How to Send Large Files for Free

Comparison of the many free file sharing solutions

Sooner or later everyone runs into this problem: you've got a really big file or a bunch of large files that you need to quickly send to someone, but you've hit the wall called email size sending restrictions. (The typical scenario: you're on the road, working on a last-minute project, and have a huge presentation or several multimedia files you need to send to a client. However, your outgoing email server limits you to sending files of 25MB or less.)

If you Google "how to send large files," you'll find a number of services that promise to help you transfer your large files for free. With so many options, deciding which is the easiest--and, depending on your needs, fastest and most secure--way to share large files can be confusing. Never fear, here's a breakdown of the main types of services you can use to share or send large files as easily as possible.

Fastest Solution: Online File Syncing and Storage Services

If you already use a cloud storage and syncing service like Dropbox , you can save a lot of time just using one of these services because you don't have to upload the file or files you want to share. By having Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any of these other syncing tools installed, any file you work on that you save to the sync folder on your computer is by default automatically stored to the cloud (i.e., the service's online servers), so all you have to do to share the file(s) is log into the website, click on the file, and choose the option to share it by entering in the email addresses of the people who should have access to the file (the recipients will get a link to the files and can then download them).

As an alternative, these services also usually have "public" folders where anything you put in them are readily available to anyone with a link to them or to anyone searching the world wide web, so you can save or drag-and-drop files to these public folders and then just copy and paste the link in an email to your recipients. Just make sure anything you put there isn't highly sensitive.

Notes: This is the fastest solution if you already use one of these services, but there may be a case where you have a really large file to share that would put you over your service file storage limit. For example, Dropbox gives you just 2 GB of free storage and SugarSync gives you 5 GB free by default. If you don't have enough space to store the file you want to send or just don't want to clutter your online storage space with this temporary need, you'll need to look for a different solution.

Most Convenient and Full-Featured Solution: Opera Unite File Sharing

Web browser Opera offers a built-in file sharing option that's pretty convenient and often overlooked: All you have to do is install Opera Unite File Sharing to be able to share any large files you have stored on your computer with friends or family. Basically, the application with Opera Unite turns your computer into a web server and gives others a secure, password-protected link to your files. There are no limitations on file upload size or overall storage space. The other users don't have to install any applications or even use Opera to access the shared file. You can also use the File Sharing feature in Opera Unite to stream media like your music folder from your computer and do a great many other things like photo sharing and whiteboard hosting.

Learn More: For more information on how to set up and use Opera Unite, see this guide from Lifehacker.

Notes: Opera Unite does require you to install Opera on your computer, though you don't have to use Opera as your main browser. You can continue to use Chrome or Firefox, for example, but just do the Opera Unite File Sharing when you need the file sharing capabilities.

If, however, you don't want to both with having to install another application and just want to use a quick online application to send a large file, you have several other options as well.


Easiest One-Time Transfers: Dedicated File Sharing Webapps

For the simplest, one-time sharing of large files, look to services designed just for that purpose, such as and RapidShare, which offer a way to quickly upload your documents (or pictures, videos, music, etc.) and generate an instant link to the files for others to download.

There are a great many of these services, which all vary in speed, simplicity, features set, storage capacity, etc.

Some, like, for example, don't require you to create an account or login to share your files via an email link (or Facebook or Twitter link)--they're dead simple to use (press a button to add a file to share).

Others, like MediaFire, Megaupload, and RapidShare, are designed as online storage spaces for sharing large files: music, videos, photos, and so on. You can host files up to 200MB in size (Megaupload allows up to 500MB) on these sites for others to download; restrictions on free accounts apply for when files were last downloaded or the number of times they were downloaded (RapidShare limits files to be downloaded 10 times, MediaFire holds files for 30 days, and Megaupload adds a splashpage people have to look at before they can access the file. All services limit the total online storage space).

If you need more business-friendly features like password protection, return receipts, or delivery of up to 2GB file sizes, you can pay a la cart for them on YouSendIt.

Notes: Before using one of these one-time services, make sure the features meet your needs. For example, for sensitive business documents, you'll want to use the encrypted options and password-protect the file, and be able to check when the file has been picked up.

Other Options

There are many other ways you can send large files. For example, you could just save files to a USB thumb drive and shuttle it over old school to your friend/colleague. If you have a web site and, thus, web server, you could put that large file on your FTP server for the recipient to pick up.

The services above, however, are designed to make it easier and faster to share large files. If you're already using a solution like Dropbox or Google Drive, check into the built-in sharing features--you don't have to set anything else up or upload anything.

Otherwise, Opera Unite File Upload is a convenient tool with lots of functionality, and there are also lots of services that don't require any installation vyying for your attention now to help you get that ridiculously large file where it needs to be.

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