that saying that it was unlimited meant that businesses would start using it as a backup solution in some form, many terrabytes a day, users putting their entire libraries of data on it, etc. If you then go for a average of … say 4 TB per user…. you do the math of the upkeep costs.

    1. Antoink said on December 31, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Do we really need to back up or put our files into the cloud ? The price of portable memory is always coming down

      1. JohnMWhite said on December 31, 2015 at 4:56 pm

        The idea behind the cloud is that you don’t have to worry about the physical vulnerability of portable memory. All those backup flash drives might not fit in that fire safe, or someone might just steal them. It has its own drawbacks in terms of bandwidth and security (and apparently services just deciding they don’t want to host so much any more) but it’s there for a reason.

  4. ey said on December 30, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    “rushed” seems to be the operative word at Microsoft lately (looking at Windows 10)

  5. lawguy said on December 30, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    A couple of years ago I signed up with Bitcasa because they offered unlimited storage. I spent months uploading about 3TB of files to my account. In October last year Bitcasa suddenly announced that they were eliminating their unlimited storage plans and gave customers less than a month to download their data before it was deleted. Fortunately, I kept copies of everything that I uploaded.

    At the same time that Bitcasa dumped their unlimited storage customers Micro$oft announced that they were increasing all of their 365 Onebox accounts from 1 TB to unlimited storage. So I spent the next several months uploading about 4TB of data to my Onebox account. Exactly one year later, Micro$oft dumped their unlimited storage plans. At least Micro$oft is giving plenty of time for its customers to copy their data, unlike Bitcasa that gave virtually none.

    But wait, Amazon has now started selling unlimited storage plans for their Prime customers. Surely they won’t cancel them next year!

    The moral of the story is don’t ever rely on cloud storage except as a backup and buy lots of hard drives.

    1. scott said on December 31, 2015 at 12:55 am

      I also made the mistake of getting a bitcasa sub without doing enough research. Good thing I never trusted them with anything i didn’t keep backups of. I’ve read some people lost irreplaceable photos.

      At the end of the day, cloud storage is just paying someone to hold your data hostage.

  6. Antoink said on December 30, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    However, there is an article on another website with a link allowing you to keep to 15GB even if it does go to 5GB

    1. Antonio said on December 31, 2015 at 9:34 am

      And on this website, too. :)

  7. Paranam Kid said on December 30, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Why would they not just “punish” the offenders, instead of all their customers in bulk?

    1. Decent60 said on January 2, 2016 at 3:58 am

      Bit harder to “punish” people for Microsoft’s mistake. From what I remember at the time of inception, there was no clause that stated about excessive usage, when it was unlimited. Even so, companies like Straighttalk who offered unlimited data at 4G, then punished you for using too much by reducing the speed (which defeats the purpose of unlimited), so they would have to be a bit more tactile about their approach.
      Thus is why they announced the discontinuation of the plan and gave people X amount of time to sort their storage out (probably to prevent lawsuits) and remove the plan altogether, instead of just converting it (again….lawsuit prevention).
      The fact that they’re dropping even the 200GB storage to 50GB, seems to tell that many users were using around 100GB-150GB, but the average, overall users were around 50GB mark.
      To me this shows that their redesign means that they were trying to maximize on their profits without using up their storage spaces in their data center.

      I would also think that their Unlimited Business accounts, may fall under the same issue. Tho they are limited to 1TB per user, the account can have unlimited amount of users. This could work a bit better for smaller businesses but I can’t imagine a big business willing to let their sensitive files in the hands of a company that stated that they reserve the right to view the files without your consent or warrant.

  8. cpucp3po said on December 30, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    My view of this all is that it is all about making money. Bad decisions ended up costing so they attempted to take back and charge… As for Win 10… I view this as a collaboration with the US government to rouse users to use the free software. The collaboration would allow the government to back door \ observe activities of the targeted.

    1. Amazed said on December 31, 2015 at 7:55 am

      How’s that tin hat working for you?

      1. John said on January 1, 2016 at 2:20 am

        Having a conducting hat, will attract the lightning even more to strike.

      2. Corky said on December 31, 2015 at 2:01 pm

        So far mine warned me about the bankers fiddling the system, how FIFA is a corrupt organisation, and how politicians and people in the media were abusing children, i would say it’s worked fairly well so far, how about you trusting souls that believe power doesn’t corrupt?

  9. ilev said on December 30, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Still no explanation about the take back.

  10. dodel said on December 30, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    “14,000 times the average storage quota” – the group of people that i know mostly use google drive, and some dropbox, but all of them have microsoft accounts – so they have onedrive accounts as well. making an average quota of only my close friends we can find out that from around 10 people, most of them use 0 -1 MB ( i have 2 pics on 120 kb in onedrive ) so we have an average of 0.5 MB ( maximum )… going the microsoft way 14.000 * 0.5 = 7 GB used by some that “abuse the space” – that is completely funny as i use around 20 GB on dropbox :) ( out of 22.9 GB all free from invites/camera uploads, facebook, twitter accounts, and so on … )

    onedrive can be closed at any time as it useless ( for me )

    1. najodleglejszy said on December 30, 2015 at 11:08 pm

      yeah, your sample group size is totes relevant and flawelessly extrapolates to the whole OneDrive user population.

      1. JohnMWhite said on December 31, 2015 at 4:51 pm

        Of course the sample size is small and it is one anecdote, but it is worth bearing in mind that Microsoft isn’t noting what that ‘average storage quota’ is and that experience in IT tells us that a significant proportion of users are unaware of or barely use certain features. Considering, as Martin pointed out, this explanation doesn’t even really give any grounds for the reduction in services facing users who had a cap, then it is sensible to point out Microsoft’s vague use of terms like “average storage quota”. To me, they amount to weasel words. They’re throwing 14,000 out there because it seems bit and then not telling us the reality. Lashing out with sarcasm isn’t much of a defense.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.