Need to share a big file, or photos or videos that won’t fit in an email? Never fear. It’s easy to send almost anything to co-workers, family members and friends online — and often for free. 

Enter two of the most popular options for sharing files, photos and videos: Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. Here, we’ll walk you through how to choose which cloud file sharing service is best for you, how much it costs to use, and how to actually share files with others. (Make sure you check out our comparison of the best cloud storage services of 2021, too.)

How to choose a file sharing service: Google Drive vs. Microsoft OneDrive

Which file sharing service you want to use likely depends on whose ecosystem you’re already in: Google Workspace (formerly called G Suite) or Microsoft 365. If your workplace is governing which you use, you probably don’t have a choice. But if you’re looking to sign up for personal use, you might want to know a bit about each service. 

If you use any of Google’s productivity apps (Gmail, Docs or Calendar, for example), using Google Drive makes sense. With Drive, you get 15GB of free storage for anything you upload, including photos, videos and documents. Those who need more space can sign up for Google’s storage subscription service, Google One. Google One plans start at $2 a month in the US for 100GB of storage and other features, like Google Store discounts.

If you use Outlook or Windows 10 (which you can still download for free) and are used to Microsoft’s ecosystem, OneDrive might be the better choice for you. Microsoft 365 subscribers (who also have access to apps like Word and Excel) have 1TB of storage available. Non-subscribers can sign up for OneDrive Basic for free, which gets you 5GB of storage. Or, similar to Google One’s base tier, the OneDrive Standalone plan costs $2 a month for 100GB of storage. 

Both Google Drive and OneDrive are compatible with Android and iOS, as well as Windows and MacOS desktops.

Read more: 6 of the best photo storage options for 2021: How to back up your photos in case of emergency

How to share files on Google Drive


Google Drive gives you 15GB of free storage — but you need to share it between all of your Google accounts.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Using Google Drive? Here’s how to share files step by step: 

1. On your computer, go to

2. Right-click on the folder or file you want to share. 

3. If you want to share with people or groups, click Share. Enter their email addresses in the Add people and groups field. On the next screen, you’ll see that they are set to Editor as a default, which means they can make changes to the file or add photos. You can click the drop down and change them to Commenter or Viewer. Add a message if you want, and click Send. The people you share it with will get an email with a link to the file or folder. 

4. If you want to get a shareable link that you can send to a person or group, right-click on the folder or file, and click Get link (you’ll also see this if you click Share, at the bottom of the window). The default setting is Restricted, which means only people you’ve shared the file with in the step above can open the link. If you click that, you can change it to Anyone, which means anyone with the link can open it. If you choose Anyone, you can then decide if you’d like those people to be able to edit, comment or view the file from the dropdown. Click copy link

Alternately, you can open any file and click Share in the top right corner to see these options. 

How to share files on OneDrive


The free OneDrive Basic plan gives you 5GB of storage.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re using OneDrive, here’s how to share files: 

1. Go to the OneDrive website, and sign in with your Microsoft account (or your work or school account). 

2. Select the file or folder you want to share by clicking the circle in the upper corner of the item. You can also pick multiple items to share them together (though you can’t do this on work or school accounts). 

3. At the top of the page, click Share

4. Enter the email addresses or groups you’d like to share with. Click the pencil icon next to this field, and choose if you want those you share with to be able to edit, or just to view the file. Add a message if you want to, and click Send. The people you share it with will get an email with a link to the file or folder. 

5. If you’d rather get a link for sharing, click Share, and click the top box, which says People you specify can edit. You can change this setting to anyone with the link, anyone in your organization, people with existing access or specific people. Under Other settings, you can uncheck the allow editing box, which means people you share with can view, copy or download the file without making changes. Click Apply. Then, click Copy to copy the link. 

Alternately, you can open any file and click Share in the top left corner to see these options. 

For more, check out how to get Microsoft 365 for free and 10 Gmail tricks you’ll use every day.

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Lest there be any doubt, the recording industry is quite serious about cracking down on what it perceives to be illegal file-sharing, in the United States and other countries as well. To prove the point, the industry has just initiated more than 2,100 new legal cases against individuals in Europe, Asia and South America.

According to the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry, file-sharers in Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Hong Kong and Singapore are now at risk of criminal penalties and payment of damages in an international campaign. Thousands of people already have had to pay at least $3,000 for uploading copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks.

The IFPI maintains that these latest cases bring the total number of such legal actions to more than 3,800 in 16 countries outside the United States. The IFPI states that this is the fourth wave of cases since this international campaign began in March 2004. The campaign is targeting users of all the major unauthorized P2P networks, including FastTrack (Kazaa), Gnutella (BearShare), eDonkey, DirectConnect, BitTorrent, WinMX and SoulSeek.

At a press conference announcing the latest wave of legal actions, IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy proclaimed there was no excuse to steal music on the Internet–especially when there are plenty of legal alternatives. “There are 2 million tracks available on over 300 sites across the world where consumers can download safely and legally and buy, subscribe to or listen to online music at fantastic value,” he said. “The music industry is making a vast catalog of music available to consumers online, but at the same time we are determined to protect our music from copyright theft.”

The recent actions in Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Hong Kong and Singapore are set against the backdrop of prior lawsuits filed in Austria, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the United States. That brings the total of countries involved in litigation to 17, according to the IFPI.
The take-away point here very well might be that you can run, but you cannot hide.

That is to say, the recording industry likely will go to the ends of the earth to seek to stamp out what it believes to be illegal file-sharing. The industry likely will not be able to go after every single infringer. But if it makes enough waves in many countries, its legal actions could have a serious deterrent effect.

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The Recording Industry Association of America sued 261 alleged file swappers Monday, launching a legal campaign against ordinary Internet users that could ultimately result in thousands of additional lawsuits.

But are you at risk?

If you or a family member have used Kazaa or any other file-swapping application recently and have left your computer open to the Net, the answer is possibly–although the odds of being singled out among an estimated 60 million people using peer-to-peer software remain small. If you’ve kept thousands of songs in the file you’re sharing with other file swappers, then the odds are a little better, though still slim.

Here’s a quick look at how the RIAA has done its investigations and what kind of information it has used to find people and file Monday’s lawsuits.

Step one: Finding file-traders isn’t hard. Anybody who opens a shared folder on Kazaa, Morpheus or any other file-swapping network is susceptible to potentially prying eyes.

In the most recent wave of investigations, the RIAA has used automated tools that look for a relatively short list of files. When it finds a person sharing one or more of those files, it downloads all or many of them for verification purposes. A complete list of these target files is not available, but a sampling of files cited in the early lawsuits includes the following artists and songs:

• Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
• Thompson Twins, “Hold Me Now”
• Eagles, “Hotel California”
• George Michael, “Kissing A Fool”
• Paula Abdul, “Knocked Out”
• Green Day, “Minority”
• UB40, “Red Red Wine”
• Ludacris “Area Codes”
• Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing”
• Avril Lavigne, “Complicated”

This is far from a complete list, but if you’ve downloaded and shared any of those songs recently, you may be at greater risk of finding your way onto the RIAA’s list.

Step two: The RIAA uses features within Kazaa, Grokster and some other software programs to list all the files available within a person’s shared folder and takes screenshots of that information. As filed in court, that provides a record of what in some cases has been thousands of songs shared at once.

Step three: The RIAA’s software records the Internet address associated with a computer that is sharing one of the copyrighted songs the organization is investigating. Some file-swapping programs try to hide this by using mechanisms such as proxy servers, but most downloads still expose this information.

Step four: According to information filed as part of a related lawsuit, the RIAA also has the ability to do a more sophisticated analysis of the files that have been downloaded. The group checks the artist’s name, title, and any “metadata” information attached to the files, looking for information that may indicate what piece of software has been used to create the file or any other. Some files swapped widely on the Net include messages from the original person who created the MP3 file, such as “Created by Grip” or “Finally the Real Full CD delivered fresh for everyone on Grokster and Kazaa to Enjoy!”

The RIAA has also analyzed in detail some files’ contents. The trade group has databases of digital fingerprints, or “hashes,” that identify songs that were swapped online in Napster’s heyday. Investigators check these fingerprints against those found in a new suspected file swapper’s folder, looking for matches. A match means the file has almost certainly been downloaded from the Net, likely from a stream of copies dating back to the original Napster file.

Step five: The RIAA files a subpoena request with a federal court. The subpoena allows the group to go to an Internet service provider and request the name and address of the subscriber who’s associated with the Net address that was used to swap files. A few Internet service providers (ISPs) have fought back against these requests, but most have been forced to comply with the RIAA’s request.

Many ISPs notify their subscribers when a subpoena comes in that targets their information. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has set up a database that allows people to see whether their online screen name has been the target of one of these subpoenas.

The RIAA said it has filed more than 1,500 of these subpoenas to date.

Step six: Once the identity of the ISP subscriber has been exposed, the RIAA puts together all the information gleaned through the earlier technical investigation and files a lawsuit. In earlier cases, it has accepted settlement agreements that range between $12,000 and $17,000. In this case, it has accepted some settlement agreements for as little as $3,000.

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