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Sending Large Files on the Internet

Attaching files to email messages is common practice and works well enough most of the time. If you need to send a large file (or several files), however, you may discover that your email system won’t let you do so. Worse yet, while your system may allow you to send the message, but the recipient’s system may not be able to cope with it!

Over the last few years, the popular mail systems increased the maximum message size to the following limits:

GMail (GoogleMail) 20MB
Yahoo 25MB
Hotmail (Windows Live Hotmail) 25MB

Many other systems, though, are limited to a maximum of 5-10MB per message, and in any event, even 50MB may not be enough for some jobs. So, what should you do if you need to send a larger file?

Using your Mail

As mentioned above, some mail services do support fairly large attachments, so if, for example, you want to send a 20MB file from your Yahoo account to a Hotmail user, go right ahead!

Using the web

A technically superior method is to publish the file(s) on a suitable web page, and send the recipient a link to that page. They can then then download the file from that page. There are hundreds, if not thousands of web sites offering such services. For the sake of simplicity I will cover just two, both of them free.


If you have DropBox, you can rope it into service as a large-file sender. In your Dropbox folder there is a special folder called ‘Public’ which is what we will use.
  1. In the above-mentioned ‘Public’ folder create a folder and call it ‘attachments’.
  2. Place the file you want to send into the attachments folder (e.g. by using Save As... or by copying it there).
  3. RIGHT-click (if you’re a Mac user, Control-click) on the file in the attachment folders , and choose Dropbox=>Copy public link (see screenshot)

    Dropbox=>Copy public Link

  4. Compose an email to your recipient and paste the link into it. 

You can test the link by pasting it into the address line of your web browser and pressing [Return]. In all likelihood, you will get a ‘Save As...’ box, prompting you to save the file on your computer. With some file types (e.g. JPG), the file will be displayed instead, and you (or rather, your correspondent), will need to right click on it and choose to save it to disc.

An interesting feature of this method is that the attachment is ‘live’. Any changes you make on the file locally will be reflected on the copy on the web, so you can continue editing the file even after sending the link, and the recipient will, at any time, download the version of that time. Similarly, if delete the file from the attachments folder the recipient will not be able to download a fresh copy of it.

Also, a note on privacy. Using the Dropbox’s ‘Public’ folder is much like using an ex-directory phone. No one knows about it, but it’s not password protected. If you have a truly sensitive document, you may want to use a different method of sending, or at least encrypt your document before publishing it.

Finally, if you want to send multiple files, you can create a folder with all the files in the attachments folder and send the link to it. Unfortunately, this is is a little more complicated than the above. Try to work it out for yourself, and if you can’t, call me!

Use a file sharing site

There are many web sites for sharing files, some specifically designed for the purppose we dicussed, and others for general file sharing. I like to use , which has an upper limit of 100 MB per file. It’s main screen looks like this:
  1. Click on the [Choose File] button to select the file you want to send. Once you have selected and ‘opened’ it, its name will be displayed on the screen. Now just click [Upload it!] and wait for the web site to do its thing. If you want to send many files, click [Multiple-Upload] instead.
  2. Once the file has been uploaded, the screen will change to something like this:

  3. You can now copy the download link and paste it into your email.
  4. You can also go onto the administration page, which gives you a few more options, the most important of which is the the ability to protect the file(s) with a password. Without a password, anyone can find your files and download them, so you should never upload private or confidential material to 2Shared without assigning a password to it. Obviously, if you do set a password, remember to send it to the recipient!