Looking for a quick way to send a large file that's too big for email? Check out our 8 favourite free methods. (See also: Recover deleted files for free: recover lost data.)
Some people need to send large files all the time and pay a hefty amount of money to do so. Most people, though, probably never even realise they can’t send large files via email until they hit that roadblock. Most mail servers (both incoming and outgoing) restrict attachment sizes to a maximum of 10MB, and often it can be even less than that.
Gmail and Yahoo allow for bigger file sharing, but even with their respective 25MB and 20MB limits, this still isn't going to be enough for some files. See also: what's the best free email service?
If you want to quickly send a big photo album to your Facebook-phobic mother, for example, here are a few free and easy services you could use.
How to send large files: WeTransfer
WeTransfer is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to share your files. It’s free, you don’t need to register, and you can send up to 2GB at a time. You can upload and send files as often as you like with to up to 20 people at a time.
The download link shows up via email and the receiver is brought to a download page with a big background advertisement – although it is usually artistic, non-obnoxious, and you probably wouldn’t even realise it’s an advertisement unless someone told you.
One downside to WeTransfer is that uploading and sending can sometimes be a bit slow; the company suggests the impractical option of sending early in the morning and after work to avoid the rush hour of internet congestion.
Another issue is the fact that your files are only available to download for seven days. After that, they are deleted from the server and your download link will be broken. (If you clicked the link and downloaded the file within the seven days, though, you’ll have the files on your computer for as long as you’d like. You simply can’t re-download the files.) Files sent through a Channel are available for four weeks.
How to send large files: MailBigFile
MailBigFile is another quick and dirty option. You can send files up to 2GB in size and upload multiple files at a time. It also has a drag-and-drop feature that makes it even easier to share. The user experience isn't as clean and aesthetically pleasing as WeTransfer, but it’s another good, free service that gets the job done.
How to send large files: Hightail
Hightail (formerly called YouSendIt) is a bit more complicated in the fact that you need to set up an account. It’s still free, though, and you can share files up to 250 MB. You can also store up to 2GB and have 5 e-signatures. Hightail also offers secure data encryption, receipt verification, and mobile and desktop app access.
How to send large files: Dropbox
Dropbox, which is probably the most well known cloud service of the lot, is another free account-based storage and sharing service. You can share files with other Dropbox users (which means they get full read/write access to the files) or you can choose to send them a link to merely download the file without needing a Dropbox account.
You can store 2GB for free and up to 16GB for free with referrals. It works with Windows, Mac, Linxus, iPad, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. It also works in offline mode so you can access your files at anytime.
How to send large files: Google Drive
Similar to Dropbox and OneDrive (which we talk about below), Google Drive gives you space to store files on the web to access from anywhere. You'll get 15GB free space, linked to your Google account.
It's not designed to be a way of sending large files first and foremost, but it offers an easy sharing feature that does the trick, in addition to the Dropbox-like features that come with it. Find out more about Google Drive and its alternatives in our Best Cloud Storage Services round-up.
How to send large files: OneDrive
Much of the functionality in OneDrive (previously SkyDrive) is similar to Dropbox and Google Drive. You can store 15GB of files in the cloud service, and if you want more you can get 500MB of storage for every friend that signs up to an account through your referral, 15GB for linking to your mobile's camera roll.
But more importantly in this case, though, you can use it to share files for free. Any file that is stored in OneDrive can be sent to a friend quickly and easily just by pressing the Share button.
How to send large files: SugarSync
SugarSync would have been the service we'd be first to recommend, but it got rid of its free account option a few months ago.
Have no fear, though, because you can still get a 90-day limited plan with which you can send up to 5GB for free, sync with an unlimited number of devices, and have an online backup of all your work.
If you need more, you can also get a 30-day "free trial" of one of the paid pricing models, which gives you access to all SugarSync features (except remote wipe). With this option, you can send files of any size, share folders with and without permissions, and generate a public link for any file or folder and share it on Facebook, Twitter, email, and so on.When the recipients click the link, they'll be able to download the file or the entire folder without registering.
With SugarSync you can access your files from Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8), Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android devices, Kindle Fire, and Blackberry 7 – so, slightly more coverage than Dropbox offers. But, again, both of these options have expiration dates before you'd have to cough up some money, so it’s really only the best option if you plan on sending really big files for a limited time.
How to send large files: Mail Drop
If you're using a Mac, you might not have realised that there's actually a free way of sending large files for free built into Yosemite's Mail app.
It's called Mail Drop, and works by making use of iCloud to upload the file to the web and generating a link that the recipient can use to download and access the file. Even if the recipient doesn't use Mail or even if they don't use a Mac at all, they'll still be able to access the file.
If the recipient does use Mail, though, the file will automatically be downloaded as an attachment on the email and they won't even notice anything different from a normal attachment. Find out more about Mail Drop here.