How to Share Files Online the Easy Way in 2021: With & Without an Account

File sharing can be intimidating, especially if your email provider or online chat app flashes up a warning about the file-size limit whenever you try to upload your latest piece of work or favorite photo album. If this has happened to you, read on and learn how to share files online.

Robin Barber
By Robin Barber (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-07-22T05:52:35+00:00

Online file-sharing apps have been a massive boon to workplace collaboration, allowing a whole team to access and edit documents, even if they aren’t in the office. However, individuals can also make use of these features and tools to easily share files with their friends and family. In this article, we’ll go through how to share files online and the best file-sharing software to use.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are plenty of file-sharing services available, plus cloud storage providers tend to have sharing features.
  • Dedicated services like WeTransfer are easy to use and have no signup process.
  • Collaboration features are also important considerations when sharing files.

In the past, file-sharing options were fairly limited, especially for individuals. You could physically transfer data by mailing a hard drive or floppy disk, or you could send files attached to an email. However, now you can use modern cloud storage services and dedicated transfer services to share large files between accounts.

The downside of using third-party file-sharing services is that not every organization or business is secure or a good value. Because of this, we’ve compiled a list of the best file-sharing software, so you can work out which one you want to use before you start transferring files.

  • 07/20/2021

    Updated to add information on our recommended file-sharing services and format the guide to step-by-step instructions.

  • If you want a quick one-off transfer but the file size is too large for a simple email, you should use a file-sharing service like WeTransfer that doesn’t require an account. However, for users who’ll share files regularly, a cloud storage service like Sync.com or pCloud is often a better choice.

  • Basically all cloud storage services that offer a free plan have some kind of sharing feature. You could also use a platform like pCloud Transfer or WeTransfer to send your documents, videos or other files for free.

  • For sharing files securely, Sync.com and pCloud are our top picks. However, providers like Google Drive and Dropbox are better if you need plenty of collaboration tools.

How to Share Files Online Without an App

If you just need a service that lets you send files and don’t want to mess around with security tools, you should use a site like WeTransfer. With these three simple steps, you can transfer files from any device — mobile or desktop — without even leaving your web browser.

  1. Add Your Files

    Either drag and drop your documents or click the blue plus sign and browse your local storage to upload files and folders.

    file sharing online with an app upload files
  2. Enter Email Addresses

    To send the link via email, enter both your and your recipient’s email addresses. You can also click the three dots and choose to just generate a link.

    share files online with an app enter email addresses
  3. Click “Transfer”

    Once you’ve added the files and email addresses, click the “transfer” button, and it’ll ask you to verify your email address.

    file sharing online with an app transfer
  4. Enter Your Verification Code

    Type in the six-digit code sent to your email address and wait for the upload to finish. Your recipient will receive an email from the service that they can use to view and download the documents.

    share files online with an app enter verification code

How to Share Files With Cloud Storage 

If you preferred to use a cloud storage service to make a transfer — perhaps to share them more securely — you’ll need to follow these four steps. We’ll use the desktop app for Sync.com, but you can also do this on the web or with other providers without the steps changing much.

  1. Open Your Sync.com Folder

    In Windows file explorer, open your Sync.com folder and find the files you want to share. If the files are elsewhere on your hard drive, simply drag and drop them into this folder.

    share files online with cloud storage sync folder
  2. Open the Dropdown Menu

    Select the files and folders you want to share and right-click on them to open a dropdown menu.

    file sharing online with cloud storage dropdown menu
  3. Share Your Files

    An alert will appear in the bottom-right of your screen saying that the sharing link has been copied to your clipboard. Now you can simply paste it in any email or chat app and send it to the recipient.

    file sharing online with cloud storage share files

The 5 Best File-Sharing Software 

There are four main parts to a good file-sharing service. The platform should support large files, have good security tools, be easy to use and have plenty of options for sharing and collaborating on files. Because of this, we chose these services as our top five suggestions:

  1. Sync.com — Share your files quickly and securely
  2. pCloud — Share unlimited data with other users 
  3. Google Drive — Collaborate with great built-in features for online businesses 
  4. WeTransfer — Send documents easily without an account
  5. Dropbox — Integrate your cloud storage into other apps for collaborative work

Sync.com and pCloud are our first two choices for the security and range of settings offered. On the other hand, Google Drive and Dropbox don’t have great security options but come with more collaboration tools. Finally, unlike the other cloud storage services, WeTransfer doesn’t let you store any files for free; instead, it offers quick and easy transfers without an account.

With a range of secure file-sharing services and ones that are more collaboration-friendly, this list should have something for you. However, if none of these options suit you, check out our full list of the best cloud storage providers, most of which have some sharing features.

1. Sync.com 

share files online sync.com
Sync.com is one of the best ways to share files securely.

More details about Sync.com:

  • Pricing: 5GB free, $8 per month for 2TB on the one-year plan
  • Provider website: www.sync.com

Pros:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Shared collaboration folders
  • Password protected shared links

Cons:

  • File-sharing limits on the free plan
  • Few collaboration tools

There are two ways to share with Sync.com: links and team folders. The team-shared folders are great for collaboration and have some decent permissions, such as limiting users to view-only mode or stopping them from seeing who has access to the folder. The free plan lets you own three of these folders with some options, but this is unlimited for more premium plans.

Similar to team folders, Sync.com limits sharing links to a maximum of three on the free plan. The links also can’t go over 5GB, or 500MB, if you enable end-to-end encryption. However, once created, you can easily share these via email or any chat app and secure them with an array of security features. 

Share Files Securely With Sync.com

Not only does Sync.com come with zero-knowledge encryption for all of your files, but its sharing features are second to none in terms of security. Even on the free plan, you can add password protection and “enhanced security” — Sync.com’s name for end-to-end encryption — to the download link.

There are even more options with a paid plan. You can add an expiry date, download limit, preview-only mode and email notifications for any activity on your links. After spending some time getting used to the settings and permissions you can alter, Sync.com is easily one of the most secure ways to transfer a file.  

Best offline storage Sync CTA
Sync.com is great value and has a good free plan so that you can test it out.

Sync.com is one of the best value services on our list, at only $8 per month for 2TB of storage. The Basic plan will also give you access to helpful features like the advanced sharing tools, making it even better value.  If you want to learn more, read our full Sync.com review.

2. pCloud

share files online pcloud
pCloud has a good selection of features for sharing files.

More details about pCloud:

  • Pricing: 10GB free, $7.99 per month for 2TB on the one-year plan
  • Provider website: www.pcloud.com

Pros:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • No account needed
  • Plenty of sharing options

Cons:

  • Limited free security options
  • Few collaboration tools

Much like Sync.com, pCloud has two main ways to share files. The first is the “invite to folder” option, where you can select users who can access and edit these folders. There are no limits on how many of these you create, but remember that only pCloud business accounts can share encrypted folders.

You can also create a sharing link and send that to people. They can download the content without an account, and you can view traffic stats on the “link stats” page. There are also options for password protection and expiry dates if you’re using one of the premium plans. These options are a little limited, but if you want to learn more, read our full pCloud review

Send Large Files Without an Account With pCloud Transfer 

Not only does pCloud have some nice sharing features on its main platform, but it also hosts pCloud Transfer. This lets you send files of up to 5GB to up to 10 recipients. You can also encrypt the files with a password to keep them safe from prying eyes. It will only hold files for seven days, but you don’t need an account and can send as many transfers as you want.

pCloud homepage
pCloud is relatively cheap, as long as you don’t want access to the pCloud Crypto folder.

pCloud is a pretty decent deal, only $7.99 for 2TB of storage when purchased yearly. However, you’ll have to consider the extra $3.99 you’ll have to pay for pCloud Crypto if you want zero-knowledge encryption.

3. Google Drive

share files online google drive
Google Drive is a well-known service with tons of great collaboration tools.

More details about Google Drive:

  • Pricing: 15GB free, $8.33 per month for 2TB on the one-year plan
  • Provider website: drive.google.com

Pros:

  • Great collaboration tools
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • No end-to-end encryption
  • Few security features
  • Limited sharing options

Google Drive gives you less freedom than some other providers when sharing files, with only three permission levels available: viewing, commenting or editing. There are no passwords, expiry dates, end-to-end encryption or download limits, and everyone who has access sees any updates to the document in real time.

However, while Google Drive lacks in privacy and sharing options, it has plenty of collaboration features. You can send invites to people without Google accounts, and they can access the files as anonymous users. Plus, other collaborators don’t have to take up space on their own hard drive or cloud storage to hold on to the files. Learn more by reading our Google Drive review.  

Collaborate in Real Time With Google Drive

The biggest feature that aids collaboration is Google Docs. This free online office software is great for working with others. You can make comments and suggestions, edit the page directly and use the full history to see what people have changed. It even lets up to 100 people work on a single document simultaneously, with everything kept in sync.

google drive homepage
Google Drive has some of the cheapest plans if you’re storing a small amount.

At just $1.67 per month for 100GB, Google Drive corners the lower end of the market for people who don’t need much storage. However, at $8.33 per month, the 2TB plan isn’t a bad offer either. 

4. WeTransfer 

share files online pcloud
WeTransfer lets you transfer up to 2GB without an account.

More details about WeTransfer:

  • Pricing: 2GB transfers free, $10 per month for 20GB transfers on the one-year plan
  • Provider website: www.wetransfer.com

Pros:

  • No account needed
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • No end-to-end encryption
  • No free cloud storage space
  • Limited security options

WeTransfer is a dedicated transfer platform, so rather than sharing files stored in your account, you go to the website, add files and immediately send a link to the recipients. However, this means that you’ll need WeTransfer’s other services, like Collect and Paste, in order to get the other collaboration features that cloud storage providers would normally give you. 

You can also choose to purchase a WeTransfer Pro account, which allows up to 20GB per transfer and extra security options like adding a password or expiry date. It also comes with 1TB of cloud storage and the ability to create a team for easier sharing. If you want to learn more about what the Pro plan offers, read our full WeTransfer review.

Send Files Without the Hassle With WeTransfer 

Although the limited security options and permissions aren’t always ideal, it makes each individual file transfer as easy as possible. Even other online transfer providers often have many intimidating fields. However, with WeTransfer, simply upload the files, and you can generate a link. There are no extra questions to answer or boxes to fill (you don’t even need an email address).    

files sharing online wetransfer cta
WeTransfer is great for free users but still has an option to pay if you need more.

Although the unlimited free transfers of up to 2GB is great, WeTransfer also offers 1TB of storage, access to Paste and Collect, extra file transfer settings and many more features for just $10 per month.

FreePro
Transfers: 2GBTransfers: 20GB
$0.00$12 per month
$120 per year ($10/month)

5. Dropbox 

file sharing online dropbox
Dropbox is one of the best choices if you need third-party integration.

More details about Dropbox:

  • Pricing: 2GB free, $9.99 per month for 2TB on the one-year plan
  • Provider website: www.dropbox.com

Pros:

  • Good third-party integration
  • Powerful collaboration tools

Cons:

  • No end-to-end encryption
  • Limited free security options

Along with 2GB of storage space, Dropbox’s free plan gives you the option to create a link so that others can view files or share the folders if they need editing permission. There are more settings with the professional plans — specifically passwords, expiry dates and download limitations — but these are still fairly limited.

However, Dropbox is fairly easy to use for file sharing, as it only takes one click to generate a link on the website, and the desktop app gives you access to all of these features. You can even send files through Dropbox Transfer, a service that lets you send files without an account, although it’s limited to 200MB for free.

Work On Files Together With Dropbox  

One edge Dropbox has over its competitors is the level of integration with third-party apps. Whether you want to send files over Slack or access your technical drawings in Autodesk directly off the cloud, Dropbox will let you do it.

You can also create and edit Microsoft Office documents and Google Docs files on the Dropbox website. As Dropbox’s block-level syncing makes even large files upload quickly after small edits, you won’t even have to worry about the time it normally takes for a storage service to sync your edits. To learn more about these benefits, read our full Dropbox review.  

best android backup dropbox cta
Dropbox’s collaboration tools are often worth the small premium.

Dropbox’s 2GB free plan isn’t the most generous, but it does serve as a decent free trial to see if you’re willing to pay $9.99 per month for 2TB of storage. This isn’t as good a value as other services, but the slightly higher cost can be worth it if you need the extra collaboration features.

Final Thoughts: File Sharing Online

Modern file-sharing apps can handle a wide range of permissions, an unlimited file size, integration with third-party software and various security settings. You just need to find the right provider for your needs and learn how to use it to share files online. 

If you want to learn more about using cloud services to transfer files, you can check out our full breakdown of the best cloud storage providers for file sharing. You might also want to read our guide on encrypting data for cloud storage, which can protect your shared files, as long as you trust the recipients with the encryption key. 

Do you need to share files online? Have you used any of these file-sharing services? Were there any good options that we missed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading.