E-mail and IM suffice for small file transfers like Office documents or photos, but for anything more substantial (e.g., high def videos of your cat jumping into boxes) you’re going to need to look somewhere else. Even our beloved Gmail chokes on anything over 25 MB, and refuses to transfer certain files like executables (.exe). Geekier types might set up an FTP server or create a torrent, but those methods can be a hassle for quick deliveries. There are, however, various P2P (peer-to-peer) and Web-based solutions that allow you to quickly and easily share files, often with just a few clicks. Read on for our favorite ways to pass around bulky bits that e-mail just can’t handle.
Our favorite file-syncing service is also a great way to share big files or collections. Adding an item to your public folder allows anyone to grab it, but you can right-click and get a shareable link for any file or folder you’ve stored in Dropbox. This works not just from the website, but also from the context menu in your file browser. You can even selectively share files or folders with people and allow them to add or modify files, as well — as long as they also have Dropbox. The service puts no limits on the file’s size, so long as you have the available storage. Theoretically, you can share up to 2GB for free.
Best for: Collaborating and sharing several files over a long period of time.
RapidShare is known for its shady side (primarily trading pirated media, software and porn), but it’s still a top-tier choice for sharing large files. A recent update did away with the irritating wait times, and has upped the website’s file-size limit to 500MB. If you sign up for a Pro account and use the RapidShare Manager 2 app, you can share files as big as 2GB at a time. Free users are limited to ten downloads or 30 days (whichever comes first), while Pro accounts have unlimited downloads and 10,000 uploads, or a theoretical max of 20TB (but we’re pretty sure you’ll have trouble crossing that threshold). The big downside is that payments on a RapidPro account are handled through a confusing system of virtual currency called “rapids” to avoid foreign exchanges. On the plus side, non-members can receive your link and download files without any hassle.
Best for: Sharing large archives with several people who have degrees in math
Similar to RapidShare, MegaUpload is a simple place to dump files online so others can download them. You can upload 500MB of files without even signing up for an account, and each file will be stored until it has gone over 21 days without being downloaded. By registering with the site, you lengthen that period to 90 days. Registering with the site also ups your limit to 2GB, but be aware that non-premium members can only download 1GB at a time. Premium users, who cough up $9.99 per month, lose all restrictions on the number of downloads, file size and their length of storage. For non-premium members, daily caps are placed on the bandwidth.
Best for: Sharing albums and videos with members of your favorite forum.
DuShare is a slick-looking, if slightly confusing, P2P file-sharing site. Unlike previous entries on this list, the site doesn’t ask you to upload a file that other users can then download. Instead, it generates a link that, when clicked, connects the other person directly to your PC to download the file. DuShare offers a few welcome features, including the ability to chat while downloading and password protection. Plus, you must keep the site open until the file is finished transferring.
Best for: Sharing things you’d rather not upload to some shady-looking website.
FileDropper is impressive in its simplicity; upload a file up to 5GB in size, get a link, and then send it to a friend. There are no other restrictions, and registration isn’t required. Signing up for one of the premium plans (starting at a measly $0.99 a month) adds direct linking for images, bumps up the file size (to a whopping 250GB on a $10-a-month plan), and allows you to track what you upload. All of this with no spam, no wait times and no advertisements. The downside? FileDropper has some serious issues with stability and speed. The site often failed to load, and transfers varied in rate from abysmal to surprisingly fast.
Best for: Sharing movies and discographies with patient people.
This full-featured, file-sharing service limits file sizes to 200MB on free accounts, but a $10 monthly fee ups that limit to 2GB. However, a free account still entitles you to unlimited uploads, downloads, and storage. MediaFire can handle multiple uploads at once, lets you share entire folders, protect files with passwords, and view images in gallery view. It even has rudimentary integration with Facebook, Twitter and other social services. Perhaps most intriguing is the “dropbox,” which lets you embed a widget in a website that then allows others to upload files to your MediaFire account.
Best for: Chronic sharers and collectors.
If your file-sending needs are a little more modest (but still outside of the realm of an e-mail attachment), WikiSend offers a simple solution. Upload a file, give it a name, decide how long it will be available (one day to 90 days), and choose whether or not to password-protect the download. Uploads are limited to 100MB, and signing up for an account nets you no new features or advantages. But it does its thing quickly, easily and reliably.
Best for: Quick and dirty sharing of mid-sized files.
Similar to WikiSend, if a little prettier, Senduit provides only 100MB for each file, and offers only the most basic of options. But Senduit does present a more fine-grained control of a file’s lifespan. Possibilities top out at one week, but, if you want to restrict access, you can make files available for only 30 minutes to an hour.
Best for: Limited time engagements.
YouSendIt seems to be many companies’ preferred method of sharing large files. Free users can only upload files less than 100MB in size, and the files are deleted once they’ve been downloaded 100 times. Free users don’t get any permanent online storage. With a Pro or Pro Plus account, users can share files up to 2GB in size, send multiple files and folders to recipients, select how long a download is available, track downloads and benefit from DropBox integration. A Pro account runs $9.99 a month. Yet for $14.99 a month, a Pro Plus account offers more advanced tracking and security features, and increases the total storage from 2GB to 6GB.
Best for: Businesses that can afford the premium features.
Certainly the most stylized of the file-sharing sites, WeTransfer has that bubbly Web 2.0 vibe about it that you either love or hate. You can upload as many files as you want, provided they amount to less than 2GB, and share them with up to 20 people via an e-mailed link. Files are available for 14 days. WeTransfer doesn’t offer any other advanced features, but the background does rotate nicely through a series of (sometimes painfully self-conscious) images in order to keep you entertained while your files upload.
Best for: Sharing several files for a brief period of time… or for the vain.