Tech Q&A: Why Dropbox, grandfather of online storage, is still with us

Question: When online storage service Dropbox started out, it was good for storing data and a useful way to share files too large to be sent via the email systems of the time.

But now email systems can carry bigger files, and online storage is available from several companies at relatively low rates. In addition, Dropbox limits free users of its app to a maximum of three devices, even though many people now have more than that. Is there any reason to continue using Dropbox? — S.K., New Brighton, Minn.

Answer: There are opinions about the future of Dropbox, which was one of the earliest online storage services when it began 14 years ago.

Some point out that Dropbox now has large competitors, such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon. Those larger companies can afford to offer more free storage in order to attract customers to their other, for-pay services (see

Others say that Dropbox will do well because it has found a niche by offering easy-to-use software that makes worker collaboration simpler (see

What does this mean for consumers? If you’re looking strictly for free online storage, Dropbox is not for you. Dropbox will give you 2 gigabytes of online storage for free, but Microsoft will give you 5 gigabytes and Google will give you 15 gigabytes.

But you need to judge an online storage service by more than how many gigabytes you get for free. Because, sooner or later, your storage needs will outgrow the free services.

For example, I have taken thousands of iPhone photos. I pay Apple’s iCloud service $3 per month to back up those photos online at full resolution, or sharpness. That requires about 130 gigabytes of storage space, far more than any online storage company would give me for nothing.

If you, too, eventually need to pay for more storage, Dropbox prices are competitive with those of the bigger companies. For example, Dropbox offers 2,000 gigabytes (2 terabytes) of online storage to a single user for $10 per month. Google offers the same storage at the same price (although it also has cheaper plans with less storage). Microsoft offers 100 gigabytes for $2 per month, and Amazon Photos offers 100 gigabytes for $1.70 per month.

So, does Dropbox have a future? Probably. It just won’t offer as much free storage as the other cloud services do.

Question: I was surprised to check my older PC and find that it had Windows 10 Pro Version “21H1 Build 19043.1165” installed in June 2020. Your recent column (see said that Windows 10 21H1 wasn’t available until May of this year. Can you tell me how old my copy of Windows 10 really is, and when it will become obsolete? — P.C., Minneapolis

Answer: The installation date on your PC is wrong — Windows 10 21H1 only became available in May of this year. This isn’t a serious PC error, and it could correct itself in the next update.

The good news for you is that, based on your “build number,” your PC has the latest version of Windows 10 (21H1 has itself been updated nine times). It will be good until December 2022.

For details, read the Microsoft chart called “Semi-Annual Channel” (see It shows that in June 2020, your PC would have been installing a then-new version of Windows 10 that was (confusingly) called Version 2004.