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Send Large Files For Free

How to send large files free over the Internet  

If you want to transfer large files for free, how do you do it?

People often look for ways to send large files by email, but you can't do this; the maximum size for problem-free transfer is tiny, about 2MB, maybe 10MB if you're lucky. You can often send files at the larger size but there tend to be problems; for example you'll jam up the person receiving's email application for a very long time and you won't make any friends like this.

So what do you do when you want to send a large zip file, or an ISO file of a CD that will be around 750MB in size? Or a DVD even?

The wrong answer is to use one of the online file transfer / file backup services. Their filesize restrictions are either way too small, or they cost money for this size of file - a monthly fee that needs paying every month in perpetuity. No way - after three years you'd have shares in the company. Small files might be free, but so what, there are many ways of sending small files of 10 or 20MB free. You want a way to send unlimited numbers of big files for free - of course.

There used to be several answers to this that made sense, such as DC hubs or even mass-market P2P applications such as eMule. Now there are some more possibilities, such as using a Firefox plugin, using your own webspace, or installing a personal web server like HFS. Some we look at here.

1. Use your website
Using your website is more feasible now as many more people have a site, or know someone whose site they can use.

2. Use a mini FTP server
You can use an on-PC FTP server at each end, and transfer files each way by SFTP (secure FTP). This is an excellent method.

3. Use a PC webserver
Installing your own personal webserver on the home / office PC is possible for everyone on a DSL (broadband or cable) connection.

4. Use Podserver
This new free service sets up a personal P2P connection between two or more people.

5. Use Drop.io
An excellent online file storage facility, free up to 100MB capacity. Probably the fastest to set up and download from.

Also there are additional Notes to help you, at the foot of the page:
How to find your IP
How to send a program over the Internet

1: Using your website to send large files

If you have your own site, you can easily send or receive large files. However, you need enough webspace to handle the big files plus whatever else you have on your website. Therefore a 100MB webspace hosting deal won't suit unless you are only talking about smallish files, say up to 50MB or so.

You'll send and receive the files by FTP, and this is how you do it:
- Create a folder on the site called downloads. But don't call it that, call it a secret name.
- Upload the file you want to send to someone else to that folder, by FTP.
- Tell your contact the URL and they can get it, either by FTP or simply via their browser.
- Give them the URL, like: www.a3webtech.com/downloads/file.zip

Only someone who knows that exact location can get it. It pays to set up some more security though, so take these two measures if you can:

- Create a blank text file called index.txt
- Change the file extension name to .html, so it now reads index.html
- Leave the file blank and don't put anything in it.
- Upload it by FTP to your /downloads/ folder.

This stops any ordinary viewing of the contents of that folder (which is called a directory on a website).

- Then, go to your server control panel, often cPanel, and look for the 'Password Protect a Directory' icon.
- Create a password for that folder, so it can't be accessed unless you know the pass.
- Give that password to your contact/s.

Then you have a private downloads directory on the site.

Advantages - it's open 24/7, people can get that file anytime, you don't have to run your own server or have your PC on. They can download at the full speed of their broadband connection, maybe 2 or 4MB perhaps.
Disadvantages - you will have to upload the files at half your DSL download speed or less (this is fixed by your broadband ISP). That's maybe only 30KB, and it takes forever. Mind you, that's about 10 times faster than the real-world download speed we had on dial-up connections in the good old days. That was torture; and there are still people in remote locations using that, of course.
Also, many hosts prohibit using their webspace for file transfer.

2: Use a mini FTP server on your PC

You can install a micro FTP server on each PC that wishes to send or exchange files. This is a good method because it is secure - no one can intercept or read the files (except agencies with large resources of course). This is about the simplest method apart from Podmail (see later).

Download the Core Mini FTP Server from here:

 - scroll down the page till you see the free version. The latest / current one is v1.15 at this time. It's less than 1MB in size - tiny. It's portable - it doesn't install on the PC and just runs from wherever the .exe file is placed. Therefore you can take it around on a USB stick.

You may need to open Port 22 on the router, though, as this is the secure FTP port. However, that may already be open.

1. Create a folder on your PC for upload / download. Put your shared file/s in that.
2. Email your contact and tell them your IP, and the filepath to the zip file on your PC you want them to be able to grab, and the password.
3. Keep your PC on, and they can grab the file.

It will be slow because they are limited to the max secure FTP upload speed from your PC, which may be 30kB or less. But it's reliable and secure.

We suggest you try a small test file first. Instead of trying for a big file first, have a small text file or jpeg in the folder, and have them grab that first, for a test.

Advantages - safe and secure. Very convenient. There are no limitations, you can send huge files, free, as often as you like. Though at some stage you will come up against your ISP's bandwidth limit if you do that (often 50GB per month, when it is unstated or especially 'unlimited'). There is no such thing as 'unlimited' anything.
Disadvantages - you have to have your PC / laptop on, in order for the other party to be able to access it. A large file (100MB plus) will take some time to transfer unless you have SDSL (business broadband with equal upload - download speed). With this method they can also delete files in that folder (by mistake perhaps); but if you have an NTFS hard disk you can protect the file/s and prevent that.

3: A home server - HFS file server for large files

A small web server application, HFS (HttpFileServer), is ideal for file transfers like this. It's only 0.5MB in size and requires no installation, it will also go on a thumb drive. It runs on your PC, and means you can transfer big files free whenever you like. You don't need a website - in fact, a small website is created that runs on your PC.

There are alternatives such as XAMPP and so on, but these are big programs and more of an enthusiast's tool. HFS can be used by anyone, almost instantly, and there is no size restriction on the files you can send - it's all on your PC and free, open-source software.

One of the big benefits of open-source is that the code is public, so that no nasties can be inserted.

Advantages - it's all on your PC so there are no limitations. You can send huge files. It's free of course. You don't have to upload any files to a web server, and uploading is slow, even on broadband (it's half the download speed or even less). You could even link a domain name to your PC and have a permanent website facility; you fix up Dynamic DNS with your domain registrar to do this - it's free.
Disadvantages -
you may have to do some port-forwarding both in your software firewall and your router, if another program like Skype is using the usual port 80 for traffic - you have to use 8080 then, and this will need forwarding through the firewall.

Don't even think about using this solution if you don't have firewalls protecting you. Y
our PC has to be on all the time; if you switch it off, no one can get the file. If and when your IP (web address) changes, you have to tell others the new IP, unless you've linked a domain to it with Dynamic DNS. If you did that you'd probably want the server on 24/7 anyway.

There is a temptation to serve massive files with this solution, a DVD for example. However, the maximum sane size for web files is about 2GB or so, and this means you might be better off using a file splitter to divide the files up and reconstruct them at the far end, if you have 4.7GB files for example. When everyone can upload at 2MB and download at 8MB, this size will increase - but until then, giant files like that are probably too big. You're talking about having a PC on for hours, just for this task. OK if you can leave it overnight though. Make sure to use a download manager :)

Install HFS

Check out the main HFS website here:

Download it from here:
Take a look at their forums here:

HFS requires no installation so you can just run it as-is. This is perhaps a little disorganised for normal use, but it's done for two reasons: to keep everything as simple as possible; and to clearly establish the fact the program is safe and doesn't do anything apart from what it is stated to do.

A slightly better arrangement is to create a folder in Program Files called HFS; place the file in there; create a shortcut for it within that folder; and drag the shortcut to wherever you need it. This is better, because when the application has a proper home, doing things like changing templates will be much easier.

Set up HFS

Start HFS up, then run its built-in network tester. This tells you if the app is working correctly, or if there are problems for instance with a firewall. The Self Test function is the first item on the Menu list at top left.

The test should pass correctly almost immediately. If it runs for more than a few seconds, testing ports and so on, then you have a problem. This will be with your software firewall or your LAN / Internet router.

The first one to look at will be the software firewall on your PC. Find the page which concerns all applications that communicate in-out. There will be a list such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Microsoft File and Printer Sharing, Mozilla Thunderbird, etc. You'll see HFS listed, and the four rows of ticks or crosses against all the applications. For HFS set all the four checks to a tick or yes, save and exit. If you block it, it won't work.

Run the self-test procedure again - the result should be a pass this time. If not, you must then look at your router. The first step however is to ensure that you are running on Port 80 in HFS. This is the default setting and YOU SHOULD NOT CHANGE IT. It's only changed if the server doesn't work due to an ISP block or some other rare network condition. Leave it on Port 80 and don't change it.

If you are on Port 80 and the network check still fails, then you may need to port-forward the router. This means to allow (a) Port 80 traffic to pass through it successfully, and (b) to forward that traffic correctly to the PC on your LAN that you choose.

Once again, this will probably not be necessary if you leave the HFS port on its default setting - the port should only be changed if you are blocked by the network for some reason. Instructions for port-forwarding a router are at the end.

Checking your server

Once all is running OK then it's time to check the result. Ensure you have a couple of files set up to serve (see next section). The best size for this is around 4MB, so an mp3 music track will be perfect.

Go to another PC - it must have Internet access - and check the server page appearance and function. To do this:

1. Find your IP - go to an Internet page such as this one - www.ipchicken.com - that tells you your Internet IP. That is your address on the Internet.
2. Type this number into your browser address bar.
3. Hit Enter, and you should see your server page. Good, eh!
4. Pick a file to download (click its name in the list).
5. Check it runs OK.

Bookmark the address so you can easily return, just as you would for any other Net resource.

Be aware that your IP will change, so it is not a permanent address you can give out to people and have done with. Your IP is a dynamic one if you are on ADSL, or standard broadband;
it changes from time to time, such as whenever you reboot your router. Here, as on dial-up, the IP will change whenever a network state change occurs, perhaps at your end or at the ISP's end. If you have cable broadband or business broadband (SDSL), this does not apply, the IP is normally static.

Sending files

Create a folder somewhere that you will place files in for transfer. Place one or more test files in it. Drag them on to the left pane of HFS, and they will be listed for transfer.

You can't place a folder there for transfer, it must be done per file. However, you can select, drag 'n drop as many files as you like. If you have a folder of files to send, then the sensible thing would be to create a single zip file, which means you'll just have the one file to deal with rather than dozens of them.

This means you'll need a proper zip application that you can zip an entire folder of files with. Some are restricted, and you can only zip one file at a time; for all practical purposes these are useless. I recommend you get Filzip, which is a real zip application and works well for this function. Make sure to avoid the best-known zip application, W*nz*p, as it is a complete nightmare to use. Why this is constantly recommended I haven't a clue.

Downloading large files from HFS server

For any large file downloads, you should use a download manager. Just because the network is mainly broadband-based now makes no difference, a download manager isn't something you just needed on dial-up.

You can now get a plugin for Firefox, so it's easier than ever to sort out. Actually this comes in two parts, the download manager and the Firefox plugin, each of which must be obtained separately. Make sure that when you start a large file download, it really is the download manager that's handling it, not the browser. To ensure this, click the Tools menu at the top, then hit the menu item for your download manager such as Flashgot.

Then, when your download fails when there's a network glitch, after an hour's downloading and 400 MB, you won't have to start from scratch again - the download manager takes all that in its stride and carries on regardless.

If you don't use a download manager and the download crashes then you may have 3 or 4 hours down the pan and need to start again. Use a download manager at the receiving end.

Download speed with HFS server

This is much slower from an HFS site than from a 'real' server, because you are restricted to the DSL upload speed of the uploading person's DSL connection. It's far slower than a real website on a server with a standard webhost - probably from a quarter to half the speed, depending on various factors. You can work it out like this: the maximum upload bandwidth on a home DSL connection is half the download speed. So, for a basic broadband connection, which is a half-megabyte speed one (512kbps), the download bandwidth is 64MB. Therefore the upload bandwidth is 32MB max. Of course, you can deduct from this any other network traffic on that LAN. Anyone else doing anything on their PC via the Net will cut into that speed.

For a 1MB broadband connection, which is double speed, the upload is 64MB bandwidth. For a 4MB hook-up, four-speed broadband, the upload is 128MB (half the download speed of 256MB). However, in practice, you'll often find that upload via HFS is limited to 30MB, even where the capability is in theory larger.

And that of course means that whoever is downloading from you is limited to half the speed of the slowest broadband connection. It doesn't really matter, it simply means you must normally use a second PC for this task as the machine will be tied up with a large file for some time (a CD-size file takes a couple of hours or more at this rate); and of course you must use a download manager, so that if the download is interrupted for any reason, it can be resumed from that point.

Serving a website

HFS is a good server for files, or maybe a single page website. You can serve this page of files as a 24/7 service just by leaving your server on. People will need to know your IP number.

Alternatively, you can assign a domain name to your page and run it exactly like a normal website. All you have to do is buy a domain name and sign up for a Dynamic DNS service. Real domain registrars like Namecheap (www.namecheap.com) provide this as part of their free service, and you can arrange it from with your domains control panel. Otherwise, if you are not with a proper domain registrar, you can find dynamic DNS services at other sites if you search.

What this does is to fix the Internet DNS (domain name service) so that it points to your server IP, and it also changes to reflect your new IP whenever that changes.

If you want to serve a full website then you'll need a better server app, HFS is best for one page of files.

Changing the template

You can change the appearance of your file page. Let's call it your website for this purpose, as it is, even though it may only be of one page.

Go to these HFS template selection pages -

...and choose a new one. Download it and follow their instructions. Bingo! A whole new look.

Server security

HFS is so small and limited that there are few if any vulnerabilities. It just does the absolute basic job, so there is little there for anyone creative to exploit. (As with any webapp, occasionally a minor exploit is discovered, and patched immediately.)

However, this doesn't apply to the Windows PC that you are most likely using. Connecting one of these to the Net with a browser is one stage, connecting as a server is going to the next stage. You have to take defence a lot more seriously, and you should have a realistic security policy.

As a minimum you should have both a hardware and software firewall, an antivirus and antispyware application, and an updated Windows installation. A Windows server (of any type) is intrinsically more vulnerable than a Linux / Apache one, as the operating system has more exploits. You should try to play safe here, if you are going to serve a website - and a single page of files is a website, if it's online 24/7. If you also have a domain name and Dynamic DNS, then you've gone the whole nine yards and need to read up seriously on server security.

To port-forward a router

Firstly, don't change the default server port in HFS unless you know for definite that the network is blocking it (ie your ISP for some reason). All servers run on Port 80, as this is the standard Internet HTTP port, and what every browser will request, so the default setting is best.

Another problem is that other programs on your PC, such as Skype, can lock port 80 to them and prevent you using it. You need to switch Skype off before you start the HFS server. You may have to actually uninstall items like net meeting applications that have 'illegally' locked out port 80 for themselves. Then, reinstall them with the server running, so they cannot hijack the comms port.

If you have to use an alt port, open your browser on a PC that you have access to the router management functions on. This can be any PC
in the network, but you'll need the router address, username, and password. The normal way to set this up is to access your LAN router (aka switch, hub, WiFi modem) from your preferred PC for these management tasks, then bookmark ('add to favourites') the router URL. As it's a network asset you can bookmark it, which also allows you to save the username and password for it just as you can for any page on the Net. This is on your internal network but it makes no difference.

Assuming you have the URL and access details, then enter the router admin and go to the menu item named something like Access Restriction, Gaming Access, Port Control or similar. There may be a single port section, and a port range section. It's normally quicker to get ports forwarded correctly if you use the Port Range page instead of the Single Port page, even if you only wish to forward one port. Enter the port as 80, for the port number required (or 80 to 80 if a range); enter Both in the checkbox for TCP / UDP / Both - but if you only get two choices, then select TCP.

Enter the LAN IP for the PC you are using as an HFS server. The LAN IP will probably be in the range 2 to 99, and most likely around 2 thru 5. You can find your local IP by going to the router page entitled Local Network, then DHCP or ARP table. This lists all connected PCs, with their local IPs. Make sure to have the PC on and connected when you do this, if the server PC is another one and not the one you are currently using to access the router management. The number you want is the last digit of the IP. If you haven't named your PCs correctly, you may have trouble identifying them on the LAN. Alternatively you may be able to use the MAC address to identify them by, though this is a rather complicated way of doing it.

If you can't make any headway, there is more useful information on routers and port-forwarding at PortForward.com.

Upload using HFS server

The latest HFS version has an Upload facility, so you can initiate a transfer between two people both with HFS running. You can upload a file as well as downloading from the other person.

However we couldn't get this feature to work correctly and the file always crashed after a few MB. No doubt this is a local issue and others may find it problem-free.

Thanks and felicitations to:
Peter Herbert, Denmark
'Gizmo' Richards, Australia
Massimo 'Rejetto', Italy

4. The Podmailing service

A new service at:

...allows you to create a pseudo-P2P connection between one or more people. A file key is sent via email to your contact after you upload the file to a central server. Your contact/s download from there, using the Bittorrent protocol. The file is public and if others supply it or request it they share upload / download duties.

Filesize is unlimited and the service is free. It's unclear what Podmailing's business model is. The service is run by a high-tech software company so perhaps it's just an advert for their abilities, at present. As bandwidth increases we will no doubt see how they propose to monetise it, as the potential traffic is enormous, and will certainly eclipse some paid file transfer services.

Advantages - a lot. This is currently the recommended option unless your file is private material. In that case, one of the other alternatives would be better.
Disadvantages - none at present.

5. Drop.io

This is a very slick service that can work out quicker to set up, to upload to, and to download from than Podserver - after you've done it once, that is. It's good for small files, less than 100MB in total per account. The idea is that it's a file drop, you can store stuff there and give the access to others.

The only negative is that they haven't had a usability specialist review their site so it's very clunky the first time you use it, along with some obvious mistakes.

For example: they tell you your files can be found at a subdomain on the site (wrong); it's very hard to find what the URL of your files will be; you can't work out if it's free or not when you first visit the site; it's incredibly hard to find your file storage account details, so perhaps these are deliberately obfuscated in order to leave your file drop open to all. Hard to say - except, obviously, they are yet another bunch of developers who never heard of usability. Same old story I guess. Example: "You will have the ability to create an unlimited number sub-domains on the Drop.io domain....." [sic]. Probably meant subdirectories, needs proofreading and logic-testing.

Anyway, we sorted all that out for you, so no need to worry - here's a guide :)

Use this service if your files are smaller than 100MB and you will access your account within a year - after that it evaporates. It's free, but you can get an upgrade to 25GB and 3 years. It's hosted by Amazon, who provide the backbone. Go to:

...and pick a drop name on the first screen. Upload your first file, <100MB remember. Set an Admin password. Then, on your account page, fix some of the settings: there is a minute link near the top right corner of the page, greyed out so it's very hard to see: Settings. Hit this and you'll get a full admin menu - set a Guest password first thing, this locks access to the account.

Your account URL will be a directory on the site (not a subdomain as they tell you), like this:

Go there, login, and you can download your stuff. Privacy etc is very good, they don't ask for an email or anything - you are totally anonymous (if you have a good security setup on your laptop and use an Internet cafe of course - otherwise, you aren't).

File transfer ways that don't work

We also found some ways that don't work:

...looks like a good option, as it has a 1GB filesize limit. However, it seems you can't send an encrypted file, as ours stopped at 9MB in. And the files look to be public as well. All in all a strange arrangement.

File transfer Notes

How to find your IP

Your IP is your address on the Internet. No one can find you without that. All websites are on a server, a computer that is connected to the Net. All computers connected to the Net, including yours, have an IP address. Use an online service to find your IP:

How to send a program over the Internet

You cannot send an installed program that is on your PC / laptop - you need the original CD or other installer file/s. You cannot save an installed program either - you need the installer. However you can usually save your configurations, and working files, of course.

If you want to send that program to someone else then this is how you do it.

1. Find the original zip installer or .exe installer file for the program. Place it in your upload / download folder, on your PC / laptop.
2. If you have no separate file but it is on a CD, then
create a new folder in your uploads folder. Call it 'myname' (all lower case, no spaces).
3. Place the CD with the program on in your CD drive.
4. When you insert the CD, keep the Shift key depressed and that usually stops the CD autorun, meaning that the program should not try to install. If it does, just exit the install routine.
5. Right-click the shortcut for your CD drive and choose Open. This allows you to see the files without running the CD.
6. You can now see the files and folders on the CD that comprise the full installer and its additional files. However, some of these files are designated invisible, normally, and if you can't see them you can't copy them. We need to fix this: go to Tools (in the menus at the top of the window for any folder) >> Folder Options >> View tab >> check Show Hidden files and folders, uncheck Hide protected operating system files. This allows you to see all files & folders, including the hidden ones you need that are part of the installer routine.
7. Right-click in any blank area of the folder, ie the window showing all the CD files. On your keyboard click Cntrl+A, which means Select All. Click Cntrl+C, which is copy. Go to your new folder called myname and open it. Click anywhere in the blank area of the folder and then click Cntrl+V, which is paste. The CD drive will start up and you will see all the files / folders transferring to the new folder on your PC.
8. When this finishes, you need to zip this into one package - a large zip file that contains all the files and folders. Close that folder and zip it. Using Filzip or 7-zip (free zip programs that you can download - search for them and download one), zip the entire folder and all its contents into one file, which will come out as myname.zip .
9. This is the file you tell your contact to download via FTP or whatever.

10. Go back to the folder menus - in any folder - and hide the system files again. Just reverse the procedure in #6.

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