How to save and share ridiculously large files

Want to transfer a really big file in your browser, but keep running into size limits? We break down a list of free and paid services that can lend a hand.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
10 min read

A few years ago it was a big deal to find a place that would let you share 1 gigabyte files.

Things change, though. Bandwidth keeps growing, and the cost of Web storage keeps shrinking. That's good news for people looking to share increasingly large files, be it an HD video recording or an archive of several files that tops out at over a gig.

There are now a handful of free and paid services that make it easy to host these gigantic files and send them to a friend, family member, or business associate.

The key thing to point out here is the individual file size limit. Many storage services will throw gigabytes at you without any real strings attached except for the fact that you cannot upload files larger than a gig. This really isn't a big deal, that is until that first time you need to do it. Below are a handful of sites, both free and paid, that are up to the task.

The free ones

There's no such thing as a free lunch, but the same cannot be said about storage. You can, with little effort, dump large files in a number of places. The usual caveat there is that there tends to be a lot of on-site advertising and your files may not be saved for very long in case you want to come back to re-download or share them later on.

ADrive (2GB): ADrive is more of a personal file storage service, but files can be shared via a direct link, or via e-mail. The service gives users 50GB of total storage and uploads at up to 2GB a pop. It has both a Web-based uploader and a desktop software version. There's also a paid version of the service that adds more space and FTP access.

File Xpressit (2GB): File Xpressit actually tops out at 300MB a file but will go up to 2GB if you register with the service. It is free, it just requires clicking an activation link in an e-mail. The uploader does not require Flash or Java, which is nice if you're trying to use it on a computer without it installed. The service can also give you an e-mail notification when the file has been downloaded by your recipient.

Worth noting is that to use FileXpressit, you'll need to have an e-mail address for the person you wish to send the file to. This won't actually send the gigantic file to their in-box, but it means you can't start the upload without typing it in first.

Humyo (10GB): Humyo has a free and a paid plan, but the free plan is very generous at 10GB of free storage. There are basically no set-in-stone file size limits, just a cautionary message that encourages files that are over 10GB to be split into smaller segments. We didn't actually test this with a 10GB file (and we doubt you will either), but it's nice to know you could if you wanted to.

Dropbox (2GB): Dropbox is a file storage and synchronization service. Free users get 2GB, which can be upgraded to 50GB and 100GB for $10 or $20 a month respectively. Still, if you have a file that's at exactly 2GB, or just a little bit less, you can store it on Dropbox free of charge. The only caveat here is that you need to use the software file transfer tool, as the Web-based uploader tops out at 300MB. You, and whomever you're sending the file to can also score an extra 250MB of storage if you refer them to use the service.

File Dropper is one of the heartiest services on this list, handling 5GB files right in the browser, and all for free. (Click to enlarge) Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn

File Dropper (5GB): File Dropper allows file shares of up to 5GB. That's not as much as Humyo's service, but it's still more space than you're able to fit on a single-layer DVD (not that you're sharing those, right?). Files are kept "forever," and best of all, there's no registration required. Instead, when your file is done you get a URL that links directly to the file, as well as embed code to stick a download link on a blog or personal Web site.

Along with the free service, File Dropper also has three paid plans which run anywhere from $1 to $10 a month. These can up the file size up to 50GB and 250GB in the two upper tiers.

Sizable Send (2GB): Sizable Send is another one of those services aimed at people who are trying to get around the attachment size limits put in place by most e-mail providers. Using the service, you cannot share a file with someone else without first filling out your e-mail address and that of the person you intend to share the file with.

On the plus side, the tool lets you add password protection to the file, as well as set it to be automatically deleted as soon as the person you're sending it to has downloaded it. There are also quick links to share your file on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, along with blogging tools like Blogger and WordPress.

WeTransfer (2GB): WeTransfer is one of the standouts on this list. It's a very slick and stylish site that keeps the number of things you have to fill out to an absolute minimum. You just pick the file (or files) you want to send and drop in an e-mail address for both you and the person you're sending it to. It then starts the transfer and gives you a simple status meter with an estimate of how long it has left to go. All the while you get pretty background photos to look at, which change every minute or so, along with a link to the artist who made them. This is also where the service slips in its ads.

Glide's gDrive ("no limit"): Glide is unlike many of the other services on this list in that it's not just a storage provider, it's an operating system of its own that can be accessed from any browser. Glide's "gDrive" gives users 50GB of free storage space, and users can upload files of any size when using the company's Glide One Sync software. Web uploads, however, are capped at 200MB.

Send This File ("no limit"): Send This File does not have any hard restrictions in place on how big your files can be, though it notes that some browsers cap things at 2GB. That works for us, though.

Send This File has both free and paid plans, and worth noting about the free version is that the file will only be hosted on the service for three days before being deleted. It can also be downloaded a mere three times. Other downsides include the service throttling download speeds, meaning that it could take whomever you're sending it to the greater part of a day to actually get the file unless you pony up for the paid plans. Still, if your recipient is patient, it's simple and software-free.

The paid ones

Why would you pay for storage when you can use all the above services for free, you ask? More often than not it's the extra features. Most of the sites listed below can hang onto your files for months and in some cases years. They can also throw in things like file encryption, FTP access, uploads in excess of 2GB, and a way to use the service for business.

DivShare (2GB): Divshare is more of a traditional file-hosting service than some of the others on this list have been. Like ADrive, it's set up to let you keep your files in a virtual storage disk. It then splits them up into images, videos, audio, and documents.

DivShare lets its free users upload files up to 200MB in size. Paid users get bumped to the magic 2GB mark. The only downside there is that DivShare keeps tabs on how much bandwidth has been used by people who are downloading your files. For the free plan, that's 10GB. It goes up to 75GB, 200GB, 500GB, and 2,000GB on the paid plans. (2GB): Box offers 2GB file size limits on its business and enterprise plans. For the business plan that comes out to $15 per user per month. Its free plan, which includes 1GB, otherwise caps files at a mere 25MB.

Streamfile can do files up to 30GB in its paid plan, although it requires using an FTP program. Its Web uploader tops out at 2GB. Streamfile

Streamfile (2GB web, 30GB via FTP): Streamfile can be used for free, but unregistered and registered users can only put up 150MB and 300MB files respectively. The paid account, which costs $5 a month can do 2GB uploads via its Web interface, and files up to 30GB a pop for users transferring files through an FTP application. The pro version also nixes advertisements, adds 256-bit file encryption, and keeps your download link alive for two weeks.

Dropio (2GB): Dropio, which offers users 100MB for free, has an a la carte upgrade program that can top out individual storage folders at up to 25GB. If you're uploading through the standard Web interface, though, it's capped out at 2GB. Larger files need to be split up.

The price for the 2GB "drop" as the service calls the folder, is $20, and the file will be saved for a year. Users can tack on extra time by opting for two-year storage for $40 or three-year storage for $60.

Gigasize ("no limit"): Gigasize has a free uploader service that lets you upload files up to 300MB in size. Its premium service, which costs anywhere from $10 a month down to $4 a month (depending on how long you sign up for), takes all file size limits off. It also adds a few handy features like file encryption and a terabyte of online storage.

Mailbigfile (2GB): Like Streamfile, Mailbigfile has a free version, but this tops out at 200MB uploads. Going pro, which costs $15 a year, knocks that up to 2GB, as well as adding things like an address book to keep a short list of people you're sending files to, as well as keeping files up for 28 days after they've been uploaded.

Beyond pro accounts, the service also offers a "business" account for $50 a month, or $300 a year, that can be branded, and given a custom subdomain, though it still has a cap of 2GB on individual file sizes.

YouSendIt (2GB): YouSendIt's free service is limited to 100MB uploads, whereas the pro and business plus plans, which start at $10 per month per user, bring that limit up to 2GB. Though a big downside here is how much total storage users get, which on the pro plans is topped out at 2GB. This means if you intend on sending more than one large file at a time, you have to bump up to the business plus plan, which comes with 6GB of storage.

Sendspace (1.5GB): Sendspace's pro service is the only one of its three plans that lets users upload more than 300MB. $7 gets users 20GB of storage space, and uploads up to 1.5GB apiece.

Which one to use?

So with all these choices, which one is going to give you the best bang for your buck? Or offer the most features at no cost?

If you're going for pure storage space, options like Streamfile, Glide's gDrive, Humyo, and File Dropper all offer the most, with all but Streamfile doing it for free. Again, the caveat here--at least for Streamfile and Glide--is that you can't move these big files without first installing a little bit of software on your machine. That said, it's not always a burden to do this, since these programs can often keep the uploads from slowing other browser tasks, and can resume a large upload if there's a problem with the connection.

There's also a question of whether or not you intend to access that file later on down the line. And if that's the case, it's definitely worth investing in a service that will keep it around. Many of the paid services mentioned above can also be helpful for business needs, since you can brand them with your company's logo, give your download pages custom domains, and control how many times any particular file can be downloaded.

Will there be a time when 20GB is the new 2GB? I think so. And if File Dropper's freebie 5GB and Humyo's massive 10GB are any indication, we're already well on the way to getting there.

Update: Readers have sent in a number of good ones we missed. Here they are:

Opera Unite (no limit): We were trying to stick to just Web sites and away from software, but we'll make an exception for Opera's Unite platform. Reader Ira wrote in to tell us that it's helped him share the contents of his 2TB hard drive with his family. Oh yeah, and it's also a Web browser.

Skype (no limit): Again, we're breaking the Web sites rule to mention audio/video/text chat service Skype, which readers pointed out in the comments and e-mail. Skype can do direct file transfers between two users.

Files Over Miles (limited by RAM): This free, browser-based service is only limited by how much RAM you and your recipient have. As it's explained on the service's FAQ page, "a sender may upload only those files that are smaller than the memory available on his/her computer. In turn, a recipient may download only those files that are smaller than half of the memory available on his/her computer." That makes this service pretty useful if both of you are sporting rigs with 16GB or more of RAM. Otherwise, you're probably better off with one of the other providers.

Mediafire (2GB): The three MediaFire service tiers bumps individual file sizes to 2GB--which can be uploaded through the browser. There's also a free service, although it limits files to 200MB.

SpiderOak (no limits): SpiderOak's free plan comes with 2GB of storage, meaning you can move around a single file that large. The plus plan, which gives users 100GB, has no such restrictions. Though to move files that large, you'll need to install some software on your computer.

Sugarsync (no limits): Sugarsync has four different plans that run anywhere from 60GB to 500GB. There's also a free plan that offers 2GB of total storage.