HOWTO: Email Really Big Files

Category: Email

A 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...

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 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...

Most email servers are configured to reject messages larger than 10 MB. 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. 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 (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 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. has an “insert” option on its message-composition menu bar. One of the sub-options is “Share from SkyDrive,” Microsoft’s cloud storage service. Click that to select a file already in your SkyDrive folder, or to upload one from your hard drive to be shared via SkyDrive.

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 the button and upload the file to Google Drive; when the upload is complete, Gmail automatically inserts a link to the file in your email message.

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 in your default email app; embedded in its body is a link to the file you wish to share.

For photo sharing, Flickr is another option. You get an amazing 1000 gigabytes (a million megabytes) of free space to store up to 500,000 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 choice of ads in your file-sharing business or a “premium, ad-free” subscription. TyphoonUpload and Securely Send are examples.

So go ahead, start sharing those multi-megabyte 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 "HOWTO: Email Really Big Files"

(See all 26 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

17 Nov 2014

There are a lot of sites that allow you to send "big files". Many are free, some charge. Security varies and I wouldn't necessary trust any of them with something really sensitive. But then I don't necessary trust email for that purpose either unless I encrypt the file.

Just Google send big files or mail big files. Most let you upload the file then send it. The user gets an email with a link to download. The file usually disappears in a few days. The paid versions let you keep them longer and send bigger files.

I have been using the free version of mailbigfile for a while now ( and found it met my needs on those rare occasions where I needed to send a big file. The free version limits an individual file to 2 gigabytes.

Posted by:

17 Nov 2014

The reason I signed on for Googlemail as well as mypostoffice was that the latter hardly accommodated even one photo. But I did not know about Google Drive. Admirably lucid explanation. Thanks.

Posted by:

Karl Gregg
17 Nov 2014 has an “insert” option on its message-composition menu bar. One of the sub-options is “Share from SkyDrive,” Microsoft’s cloud storage service. Click that to select a file already in your SkyDrive folder, or to upload one from your hard drive to be shared via SkyDrive.
Hi Bob, Microsoft have renamed this as OneDrive after they were taken to task by someone who had registered the name SkyDrive.

Posted by:

Walter T
17 Nov 2014

I think that one contributor to this problem is the "more megapixels are better" thinking of users. Or maybe they aren't thinking. The vast majority of digital "snapshots" will only be viewed on a phone or computer screen, so a 1M or 2Mpixel image would be adequate. But users seem to default to the maximum resolution settings for their cameras (assuming they are actually aware of such settings), and so each 10-12Mpixel photo takes up much more space, clogs up hard drives and storage cards, and cloud storage, and is more cumbersome to share.

Posted by:

17 Nov 2014

All those limitation were set not only historically, but technologically, since there is a special protocol for file exchange - ftp (File Transfer Protocol) that from the beginning of time (in the Internet terms) was intended to send files. For that, of course, you need to have access to ftp-server that is easy for any system/network administrator, but could be a tricky thing for a regular user. Before modern day cloud services there were file sharing services like rapidshare, megaupload etc. You upload your file there and send a link to that to your recipient. There were limitations like number of downloads or time limit to store it at the server or how often a file was downloaded after reaching the limit the file disappears. Also pretty handy were services like yousendit (now hightail) with different limitations according of service level - free or paid. It works similar way as file sharing services, like one week of keeping the file for free service.

But today, as Bob said, the cloud services are almost monopolist there. I'd also mentioned some of services. Megaupload transfers from file sharing service that was closed due to copyright violation (why nobody closes regular brick-and-mortar libraries?) to cloud service with generous 50Gb of space for free service. But nobody could beat Chinese cloud service with 36Tb (Terabytes) of free space. You can get this huge storage for your digital garbage... errr... sorry, preciouses after you open account there (5Gb), install PC-application (+10Tb) and install mobile phone application for Android or iOS (+26Tb). Another drawback - it completely Chinese. I mean - no English client or menu. It's not a rocket science to find out how to use it without learning Chinese (you can use Google translator imbedded into Google Chrome or find illustrated instruction in the Internet). Another option to learn Russian, since crazy Russians localized original Chinese client to their less crazy, than Chinese language. Also there is baidu cloud service with decent 2Tb space, but I didn't try them, so can not say anything about them.

Posted by:

17 Nov 2014 is a great service and free for files up to 50Mb. I use it all the time for sending articles to publishers. It was the publishers who recommended it to me!

Posted by:

17 Nov 2014

here is the one i use and it is free
Has 4 gigs and can send 5 at a time
hope this helps

Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
17 Nov 2014

I hadn't heard of 7-Zip, but I've been using another free program called Winsplit ( for several years now, which does the same thing. It works quite well.

Posted by:

John H
17 Nov 2014

The site I like best for this purpose is It is free and remarkably simple to use. The sender and receiver both get notification e-mails when a transaction is initiated and completed. You are limited to 2GB at any one time, which is usually adequate. If you want to purchase their "Plus" service, I think the limit is 10GB at a time. Jmh

Posted by:

17 Nov 2014

Also, irfanview (for windows) or GIMP (all platforms) can be easily used to resize images. (Both free.)

Posted by:

17 Nov 2014

I've had great results sending multiple photos using the website I choose the option to reduce the photo size by 75%, which hardly affects the photo quality but allows sending many more photos as an email attachment than if no resizing is done.

Posted by:

Don Trotman
18 Nov 2014

Agree with Walter T. Even 100 to 200K is plenty for snapshots. Picasa automatically reduces pix for emailing.

Posted by:

Susan Gawarecki
18 Nov 2014

I used the free version of (lets you send up to 2 GB and it stays on their site for a week) and was satisfied with the service. For my use, it was transferring a large pdf to a printer.

Posted by:

18 Nov 2014

Hi Bob,
There is that let you transfer up to 10GB for free.

Posted by:

18 Nov 2014

Sorry not 10GB but 2GB free.

Posted by:

18 Nov 2014

for my pictures, I have found this program "Easy Thumbnails" to be just that, EASY. It is free and if sending lots of photos, this will reduce in size. Excellent for websites as well.

Posted by:

Eli Marcus
18 Nov 2014

Hi Bob,
my friends and I often need to transfer music files in high quality formats (WAV files in sizes upwards of 20MB each, FLAC files, MP3 files at 320kbps, etc.) to each other, and often use the site (up to 10GB for Free), as well as another convenient site - (up to 10GB for free). is another convenient option for transfering large files ( I believe the free limit is currently 5GB).

By the way, many corporate email servers still limit their incoming email size to 10 or 12 MB out of convenience or for safety's sake so as not to invite problems that might cause the whole system to get clogged or frozen. But if you send an email withing the company, you'll often see that there is no practical limit - I've had 50MB files sent to me from within the company network...

Posted by:

19 Nov 2014

Just adding a small pro tip: if you have something REALLY large, I'd rather suggest to use Filemail - they've recently introduced a 30 GB size limit for free users, and PRO users get unlimited file sizes. Used it to send lots of 20 GB HD videos, and even to transfer a 140 GB partition backup - it always worked great.

You don't even have to register, you just send straight from their homepage and recipients get a download link in their e-mail that stays live for 7 days (free service) or 30 days (PRO account). Hope that helps someone :)

Posted by:

22 Nov 2014

I am really satisfied with MyAirBridge ( Totally for free you can send up to 20 GB, with profile even up to 100 GB!

Posted by:

28 Nov 2014

Very Quick, easy and secured!
Great for business!

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Email Really Big Files (Posted: 17 Nov 2014)
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