Carbonite: When unlimited is limited

I previously posted about Carbonite as a backup service that offers that I was a bit skeptical about, being as it would take over a month to backup everything on my multiple hard drives.

Well I’m glad I didn’t make it past the free 2 weeks. They canceled my account. Here is the email they sent me:

Dear Carbonite User,

We regret to inform you that you are in violation of Carbonite’s Terms
of Use –>
Your pending backup size exceeds that of our average user by at least a
factor of 10. Your account has been disabled temporarily. You must
either reduced your pending backup size so that it falls below 100GB or
cancel your account. If you have already purchased Carbonite you may
request a full refund. Please let us know how you would like to proceed.


Carbonite, Inc.


So, wait…why does it have to be under 100gigs if it is UNLIMITED?!? Let’s check the TOS:



So unlimted is limited to the average of all users? That is false advertising if I’ve ever seen it. The ironic part is the above image is directly from their main page and even trademarked. How can you trademark UNLIMITED, if you aren’t going to offer it?


42 thoughts on “Carbonite: When unlimited is limited

  1. I’m glad you brought this to light. I’ve been on their trial for 2 weeks, my computers been on 24×7, and it’s only backed up 15GB! I have a fat broadband connection which by my calculations should backup at least 10GB a day, but Carbonite is only backing up about 1GB/day. I have 100GB yet to backup. I don’t have 3 months to wait! Also, I tried to restore 3 small files that I had deleted, but it wouldn’t restore them, even after it said it did! I emailed their customer support, but they were totally clueless. I’m bummed, I really wanted this online backup to work. Maybe some day they’ll get their act together.

  2. I think Carbonite have now changed their TOS to remove this. Backups now appear to be genuinely unlimited. The TOS is dated 10th July 2006.

  3. @Greg –
    I don’t see it anymore, but of course, they have this: (which means it can come back any second they choose).

    “Carbonite may change the Terms of Use at any time, without notice to you, and in its sole discretion. The modified Terms of Use will be effective immediately upon posting on our website and you agree to the new posted Terms of Use by continuing your use of the Carbonite Products. If you do not agree with the modified Terms of Use, your only remedy is to discontinue using Carbonite Products and cancel your registration.”

  4. Simple things to remember, your upload is usually 10x slower than your download speed. What is the cost of losing your data, your pictures? Why is this peace of mind so cheap? Everyone worries about losing data, most people think “it won’t happen to me” or I backup all of my data to a removable drive (that is so secure, sitting in your house no doubt) $5.00 per month is one coffee drink you could do without.

  5. we’ve been using esilo backup for over two years with no problems. there are no limits of any kind and the support is great…they are more business oriented though.


  6. I have been going through the hell of replacing and restoring a laptop hard drive. I have Carbonite, since one of my professors has a connection to it. The service sucks! If you need to recover your files, it stays in a loop that continues to restore the same files over and over while completely ignoring others. I have been getting emails from them with the old “try this, try that” routine. Try? WTF! This is their software and they’re telling me to try something. Good thing you folks got out when you did. They’ve got a long way to go before they can expect someone to pay for this service.

  7. I do wedding work with an average of 8 gig per wedding (nefs and jpegs). My backup is DVD off site and Hard drive off site. Safest way to back up and no arguements with providers.

    With externals running at about $.60/gig I see no reason to depent on these off site schemes.

  8. Hi, try a perfect solution for all your online data storage and backup woes. Take a look at IBackup for Windows (, which was recently rated by PC World as the ‘best all-around’ service.

    Start with a free trial of the application to get a hang of its features. IBackup has easy-to-use features to do quick and safe backups of your important files and folders. All file backups you do are secure with the highest level of 128-bit SSL encryption on transmission.

    For a user looking to safely and securely backup data, what ultimately matter are the ease and the speed by which he can manage all the tasks. IBackup for Windows does exactly this for the user. A good thing about IBackup is that your online IBackup account will be mapped as a local drive onto your computer with IDrive ( Then the user can just sit in front of your machine, edit and save files and folders. You can also drag and drop files to the IBackup account from the Windows explorer. IBackup does incremental and compressed backups, which greatly reduce your network bandwidth by transferring only portions of modified files.

    With IDrive Multimedia you can stream multimedia files using a media player. The music files can also be managed with a browser application called Web-Manager ( All media files backed up in your account will be displayed in a Media Gallery and you can share these files with others by creating sharable links. You can also ‘Privately Share’ data instantly with another IBackup user using Web-Manager. Using Web-Manager you can also create new folders, upload files, move, rename, delete and search files in your online account.

  9. I have seen a lot of good press about Carbonite, but I have also seen more frustrated users’ comments. Being an IT consultant, I offer advice to my customers on a lot of IT needs. The conclusion is: low price and good press can be misleading. Common sense and real user comments are more trustable than those reviews done by PC mag, etc.

    I have compared several online backup solutions. incl. DriveHQ, FilesAnywhere, DataDepositbox, XDrive and Carbonite. doesn’t offer any kind of real backup service, but somehow they claim they have. XDrive service is terrible now being part of much hated AOL company. DriveHQ and FilesAnywhere probably have the best software. But FilesAnywhere is much harder to use and more expensive. From that point of view, DriveHQ has the best value in price, features and usability. I am not sure why DataDepositBox even exists? they don’t have a decent product, not competitive at all. But I guess they must be in this business long enough to have some business users continue paying to them or they are just keep bleeding?

  10. Carbonite is storing ~70GB for me (4.95/mo.) but I’m limited to my internal drives. I can’t backup my USB drives. Cést la vié.

    Just went through and completed (incomplete) a restore. While comparing some restored folders I discovered BIG GAPS in file listings.

    I knew one has to right click and select “back this up” to enable exe, dll and others to be backed up. What I didn’t know is how many file types are excluded. I list them all here but they have been listed on this post:

    You will learn that Carbonite’s exclusions will make it impractical for any user doing serious work who has multi gigabytes of data.

    I learned it is impossible to inventory/compare thousands of files to insure one is not missing something important.

    I discovered how SLOW explorer runs when accessing the Carbonite Backup Drive. Mine crashed three out of five attempts. I NEVER was able to view the recovery log. My system would not display it. 2.4GHZ w/2GB RAM.

    It is my opinion that the online backup industry is in its infancy with lots of business models testing the waters.

  11. Thanks for the comments, I thought Carbonite was too good to be true, and it probably is.
    The one thing people seem to forget when deciding on a backup solution, is to test the backup by restoring files. If the files don’t restore, then the backup isn’t worth squat. There is a useful utility called Easy Integrity Checker which calculates the md5 checkums of all the files if you want to be really sure of an archive.

  12. After reading many posts on several websites about Carbonite, my main reason for not using them is the tremendous amount of hidden conditions. There are just too many subtle restrictions that put real limits on the unlimited storage. If you are an “average” PC user it will work for you. If you even think you are an advanced computer user, Carbonite is not for you!
    If you look over their main website you will not find any fine print. Even after install the fine print is very hard to find. The alternatives are not so great either. Ibackup is highly rated but about 10x more expensive (for 100Gigs.)
    The most cost effective solution is Network Attached Storage (NAS). For the cost of a two year subscription to Ibackup you could get a 1Tb (one Terabyte = 1,000 Gigs) NAS server plus a copy of backup software such as Acronis Trueimage or Norton Ghost. If you go this route and locate the NAS box in a reasonably secure location of your house you can have nearly unlimited backups for years.
    Yes, this will take some effort but you will have total control over the entire process.

  13. Thank you for pointing out
    we signed up for their service and we are beyond thrilled with their service. What i love about them is
    1. daily email reports with the status
    2. AMERICAN based tech support
    3. Easy to use program
    4. Customized plans
    5. And a great referral program

  14. So if i am reading this right… and i’m no math wiz… but if you exceed the average, you’ll get booted… it takes highs and lows to make up an average.. if you keep kicking off those that exceed the average, you’ll lose a good share of your customers and your average will continue to drop, with less high useage customers.. so eventually you’ll have fired the entire majority of your customer base…? i hope it seems a bit logical to more than just me…

  15. The advertising is… innocent and yes probably false advertising. But the guy is not a business man, he is an engineer and father. Yes they should change their advertising and policies…

    I wrote to them a while ago about joining and pointed out that my data set is abnormally large, 30 years of saving bits adds up, and likely to get a lot larger. I asked about what they technically offer and options to get a bigger slice. They only said, the have only one plan.

    Given the cost of storage and hosting, $50/yr should get maybe upwards of 10 GByte of storage hosted for a year. That should be plenty for the data on a laptop (like what a college student, his intended customers, would have).

    It would be nice to have an outline of what they consider reasonable. I get that they don’t want to limit, but need to be open about the realities.

    A complete restore through a tiny straw 200Kb/s is unreasonable for a large data set. To have an option to pay for DVDs overnighted in the mail would probably be a big win for everyone. Heck, getting the DVDs as archival backups might be promoted as the norm and not the exception.

    – Rick “Food for thought” ;^)

  16. Help me here. If I’m understanding correctly, what Carbonite comes down on is users who exceed the average during the trial period. In their documentation, they use the phrasing “paid Carbonite” client. What I want to know is how do they handle their “paid” customers. I can see where they might boot an unpaid (trial) client; it’s how they handle their paying clients that interests me.
    Also, am I reading right that they don’t back up external drives? If that’s the case, I’m outta here…

  17. Yep I’m one of the latest to THINK that Carbonite was worth the money. Like any backup, it’s useless unless you verify. Now that I’m desperately trying to restore my laptop after a hard drive crash, I’ve realized what a huge steaming pile of CRAP Carbonite really is but no one knows. Yet anyway.

    It is now going to be my life’s mission to make sure everyone knows they are a fraudulent company. I’ve been trying to restore my laptop for 3 WEEKS now. Not 3 hours, 3 days, 3 freakin’ weeks! And like everyone else I was absolutely amazed they have the balls to keep people on hold for more than 3 hours straight. F-ing unbelievable.

    DON’T use Carbonite. Use an external hard drive that won’t ignore your repeated e-mail requests for help only to respond 1 1/2 weeks later saying I should try to click on the Carbonite icon at the bottom of my screen. HELLO! I HAVE no laptop going since my freakin’ hard drive crashed so I CAN’T give you my serial number to get the backup going.

    Once I got THAT problem solved it’s now been 3 weeks of every night starting the restore, it goes 1%, hangs, I have to reboot computer, restore another 1% etc. But it never goes beyond 16%.

    Carbonite SUCKS! Tell everyone. Stay away at all costs! An external hard drive costs, what, $120 for 500GB? And Carbonite will rip you off for $79 a year and NOT work?

    YOU do the math. Don’t get Carbonite!

  18. @ kevin,

    hey i have a hard drive but they fail. it is a good way of backing up your files but not 100% secure and with me editing on my computer with 20gb files at a time i have to get a hard drive with a fan which ups the chances of failure. Im not saying Carbonite rocks, but online backups are good for different circumstances.

    Just showing you a different perspective. 😎

  19. I can confirm that Carbonite has a policy of limiting your bandwidth for uploads to its online backup service – once you exceed certain limitations.

    Carbonite does not list these limitations. Instead, it continues to advertise that it is unlimited, when it well knows that its upload limitations make the service far from unlimited.

    Asking Carbonite customer service results in conflicting responses. Buyer beware!

  20. I have been using carbonite for over a month now. I have almost 250GB and it completes 10-12 gigs a night if i create that much and sits and waits for my next batch of files.

    Yes 250GB and not even an email saying i am pushing it. Also it is on Server 2008 and when my backup starts my internet is maxed out on the upload so it is using the full bandwidth and not being limited.

    Now i did hear that they have made a lot of changes from 2006-2008.

    I honestly cant complain about this service and the price is great.

  21. I’ve been restoring a backup onto a new computer and it has been over three days and only 30% done. I sent email to customer support 2 days ago and no reply. When I tried again, it said my message was pending and a new message would prevent it from being sent. What Jerko**s! They don’t even let you transmit your request for support until they are ready. They suck and when backup is completed (if ever) i will dump their sorry butts as fast as I can!

  22. One phrase sums up caarbonite’s service, taken directly from their response to my frustrations:
    2. Initial backups can take a few days. Normal upload speeds average between 2 and 3 GB per day.
    Fine, I guess if my hard drive doesn’t fail in the next 200 days while it is SLOOOOOLWY backing up my 1 TB of data, then it would be worth it.
    For the $90 I just spent on a 2 year subscription to their service, I could get a decent external and just back up in 1 hour.

  23. I just cancelled my Carbonite service and am now trying to remove it from both my laptops. I hope removal does not take as long as backup & restore! Restoration was a nightmare .. I still do not know where half my files went! Also since putting this on my laptops, both have slowed considerably in doing any other task.
    But what convinced me to cancel was the restoration process after one laptop developed a virus & I upgraded to Windows 7. Customer no-support was useless, they were reading from manuals and had no idea how to explain what to do. Website support was unclear and I had to search & search to find any information. My restoration took DAYS & DAYS to complete .. and files are still missing, plus I think they ‘restored’ a bunch of junk, like old system files I do not want.
    As soon as my laptop is clear of Carbonite, I will do a normal backup to external hard drive (30 minutes) then re-install windows to have a clean install, then recover my data (30 minutes tops)

  24. FYI: I joined Carbonite on the 8th June of 2010 and it took more than 2 weeks to upload the default files the software is setup to save (I forget, but I think it was 30GB-50GB).

    Since then I’ve told Carbonite to save my MP3 collection. Today is the 5th July of 2010 and only 130GB have been uploaded. It still has another 49GB to go. After that I have large DV files to backup, so I’m expecting this process to go on for many more months.

    As of today I have not been told by Carbonite to go away.

    One thing that does annoy me is that Carbonite screws up Windows Explorer. If you go and change filenames Explorer will hang up. If you create new files the little edit field that normally sits upon newly created files disappears.

  25. Their product caused my computer to repeatedly crach. Their customer service consists of an endless sequence of no-nothing agents with no idea of what the last agent said to me. I had to wait days or weeks for help responses while my computer constantly crashed. The product worked fine for one year but after update to it last year, it destroyed my system. ALL the crashes stopped once I permanently removed their software. Now they won’t give me a refund so I going to the Better Business Bureau, FTC, and others to get my money back. Good product in theory but since 2010 update, a dangerous product.

  26. Just get a 2TB External HDD their cheap and work. Online not such a good idea no matter which company you choose. Only problem with external HDD is the life expectancy seems to fall under 10 years, so not good idea for long term backup.

  27. The other thing they don’t tell you is that when they say “if you ever need to recover your files” does NOT mean that you can get them if you ever need to… it means you can only recover them IF THEY ARE ALSO ON YOUR HARD DISK ALREADY! If a file disappears from your hard disk for wahtever reason, then 30 days later it is deleted from your “.backup”! So your “backup” only has files that are already on your hard disk, not ones that were one there but disappeared more than 30 days ago. What kind of “backup” is that? Also, if you “freeze” your backup, then when you “unfreeze” it again, EVERYTHING YOU DON’T RESTORE AFTER THA IS DELETED FROM YOU BACKUP!

    Yup. Check the fine print in the “Terms of Service”…

    What a load of bovine excrement it is.

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