OneDrive: the Family Plan Loophole

When you get a Microsoft 365 Home plan, you get 1TB of OneDrive storage per user. That’s a good amount of storage, but you might want more. For example, I have a lot of photos going back almost 20 years. Tens of thousands of photos. A significant subset of those also have copies of the original RAW file taken from the DSLR, which are much larger. 1TB is a lot, but it’s reasonable that even for typical consumer purposes you might hit your limit.

Microsoft Office logo

Fortunately, there is a bit of a loophole that you can get up to 6TB of storage at a very reasonable price.

At the heart of the loophole is a factor that Microsoft understandably doesn’t promote: a file’s size only counts against the storage of the primary owner of the file. It does not count against the story of accounts the file is shared with.

In other words, this approach works:

  1. Get a Microsoft 365 Family plan if you don’t have one already. Even without this loophole it is a pretty great deal.
  2. In the family setup, share with your family members that you want to have a subscription, whether that’s for OneDrive or the desktop apps or something else.
  3. Distribute your family’s files across the family’s accounts. For example, perhaps I own the raw photos while my partner owns the edited jpg photos.
  4. Share from the person who owns the folder to everybody else in the family that needs access. For example, if I own the raw photos, I then share them with my partner so they also show up in her OneDrive.

At this point, the raw photos count against my storage limit and the edited jpg photos count against my partner’s, but we both have access to everything.

What if that still isn’t enough storage? If you haven’t used up all of your family slots yet, you can create new Microsoft accounts for free and repeat steps 2-4 with the new account.

It’s a bit more hassle to get started than if you just had 6TB of storage in one Microsoft account, but after that initial setup is done, it is functionally the same: you’ve got 6TB of storage, all accessible from one OneDrive account, at a cheap $110 CAD per year (plus that cost also gives you the desktop Office apps, Skype minutes, etc.).

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