Why you shouldn’t attach files to emails
- They are too big for the email service
- They clog up the receiver’s inbox
- They take a long time to send and receive
- The recipients inbox might exceed the limit
There are several reasons why you should not send files as attachments to emails. Before you click the paperclip button or Attach link in your email service, bear in mind the attachment maximum size limit.
The maximum size allowed for an attachment varies from service to service and Gmail has a fairly high limit of 25MB, but others can be as low as 10MB. It is very easy to exceed the limit with a few photos.
Video clips are huge and just a few seconds of footage will bust the attachment limit. You just can’t send videos via email.
You also have to bear in mind that the person who receives the email with up to 25MB of file attachments might be on their phone when it arrives. The message could download and use valuable mobile data and storage space on the device.
It could download very slowly if they are not on Wi-Fi and have a poor mobile signal. They might not be able to receive any other emails until the large attachment has downloaded. They won't thank you for clogging up the email on their phone. Also, the attachment might not be useful on the phone and it is awkward handling files on mobile devices.
Internet upload speeds are usually a fraction of the download speed and this means that sending an email with a very large attachment, which has to be uploaded, will be very slow. You could spend 10 minutes staring at the computer screen while an email is sent.
Don’t attach files to emails unless they are very small, such as under 1MB. Even then it is best looking for an alternative.
There may be a limit to the size of a user’s email inbox and sending them a very large attachment might exceed that limit and prevent them from receiving any more emails until they have deleted the one from you.
What are the alternatives to email attachments?
- Online drives
- Special services for sending attachments
Files up to 1GB in size can be sent via email or messaging service using Firefox Send. This is basically 24-hour online storage and after a day the file is deleted. This is clearly only useful if you know the person you are sending the file to will definitely read the email within the next day. If they don’t, the file is deleted.
Although this is a Firefox service, any web browser can be used. Go to send.firefox.com and drag the file you want to send from the disk to the browser.
When it has uploaded, a unique URL is provided. Click Copy to clipboard and then paste it into a new email or messaging app. When the link in the message is clicked, the file downloads.
It is a simple, slightly limited, but useful service.
WeTransfer is an alternative that has a slightly larger maximum file size of 2GB for free, and up to 20GB for the paid service. Go to wetransfer.com and click Take me to free.
Click the plus button or drag and drop a file to add it to the little email form. Enter who to send it to, which can be up to 20 people. Enter your own email address to get a notification when the file has been downloaded, and enter a short message.
This is a useful service for sending large files.
Use Google Drive
If you have a Google account, and a lot of people do, then the simplest solution is to upload the file you want to email to Google drive. There are two ways to do this and you can open a browser, go to drive.google.com and then drag the file from an Explorer window and drop it on the browser.
An alternative is to install Google Backup and Sync, the successor to the Google Drive app. This creates a folder on the disk and you can just put the file you want to send in it. It is automatically uploaded to Google Drive.
You can then create a new email in Gmail and click the Drive button in the toolbar at the bottom of the new message window. Select the file on Drive and send the email.
Unless the file is in a shared folder, a message like this is displayed. The file is not send and instead, a link is sent to the person so they can download it. The file is basically shared, but only the person you email will have the link to access it.
The maximum size of a file on Google Drive is over 1TB. Bear in mind that you need to upload the file before it can be sent. However, once on Drive, it can be sent to someone with a simple text link in the email.
Share files on OneDrive
Microsoft’s online drive can be used in a similar way. Copy or move the file you want to send to the OneDrive folder on the computer’ disk and wait a minute or two for it to sync, or go to the OneDrive website in a browser and drag files to the browser window to upload them.
OneDrive has a lower limit on the maximum file size than Google Drive, but it is still a massive 15GB, which is probably larger than anything you want to email.
When creating a new email on the outlook.com website, clicking the Attach link at the top of the new message window attaches it in the usual way, so avoid this if the file is large.
What you should do is right click the file on OneDrive in a browser window and select Share.
You then have the option to email it or get a link. If you choose Email then a tiny email window opens which has just enough space to enter the recipient’s email address and add a short message. If you want the full new message editor, get a link and then paste it in a new email.
Either way, a link to the file is sent and not the file itself. This makes it quick and easy to send. When the email is received, the person clicks the link and can download the file.
Other online drives
I won’t go into details because Dropbox, Box and other online drives can all be used in more or less the same way to OneDrive and Google Drive. Upload the file you want to send, get a link to the file and then share that link in an email or message.
In every case, instead of attaching a file to an email, you store the file somewhere online and then get a link. Send the link and not the file because the email is short, quick to send and receive, and does not clog up the inbox.