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Have a file too big for email? Here's how to share it for free

Drew Prindle

Need to transfer a large file to somebody over the internet, but don’t know how to do it? We’ve got your back. Large file transfers can be done in a few different ways, so we’ve put together this guide to cover the simplest, most effective, and most secure methods. No matter what you’re trying to send, the techniques listed below will help you get the job done without paying a dime.

Related: The five best free alternatives to Google Docs that run in your browser

Compress files before sending

Got a file that’s too big to send as an email attachment? Make it smaller! File compression will not only shrink whatever you’re trying to send, but it’ll make the transfer go faster regardless of which method you’re using — be it email, FTP, or cloud storage. Most computers come with file compression utilities built in, too, so making a ZIP file only takes a few clicks. Here’s how it’s done.

Windows Mac
Find the file you want to compress Find the file you want to compress
Right click on it and select “Send to” Two-finger click/control+click on the file
Choose “Compressed (zipped) folder” Select “Compress … [file name]”

Also, if you’re transferring music or video, we suggest using RAR compression instead of ZIP because it uses a better compression algorithm that generally cuts down on data loss and file corruption. We recommend using 7-Zip for this, as the open-source file archivists one of the best currently available.

Upload to a Cloud storage service

The best, and most popular, option for transferring large files is to upload them to an online storage service where your desired recipient can download them. Thanks to the rise of cloud computing, there are a zillion of these types of services, so we’ve taken the time to pick out some of the best ones for you. Below you’ll find a quick list of our current favorites, all of which offer plenty of storage space, security, and sharing features. Again, we won’t get into specifics on how to use each program, but will instead provide quick descriptions to help you find a service that suits your needs.

Google Drive

Drive Thumb

Google Drive offers up to 15GB of free storage and allows you to share large files, such as pictures and video, in just a few clicks. If you’ve already got a Gmail account, you can’t beat the simplicity of Drive. Upgrading to the paid version of Drive also nets you 100GB of storage for $2 per month, or a full terabyte of storage — that’s 1,000GB — for $10.


Dropbox Thumb Box P

Dropbox is another great cloud storage option that offers 2GB of free storage space and a variety of sharing options. The basic suite of features is more or less the same as Google Drive, but Dropbox also offers a mobile app for non-Android and iOS devices, such as the the Kindle Fire and Blackberry.


MediaFire Thumb P

MediaFire offers 20GB of free storage and boasts incredibly simple sharing tools. In 2014, the 200MB cap on individual file uploads was upgraded to a whopping 10GB, so even large files can be uploaded with no issues. You can also land a 1TB for $3.75 a month.


We Transer Icon

At this point, we’re basically just giving you a laundry list of different options that perform the same service. WeTransfer is free (surprise, surprise!), and it allows users to send files up to 2GB without even registering their name or email address, with a host of added features.

Use the File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

As cloud storage becomes more popular, old-school methods like FTP — the File Transfer Protocol — have largely fallen out of favor. But if you don’t want to compress your files before you send them, FTP is still your best bet. This protocol is designed for large file transfers, and all you need to start using it is a proper FTP client.

FTP is a relatively lengthy process, and it’s far more complicated than simply uploading your files to a cloud storage service, but it’s still a reliable method of moving large files for free. We won’t go into great detail about how to use each of them, but to help you get started, we’ve listed a few of our favorite free FTP clients.


Cyberduck is a free and open-source FTP client for Mac OS X and Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10, with a great interface and plenty of advanced features. Supported protocols include FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, and more.


FileZilla is capable of running on Mac, Linux, or any version of Windows from 7 to 10. As with most Linux-compatible software, FileZilla is completely free, open-source, and supports a wide range of transfer protocols.

sFTP Client for Chrome

It seems like everyone is using Google Chrome as their browser of choice these days, so it’s a no-brainer to include Chrome extension sFTP Client in our list. With this extension, you don’t have to bother downloading and installing a file transfer client; transfers can be completed quickly and easily within the browser itself.