You’ve got a huge file to send to someone else—what’s the best way of going about it? Your cloud storage service of choice might well offer a robust file-sharing option, and the maximum attachment size limit on your email client might be higher than you think, but there are also a growing number of simple, one-stop file-sharing tools that make this boring-but-important task a breeze.
These online apps don’t require any complicated setup or the installation of any desktop software—they just provide clean, fast file sharing when you’ve got a lot of 1s and 0s you need to transfer somewhere else. These are the best that we’ve found, together with some more conventional options.
Not Dropbox as in the more comprehensive file syncing and sharing platform, but Dropbox as in the standalone Transfer tool: This differs from regular Dropbox file sharing in that the recipient doesn’t need a Dropbox account to download the file, and any changes made at the other end won’t sync back to your account.
You do need a Dropbox account to send a file using Dropbox Transfer, though—those on a free basic plan get a maximum file size of 100MB, which goes up to 2GB for Plus and Business Standard plans, and 100GB for Professional, Business Advanced, Enterprise, and Education plans.
Head to dropbox.com/transfer to send a file: You can pick something saved to your computer or something already in your Dropbox locker. If you’re on one of the pricier (100GB limit) Dropbox plans, you can set a custom expiry date for the link, and a password for extra security. Otherwise, you’re limited to picking 3 or 7 days as your expiry limit, without the password option.
When the transfer is ready to go you get a link, which you can paste into an email, a social media message, or whatever else. As the file sender, Dropbox will show you how many times the link has been viewed and how many times the file has been downloaded, as well as give you the option to disable the link at any time.
Firefox isn’t just a really good browser that’s a compelling alternative to Google Chrome, it’s also a file transfer service. Point your browser (Firefox or otherwise) to the Firefox Send page, and you’ll see you can send files up to 1GB total in size without so much as a registration page to slow you down.
Just click Select files to upload, pick the file(s) from your hard drive, and set the options: You can configure the download link to expire after a certain number of downloads or after a certain time period. And there’s also the option of protecting the download link with a password for that extra layer of security.
Firefox Send spits out a download link when you’re ready to share your file(s), which you can copy and paste into an email, a Twitter conversation, or anywhere else. Thanks to some cookies added locally to your system, you can keep an eye on your uploads, and remove them if needed, without logging in.
If you do log in with a Firefox account, then the maximum total file size goes up to 2.5GB, the maximum number of downloads goes up from 1 to 100, the expiry time options go up from 1 hour to 7 days, and you can share your uploads with more people at once. It’s free to sign up for a Firefox account, so it’s worth doing.
WeTransfer is a name that’s probably going to be familiar to anyone who’s ever tried to share files over the web or had files foisted upon them by someone else. For file uploads with minimal effort, that don’t really need to stick around for any particular length of time, it’s just about the best option there is.
There are free and Pro levels. If you upgrade to Pro, which will set you back $12 per month, you get a higher total file size limit (20GB rather than 2GB), custom expiration dates, password protection for your links, and even a year’s subscription to meditation and mindfulness app Headspace.
Click through to the WeTransfer upload page proper, and you can pick one or more files from your computer or select an entire folder. By default, the online tool is set up to work via email—so you’ll need to enter the recipient’s email address—but you can click the three-dot button and then the Link option to just generate a link instead.
Once you click Transfer, your files are uploaded, and you get your URL, which you can then distribute as you see fit. If you’re using WeTransfer without registering and without paying, then your files will stay online for a week.
Smash ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for something to send large files painlessly and smoothly: There are no limits on file sizes, you don’t have to register to use the service, and it’s free to use, too. (Paid plans are available, adding features like password protection and the ability to keep files available for up to a year).
The interface really couldn’t be any simpler; you just click on the Smash button to pick your files or drag them into your browser window. With the files selected, you can then decide who gets them—as with WeTransfer, you’ve got Email and Link options, depending on how you want to share the URL.
We’ve said there’s no registration involved, but you do need to provide an email address when you upload files. This is so that Smash can send you alerts when someone downloads your files, which are left up for seven days for free users.
Smash says it will even pick data servers close to you to expedite the upload process, and it’s just one of the neat touches sprinkled throughout the Smash experience. With unlimited file sizes, it’s difficult to see why you would pick another service—although, if you’re already a Dropbox user, that still might be the way to go.
File sharing options are built into all the popular cloud storage services, so if you’re already signed up for one and paying for storage, you might prefer this approach. Just be careful to double-check the permissions you’re giving out to other people and what exactly you’re giving them access to.
We’ve already mentioned Dropbox’s new Transfer feature for one-off sharing, but you can, of course, share files and folders very easily from the main Dropbox site too: Just click Share next to any file or folder. You can set a custom expiry date for your links and control whether the recipients can edit your shared files as well as view them.
If Google Drive is the place where you keep your files, click on any file or folder then the Share button (a portrait and plus icon) to share it with others—again, you can specify whether the recipients can edit or just view the file(s), and send the magic URL directly over email or just copy it to the clipboard to paste into another app.
OneDrive and iCloud have similar sharing options, though they’re not quite on the level of Dropbox and Google Drive in terms of polish and functionality (whole folder sharing still hasn’t arrived in iCloud, though Apple has promised it’s on the way). OneDrive does offer expiration dates and password protection, though it’s not quite as easy to navigate around as the other options we’ve mentioned.
Email is always ready and waiting to send your files, of course, though you might bump up against file size restrictions more often than you would like—remember, you need to think about the size of file the recipient’s email server is going to accept, as well as the size of the file you’re able to send. (If you send a file that’s too big, you should get a message back saying so).
On Gmail, the maximum attachment size is 25MB, while attachments through Apple’s iCloud email servers are capped at 20MB. In both cases, you’ll be referred to the respective cloud storage services (Google Drive and iCloud) to manage file sizes any bigger than those limits.
If you run your email through the free Outlook.com service provided by Microsoft, then your maximum attachment size is 20MB, matching Apple—again, you’ll be pointed towards a cloud storage service, in this case Microsoft, if you’re wanting to send a file or a group of files that go beyond that.
From simple, free, no-registration options that will only take you a minute to utilize, to cloud storage options that you might already be making use of, you’ve got more choice than ever when it comes to sharing huge files online.