Sending files using Dropbox

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A simple guide to sending files via Dropbox.

There are many ways to send files that are too big for email (usually over 20MB). In this article we’ll look at how to do that with Dropbox either sending a ‘one-off’ file or regularly exchanging files with someone else.

Dropbox is very popular, generally free and well supported across many operating systems and devices. Users of Samsung devices like the Galaxy S3, S4, Note 2 and Note 3 may be entitled to an extra 48GB for two years.

We have a similar guide for sending and sharing files with Skydrive/OneDrive.

One-off send

To send a file as a ‘one-off’ to one person or more is quite simple.

  • Send files one at a time
  • To one person or many
  • Any person who gets the file link can download it
  • Only the sender can modify or delete the file saved on Dropbox

Upload the file to a Dropbox folder using the web interface or Dropbox program.

When it’s uploaded, go to your Dropbox web site and locate the file.

Select the file then choose ‘Share Link’.

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Dropbox will offer to email the link for you, but you can ignore that by choosing ‘Get Link’.

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‘Get Link’ will copy a web link to your computer clipboard. Paste that link into your own email.

The link will look a bit like this when pasted:

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Note: Anyone who gets that link can download the file, there is no login or security required. But they can’t delete or modify the file as saved on Dropbox.

Tip: If you have more than one file to send, bundle them into a single ZIP file so you only have to send one link.  Windows XP, 7 or 8 can make and open ZIP files.

The sender (owner of the Dropbox account) has no direct way of knowing whether the file has been downloaded, or by whom.

Exchanging files

Here’s one option for someone you regularly send or exchange files with. It’s more secure because it needs Dropbox login by both parties.

  • Exchange many files
  • Between two people
  • Both people need a free Dropbox login
  • Both people can modify or delete the files saved on the Dropbox folder

There is a section of this article that you can copy to another person – it will help them setup and get the files that you send.

In short, create an online folder and share it with another person. Add files to the folder. The receiver gets the file and saves it to their local computer then deletes the file from the shared folder.

At the end, the file is gone from online storage so the sender knows the receiver has it. The cloud storage space is free for other files.

The sender simply copies the file to the shared folder and, maybe, lets the receiver know that a file is coming.

The receiver moves the file to their computer, leaving the cloud storage free for more files.

The same shared folder can be used to send files in either direction between two people because both have write permissions for the shared folder.


Create a shared folder on Dropbox from your account on the web site. Go to the Shared Folder button on top right:

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You can make a new shared folder or share an existing folder:

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Name or choose a folder then email an ‘invitation’ to the person you want to share with.

It’s best to check with the receiver first. Find out if they have a Dropbox account, if so, send the invitation to the email address linked to their existing Dropbox account.

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Sending a file

Simply copy a file to the shared folder. Once uploaded it will appear in the cloud storage and be available to the other person you have shared the folder with.

You upload a file using the web interface

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If you have the Dropbox program installed, simply copy the file to the matching shared folder on your computer. The software will upload the file to cloud storage automatically and in the background.

Accept the Invitation

To fully enable the shared folder, the receiver has to accept the emailed invitation by clicking on the View Folder link in the invitation email.

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Now you’re setup and can start receiving files.

Receiving the file/s

When the file is saved in cloud storage, the receiver can get it in various ways.

They can login to the web site, choose the file and download it manually.

After downloading, delete the copy of the file in the cloud.

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If the receiver has the Dropbox software installed, the new file will be automatically downloaded to their computer/s. Move the download file to another (non-Dropbox) folder on your computer. Moving the file will keep it for you but remove it from online storage.

Deleting / moving the file from the shared folder tells the sender you have it and makes the space available for other files in cloud storage.

The same folder can be used for sending files both ways. Each person looks in the shared folder and moves any file they didn’t send themselves

TIP: for a Dropbox novice, email them a link to this article. The sections “Accept the invitation” and “Receiving the file” will help them connect to the shared folder, download and then delete files.

More than two people

You can fully share a folder with more than two people but it can be difficult to know when to delete the online copy of a file (i.e. when everyone has downloaded the file). As one Office-Watch reader says “I’ve been a member of such a large group where members delete or move files from their Dropbox folder, and others wonder why their files are being deleted, which can be quite annoying.”

But there is an alternative – you can share an entire folder with ‘read only’ access. On the Dropbox web site, select a folder then choose ‘Share link …’

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Similar to getting a link for a single file, you can email the folder link from Dropbox or ‘Get Link’ and paste it into your own email.

However there are downsides to this approach. The folder link can be used by anyone who gets it, without login, which makes it hard to control access. You can’t synchronize the folder to your computer using the Dropbox software.

Dropbox really needs to deal with this and add some permission levels to their shared folder feature.

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