Most email services place a limit on the size of emails including attachments, generally around 25MB, and users need to look elsewhere when wanting to send a large file. One of the most common and best methods for sharing large files is via cloud storage services, such as OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. We published an article last year where Dick Evans explained How To Share Large Files via Dropbox. Cloud storage services are probably the best option for users who share files regularly and frequently. However, for those who just want to share a large file on the odd occasion, or are like me and don’t use any cloud storage service, there are a number of very good online services that will enable you to easily send/share large files for free.
With the exception of Firefox Send, all these types of services tend to work on a ”Freemium” model, meaning they offer a basic service for free but with limitations, plus premium (paid for) services which include advanced and/or additional features. In this article, we’ll be looking at the free services only.
Firefox Send is my favorite of these services, it is free and easy to use, does not require any sign-up, and is very secure. Despite the name, and coming from Mozilla, Firefox Send works with any browser. The service allows users to send large files up to a total of 1GB for sharing with others via a unique link without the hassle of needing to sign in to an account. Creating a Firefox account is free and optional and allows a greater maximum file size of 2.5GB when you sign in.
You can upload a single file or multiple files at a time which Firefox Send will then assemble into a single zip file for sharing. The download link expires automatically after a maximum of either 100 downloads or seven days and lower limits on the number of downloads or days can be defined by the sender. The files are transferred with end-to-end encryption and you can protect the files further by setting a password that is required to open them.
- PROS: Send files up to 1GB with no account or sign-in required. Links expire automatically. Encryption and password protections
- CONS: Other services provide higher maximums of file sizes
This is the service I would recommend. However, if you want to send files larger than 1GB without the need to sign up, here are two more you might consider:
WeTransfer was established in 2009 and is one of the most popular of these types of services. WeTransfer’s free service does not require any sign-up and users can send/share files up to 2GB in size either by email or download link. Files are available to download for seven days. The free service does not include any security, however, encryption and password protection are available only for Pro users.
NOTE: Lack of encryption is not necessarily a huge concern, provided your files do not include any sensitive information. However, due to the lack of security, I certainly would not recommend using WeTransfer’s free service for any file(s) that are even remotely sensitive.
- PROS: No sign-up required. Supports files up to 2GB. Simple to use. Files are automatically deleted after seven days
- CONS: Zero security– encryption and password protection only for Pro users
Smash is somewhat unique in that the free service does not impose any limitations on file sizes and files are available for up to 14 days rather than the general seven days. Smash uses the SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security) protocol to protect data during transfer and the files stored on Smash are encrypted using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). In addition, Smash free also supports password protection. Files can be sent either via a unique web link or by email. There’s no requirement to create an account for the free service– just drag and drop the file(s) to get started.
- PROS: No sign-up required. No limit on file sizes. Encryption and password protections. Links automatically expire after 14 days
- CONS: Providing your email address is compulsory in order to send you notifications*
*Smash will first provide you with a link via email to delete the uploaded file at your discretion and also notify you via email when the file has been downloaded. Some may see the need to submit their email address as an imposition while others may view the notification system as a plus.
I compared each of the above services’ transfer speeds (upload and download) by sending myself a modest 140MB file– here are the results:
- Firefox Send: Upload took a little under two minutes. Download took 40 seconds
- WeTransfer: Upload two minutes. Download 60 seconds
- Smash: Upload 1 minute 20 seconds. Download 30 seconds
Speeds will obviously vary per user depending on their particular ISP plan. However, as you can see, the speeds for these three services are fairly similar. Speeds may also vary slightly depending on how busy the server in question is at the time. In the cases where the service is offering both free and premium plans, premium users will generally be prioritized, obviously as part of the inducement to upgrade.
The free services listed above are more suited to the occasional user who only wants to send a large file to someone now and then. The premium plans are more geared toward frequent use and multiple recipients, primarily for large corporations and/or organizations. ”Trust” is an important element when sending files in this way and that’s one of the reasons I recommend Firefox Send, it ticks all the boxes- free, secure, and Mozilla is a reputable and trusted organization. That said, I was pretty impressed with Smash, too– provides a fast, free, and secure service for transferring large files and, although requiring users to provide an email address, I also like Smash’s email notification system.