Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Share Large Files With Friends?

Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Share Large Files With Friends?

Dear Lifehacker, I share a lot of large files with my friends, but it seems like everyone uses different services. What’s the easiest way to do it? Thanks, Slowly Transferring

Dear ST,

The easiest way to share large files with friends is when you’re near their computer, but that’s not always an option. Thankfully, you have a lot of solid ways to share big files over the internet. Let’s take a look at what’s best and when.

Use Cloud Storage If You Have the Space

Cloud storage is typically the easiest way to share big files provided you already have an account and you have the storage space. Any of the big cloud storage providers, from Dropbox to Google Drive, offer ways to share a link to any file you have uploaded to their servers.

Unfortunately, most of these services have small file size limits. For example, Box only allows free users to upload files less than 250MB, and even Amazon Cloud Drive caps file sizes at 2GB, which isn’t enough for something like an HD movie. This means if you’re sharing very large single files, cloud storage often won’t do the trick.

Still, if your file size fits within the requirements of your cloud storage provider, it’s the easiest way to share a link to download with your friends. It takes a little while to upload the file before you can share it, but if you’re not in a hurry it’s usually the simplest method.

Share Files Directly With Opera Unite, BitTorrent Or FTP

If you don’t want to go through a third-party service, you have a bunch of massive files to share, or you’re just sick of messing around with web apps, you can share files directly from your computer with a little set up. You have a few options here, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses.

In the past, one of our favourite ways to share large files was with Opera Unite. Opera Unite essentially turned the browser into a file sharing tool where you could easily send and receive files from friends without going through any complicated setup. Unfortunately, Opera Unite was discontinued, but there are workarounds to get it to work if you’re interested.

Another similar option is to set up your own system to privately share files over BitTorrent. This sounds complicated, but all you need to do is download the software, alter a few settings, and then point your friends to your private link. Then, you’ll use BitTorrent to transfer files to and from computers. The problem with this method is that you can’t make it totally private and the person you’re sending files to will need to also download BitTorrent software. That said, if you’re not too worried about privacy and you’re sharing files with someone who’s familiar with it, BitTorrent is the way to go.

Similarly, you can also use free software such as FileZilla to turn your computer into your own private FTP server. When you set this up, you’ll share a directory on your computer with friends by giving them a network address and password. Then they’ll be able to download files from that directory. This way, you have complete control over when you’re offering files to your friends and you can revoke access at any time. It does take a little bit of technical know-how and it won’t be the fastest way to transfer files, but it gets the job done for free and offers you complete control.

Use A Storage Locker If You Don’t Care About Download Speed

If the above options aren’t your bag, you can also use a file locker like any of these. Services such as Minus and Mediafire make it simple to upload a file to their servers and then send a link to that file to your friends. Your friends can then download the file directly from the link, although sometimes they’ll have to sit through an advertisement or deal with throttled download speeds if they’re not willing to pay for an account. These file lockers are often slow if you’re not a paying member, but they get the job done and the person on the receiving end doesn’t need to do anything special to download the file.

Each of these services all have different file upload limit sizes, and Wikipedia has a handy breakdown of their speeds and maximum file size. The problem with file lockers is that they’re frequently under scrutiny from copyright holders because they’re so often used for piracy. That means you probably don’t want to use any of these services to actually back a file up, but if you just want to quickly send a link to someone, they’re a slow, but useful way to do it.

There’s still no perfect solution to share files that works for everyone, but depending on your needs, it’s pretty easily to share large files with your friends provided you know where to look. If you’re looking to just quickly share a single file one time, storage lockers are a great way to do that, but if you’re looking for long term solutions, you’ll want to look into cloud storage or setting up your server.


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  • If you’re considering FTP and have a few friends, I’d probably use something like ADC instead. It’s an oldschool approach but works remarkably well for small groups.

    It sort of feels like a cross between an IRC network and a classic filesharing client, or like a private version of soulseek. Someone installs a hub, you add accounts, and they can share any files they feel like. Built-in chat (public and private), encrypted file transfers, and a pile of rate limiting features to make sure you’re not swamped. If multiple people have the same file, some clients can split it into chunks bittorrent-style and share the load.

    -someone has to run the hub. it’s low-resource and low-bandwidth but you’ll want it on a static ip or dynamic DNS (much like an FTP server))
    -Unlike cloud services or a dedicated FTP server, you can only download from people when they’re online.
    -If you’re sharing huge files and multiple people want them, your uplink is going to take a beating.

    For a bit more information:

  • 1. Put the files on a USB or external hard drive.
    2. Get in your car.
    3. Drive to your friend.
    4. Give them the storage media.
    5. While waiting for the transfer to finish, chat with your friend.
    6. Go home once it’s done.
    (Alternatively, if you trust your friend a lot and know they won’t lose your stuff, just drop the storage media off and let them return it the next day.)

    Alright, it probably does take longer and doesn’t work for someone interstate or overseas – but a lot of my friends have really small data caps (whereas I have 300GB) so they can’t use online services to get files. So I use physical media. (If you have awesome friends they’ll even share their food and booze while you’re there.)

    The few times I’ve had to send files to people overseas I’ve used my Google drive. (I never send more than 1GB either unless it’s something they can’t find any other way – otherwise it’s faster for them to go and get it from wherever I got it.)

  • You should try also MyAirBridge ( Totally for free you can send up to 20 GB, with profile even up to 100 GB!

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