How to Access Dropbox in China for Free
Dropbox is one of the world’s most useful resources; however, its history with China is somewhat fraught. The cloud data service is free to use in many territories but has in recent years been under threat from Chinese authorities.
Does this mean that you just can’t use Dropbox at all in China?
Not necessarily, though it is worthwhile considering the options available to you should you wish to use the service abroad. In most cases, this will involve bypassing the country’s firewall outright.
China has blocked many websites over the years as part of its censorship program. Dropbox is just one of those sites to have faced an outright ban – meaning saving and sharing files is forbidden. However, as the service has been using the secure HTTPS protocol since 2014, bypassing Chinese authorities has become a little more straightforward.
What Else is Blocked in China?
Dropbox is banned in China likely due to its ability to allow users to share and save absolutely anything. Chinese censorship dictates that websites are vetted for appropriate content and are barred if they do not meet government standards. Therefore, with Dropbox offering unlimited possibilities for data and information to be shared, it has received a complete block. This censorship is known to many as the ‘Great Firewall’ – and Dropbox is not alone in being banned.
The following services are blocked outright in China:
- Google services (from search to Maps, Gmail and more)
- Entertainment services such as Netflix and YouTube
- Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- Media and journalistic services such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times
Therefore, Dropbox is far from the only site which is subject to restriction. That is why many people are keen to bypass China’s firewall.
Using a VPN
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to connect to a proxy server to act as a middleman between you and your internet service provider (ISP). That means you can use an encrypted connection based outside of China to access restricted services. VPNs will supply you with one of many different IP addresses which will be registered elsewhere in the world. Therefore, when you log into Dropbox, it will believe you are connecting from another country, granting access.
This is excellent news for anyone working or traveling abroad with the need to access specific files or photos. VPN services such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN allow you to connect safely and securely to a foreign server without fear of intrusion. It is fast becoming the new privacy standard in a world where more and more of our online activities are monitored.
You can easily set up and use a VPN on devices as diverse as PCs, laptops and even mobile phones and tablets. Many programs offer a one-subscription service where you can install their VPN for use on several devices at once. That means, you can easily access an app on the go to access Dropbox, even when you’re in China. The country is thought to be cracking down on VPN services, though many big names can still be downloaded and used freely without retribution at the time of writing.
Choosing a VPN
Once you’ve decided that using a VPN is the best option for you to take, it’s time to pick the best one for you. One of the significant factors in making your VPN decision will be that of cost. Popular VPN services such as ExpressVPN offer a 30-day money back guarantee, meaning that if you aren’t impressed with the service, you can claim cash back. However, there are other factors you should consider while shopping around.
- Look at a VPN service’s range of device options – do they offer mobile connectivity?
- Consider your privacy, too – do they promise not to log your data and your history each time you connect with them?
These are important things to consider, as well as cost, particularly, as you want to make sure that you can easily, safely and legally access Dropbox while you are in China without repercussion.
The main VPN services currently available in China for you to legally use are:
While many of these services come with subscription plans attached, it is worth paying for if you are to use Dropbox or other services regularly while abroad. Accessing Dropbox for free in China, however, is a different matter altogether, though not impossible.
One free VPN service you can use in China at the time of writing is TunnelBear, which you can use to connect to nearby servers in Hong Kong. Once again, as China is looking at VPNs right now, it’s advisable you do plenty of research.
Are There Any Alternatives?
There are alternatives to Dropbox available in China, though these may not offer the same functionality you have come to expect. However, there are some major services which remain hugely popular within the country. These include Huawei’s DBank, as well as Sinacloud, which offers a web-based storage system similar to that which you expect from Dropbox. Do bear in mind, however, that these services may be subject to Chinese surveillance.
With this in mind, it may still be worth considering downloading a VPN for use while you are away. For one, it is a service which will come in handy on home soil if you are serious about protecting your privacy.
In conclusion, while you may be able to access Dropbox in China for free, it is also worth considering signing up for a VPN subscription. This is especially the case if you are set to travel or live in the country for some time. It is also worth thinking about your own privacy concerns, as a good VPN will allow you to securely and privately connect without the threat of surveillance wherever you may be in the world. Take a look at free trials and deals before you sign up, too.