How to Send Large Files for Free

Comparison of the free file-sharing solutions

Cloud Computing

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Sooner or later everyone runs into this problem: You have a huge file or a bunch of large files that you need to send to someone ASAP, but you've hit the attachment size limit imposed by your email provider, which may be only 25MB or less.

Many options are available for sending large files. Deciding which of them is the easiest, fastest and most secure way to share large files can be confusing. Before you arrive at this point, check out the types of services you can use to share or send large files.

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 stored to the cloud automatically. All you have to do to share the file is log in to 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 file and can then download it.

As an alternative, these services also usually have public folders where anything you put in them is readily available to anyone with a link to the folder or to anyone searching the 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.

This is the fastest solution if you already use one of these services, but there may be a case where you have a huge file to share that would put you over your service file storage limit. For example, Dropbox gives you just 20GB of free storage and the free SugarSync account gives you 5GB. If you don't have enough space to store the file you want to send or 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 convenient and often overlooked. Opera Unite is technology that turns your browser into a personal web server. You give 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 use Opera to access the shared file. You can also use the file sharing feature in Opera Unite to stream media such as your music folder o your computer and do a great many other things such as photo sharing and whiteboard hosting.

Opera Unite requires you to install Opera on your computer, but you don't have to use Opera as your main browser. You can continue to use Chrome or Firefox, for example, and use Opera Unite File Sharing only when you need the file-sharing capabilities.

Easiest One-Time Transfers: Dedicated File-Sharing Web Apps

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

There are many of these services, which all vary in speed, simplicity, feature set, and storage capacity

Some, like Ge.tt, for example, don't require you to create an account or log in to share your files via a link. A free anonymous account comes with 250MB of storage. It's dead simple to use; press a button to add a file to share and then copy the link the site provides.

Others, like MediaFire, are designed as online storage spaces for sharing large files: music, videos, photos, and so on. You can host files up to 10GB for free. Some restrictions on free accounts apply such as a limit on the number of times each file can be downloaded.

If you need business-friendly features such as password protection or return receipts, you can pay a la carte for them on most services.

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 encryption and password-protection with the file and be able to check when the file has been picked up.

Other Options

You can send large files in other ways. For example, you could save files to a USB thumb drive and shuttle it over old school to your friend or colleague. If you have a website and web server, you could put that large file on your FTP server for the recipient to pick up. However, these solutions aren't as convenient as the online services.