Transfer mammoth files reliably for free

Becky waring
By Becky Waring

File-transfer services make it easy and relatively reliable to exchange multi-gigabyte files with family, friends, or co-workers.

Xdrive and TransferBigFiles top the list of free file-transfer services, though each of the two imposes some limitations.


The challenge: transfer a 2GB video file

It all started innocuously enough. I simply needed to exchange a high-definition video file with a friend. Even zipped, the file was 2.4GB.

Forget e-mail. Gmail is the most generous Web-mail service for attachment size, but it tops out at 20MB. And YouSendIt’s free file-transfer service — which I frequently use and highly recommend for midsize transfers — maxes out at 100MB per file. My high-def file was more than 20 times that size.

It turns out the biggest obstacle to sending big files is not finding a free service to store them; it’s uploading the files in the first place. That 2.4GB file we wanted to exchange takes about 7 to 14 hours to transfer over a typical broadband connection (which often has an upload speed of just 384 to 768 Kbps, a fraction of its average download rate).

At first, my friend and I tried transferring the files directly between us via AOL Instant Messenger’s Send File feature. Knowing how long it would take, we started the transfer at night and hoped it would be done in the morning. The transfer wasn’t quite finished when I started work the next day, and I accidentally closed the AIM chat window, which aborted the process.

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Becky Waring

About Becky Waring

Becky Waring has worked as a writer and editor for CNET, ZDNET, Technology Review, Upside Magazine, and many other news sources. She alternates the Best Software column with Windows Secrets contributing editor Scott Spanbauer.