Here's How to Email REALLY Big Files

Category: Email

A frustrated AskBob reader asks: 'I tried to email a bunch of digital photos to my daughter, but I got an error saying EMAIL IS TOO LARGE. Sending them one at a time is a nuisance -- is there an easier way?' Well, yes! Read on to learn how to send large files by email, even if your email program says you can't...

How to Email Large Files

It’s blissfully easy to email a file attachment to someone, unless the file (or group of files) is too big. Then you get a nastygram saying "message file too big" or some other "delivery failed" error telling you that the message was rejected for being too large.

I've had this happen myself when trying to send large PDF files, photos, or even a really short video clip from my mobile phone. So why does it happen, and what can you do about these file size limits? Here's the scoop...

Many email servers are configured to reject messages larger than 10 or 20 megabytes. That’s an arbitrary limit set by email system administrators 20 years ago when mail servers were dinky little things by today’s standards. File size limits kept the mail from bogging down.

How to Send Large Files

However, the traditional email file size limit hasn’t kept pace with server power, Internet speeds, or the growth of the average file. Ten megabytes is a good-sized word processor document, but it’s just a few seconds of HD video. The 41-megapixel Nokia Lumia smartphone can take amazing photos, but the resulting image files can be 10-12 megabytes each. PDF and Powerpoint files can be many times larger. So those “file too large” bounce-backs are more common than they used to be.

Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL and Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) allow you to attach one or more files totalling up to 25 MB in size to an email, but that’s guaranteed to work only if the recipient is also using one of those services. If your “big” file attachment is bound for some other destination, it may be rejected by another server along the way. If you’re sending a file to some other address, it’s best to keep the file size under 10 MB.

But even that’s not small enough by a long shot. Attached files are converted to MIME (Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions) format before they are sent via email. At the receiving end, the text is converted back into its original format. The MIME conversion process adds about 33% to a file’s byte count, so that 10 MB limit really means, “Don’t try to send any file that’s larger than 7 MB in its original format.” Gmail’s 25 MB MIME limit becomes 16.67 MB in native format.

Alternatives to Email Attachments

Cloud storage provides a way around the file size limitations of email. Instead of sending a file via email, upload it to a cloud service and email just a link to the file to your recipient. The recipient clicks on the link in your email to download or view the file from the cloud. That’s the basic, wonderfully simple idea. Various cloud services and email providers implement and improve upon it in their own ways.

Outlook.com has an "Attach" option on its message-composition menu bar. One of the sub-options is “Browse cloud locations” which will allow you to select a file from OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service. Click that to select a file already in your OneDrive folder.

Gmail warns you if you’re trying to attach a file larger than 25 MB to an email message and says, “Don’t worry, you can send it using Google Drive.” Click to upload the file to Google Drive; when the upload is complete, Gmail automatically inserts a link to the file in your email message. I just tested this with a 74MB video of my grandkids, and it worked seamlessly.

The “Share” button on the file management menu of Dropbox and many other cloud storage services is another option. When you share via email, an email message composition form opens up, and Dropbox sends a message with an embedded link to the file you wish to share.

For photo sharing, Flickr is another option. You get free space to store up to 1000 photos on Flickr, and you can share a photo by email with just a few clicks. Photos can be marked as public or private.

More File Sharing Ideas

Even cloud services have upload size limits, though they may be measured in gigabytes instead of megabytes. If you have a really, really big file you may have to resort to one of the oldest file-sharing methods that predates the Internet.

Some archive utilities can split a file into smaller pieces and reassemble the pieces into the original file later. A free utility called 7-zip does this neatly and simply, creating sequentially named ZIP format archives of the file’s pieces. To reassemble the pieces, just provide the name of the first archive file in a series. You can split a file into multiple files of any specified size, allowing them to be sent via email or shared via cloud storage service.

There are specialty services that let you upload and share links to very large files without size limitations. They claim to provide faster file transfer speeds and secure connections. They have to make money somehow so you’ll often find a “premium, ad-free” subscription option with advanced features. If you just want to send a large file occasionally, you'll probably go with the free account option. WeTransfer and DropSend are examples.

So go ahead, start sharing those multi-megabyte (or multi-gigabyte) photos, videos, documents and spreadsheets that have been languishing on your hard drive. Just take it easy on the "cats doing funny things" variety, there are plenty of those on the Web already. :-)

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Here's How to Email REALLY Big Files"

Posted by:

Ron
22 Aug 2019

One of the alternative options is Firefox Send at https://send.firefox.com/

Firefox Send lets you share files with end-to-end encryption and a link that automatically expires. So you can keep what you share private and make sure your stuff doesn't stay online forever.

Can send files up to 1GB without an account, or sign in to send up to 2.5GB.


Posted by:

George R
22 Aug 2019

I recently had a too-large-file transmission problem and found TransferXL which worked easily and successfully.


Posted by:

Ernest Lane
22 Aug 2019

Some other file sharing sites to look at are yousendit.com and mailbigfile.com.

I typicall ZIP what I want to send into one file and send that.


Posted by:

NB
22 Aug 2019

Bob, you are guilty of misusing percentages! You increased the content file by 33% to get the MIME file size. That is multiplying by a ratio of 4/3. So you should decrease the Gmail 25 MB MIME limit by the ratio of 3/4 to get a content limit of 18.7 MB. Not by the ratio of 2/3 to get your 16.67 MB.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stop trying to confuse me with facts! :-)


Posted by:

SharonH
22 Aug 2019

WeTransfer is fantastic! One can send up to 2.0 GB for free. Very easy to do...you can either scroll to what you want to send or even more easily, just drag and drop.
What's also nice is their receipt system. In your email you will receive a receipt that says your download has been sent. You will also get one when the recipient downloads your file or folder. WeTransfer holds onto your download for seven days.

They have a paid version if you need to send really big stuff up to 20 GB.

It is a fun and friendly site. I wouldn't even consider another. And no, I don't work for them. Next time give them a try. You will not be disappointed.


Posted by:

John Mihaljevic
22 Aug 2019

I find Smash (www.fromsmash.com) does the trick. Free, easy to use by both sender and recipient(s) and can handle very large files.


Posted by:

misterfish
22 Aug 2019

I'll also put in a plug for Wetransfer. Simple, effective, free.


Posted by:

Stuart Berg
22 Aug 2019

This one will send a file of ANY size. I've used it to send files larger that 2 Gigabytes:
SendThisFile (https://www.sendthisfile.com/)


Posted by:

PeteFior
22 Aug 2019

Another approach to overcoming the photo file size problem is to use a batch mode image resizer application such as FastStone Photo Resizer 4.3.

FastStone is a image converter and renaming tool that enables users to convert, rename, resize, crop, rotate, change color depth, add text and watermarks to images in a quick and easy batch mode.

https://www.faststone.org/FSResizerDetail.htm

This free program will enable you to compress a bunch of digital photos before sending them off. I usually save the compressed photos in a sub-folder of the original files and find that the image quality remains quite good for most family style photos.

I have been using this program for many years and have found many uses for it and highly recommend it.


Posted by:

Jevon Ellis
23 Aug 2019

Whatever happened to email clients (I remember this with Outlook express) where you had an option to "break apart messages bigger than X" where you could chose X = the size I found 7mb pretty safe to get through.. so you composed an email and if it was too bi it would be sliced up into as many emails as necessary and recombined at the other end... I was sending zip files of 24 tracks of 96khz 24bit WAV file master recordings of songs this way back in the days of Windows Millennium and XP - typically about 150mb per song and it
would break down into 25 or 30 emails.. jeez i even remember doing so on dial up and leaving it sending all night!


Posted by:

Steve Morehead
23 Aug 2019

Timely info. Just ran into this today. Thanks.


Posted by:

Colin
25 Aug 2019

What is the business model for the free transfer companies?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Most offer other paid services.


Posted by:

Reynaldo
26 Aug 2019

The best I've found is pCloud Transfer. It allows you to send large files up to 5GB. Their file storage service rules too!


Posted by:

Nigel
26 Aug 2019

I've used gmail for large files several times since the article was published and it has worked flawlessly every time. Thank you for writing about large files.


Posted by:

Desmond West
04 Sep 2019

Thanks again Bob, love your posts, & now another great one.
I am responding mainly for the purpose of "I tried to email a bunch of digital photos to my daughter, but I got an error saying EMAIL IS TOO LARGE. Sending them one at a time is a nuisance -- is there an easier way?" - at the beginning.

I too used to send & receive photos, and also encountered the same problem, well I used to anyway. I then discovered a little gem of a program called
"Easy-thumbnails" - This is a free program by 'Fookes' & ALL my photos I now pass through this program, even the ones I use on my website. I can reduce most of these 3 or 5mb photos, down to about 200-700kb, depending on the size I selected. It is so easy to use, even has a feature to denote a thumbnail with the prefix, by default, of 'th_' to protect the master photo. I usually select 1024x768, as a standard, but IMHO, it is worth a look. https://www.fookes.com/easy-thumbnails


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