Why does it say my file is too large?

When trying to upload or send a file, you may sometimes see an error message stating that the file is too large. This simply means that the file size exceeds the maximum file size limit configured on the receiving system.

What are file size limits?

Many online services and applications impose file size limits to control the amount of data being uploaded or shared. These limits help ensure the system’s performance and prevent users from hogging resources. Some common file size limits include:

  • 25MB for email attachments
  • 100MB for document management systems
  • 500MB for cloud storage services
  • 2GB for video sharing sites

The exact file size limit depends on the particular system. Limits may be increased for paid accounts or decreased temporarily during high traffic periods.

Why are file size limits necessary?

There are several key reasons why file size limits exist:

  • Prevent storage overuse – Larger files take up more storage space on servers. Limits ensure no single user uses an excessive amount.
  • Maintain transfer speeds – Large files take longer to upload and download. Limits prevent network congestion and slow transfers.
  • Limit server resource usage – Storing and processing large files requires more memory, CPU and bandwidth. Limits prevent resource overuse.
  • Improve user experience – Smaller files are easier to share, download and work with for all users.

In summary, size limits aim to create a consistent, reliable and fair service for everyone. Without them, a service could easily be overwhelmed and become unavailable.

What happens if you exceed the size limit?

If you try to upload or attach a file that is too large, a few things could happen:

  • The transfer will be aborted and you will see an error message.
  • The file will be rejected by the receiving system.
  • Only a partial file transfer will complete.
  • Your account may be temporarily blocked from uploading.

The specific error message depends on the application or service. Common messages include:

  • “File exceeds size limit”
  • “File too large to process”
  • “Maximum file size exceeded”

Being unable to upload large files can be frustrating. But exceeding size limits can negatively impact performance and availability of services for all users.

How to fix “file too large” errors

Here are some tips to troubleshoot and fix file size limit errors:

  • Check the file size limit for the service you are using.
  • Compress the file to reduce its size using ZIP, RAR or 7Z formats.
  • If possible, upload the file in chunks or segments.
  • For images or videos, reduce resolution or use more compression.
  • Convert large files to alternate formats that take up less space.
  • Use a cloud storage service with higher size limits for sharing large files.
  • Upgrade to a premium account with higher size allowances.

Compressing files

One of the easiest ways to reduce file size is compression. Compression algorithms reduce redundant data in files to make them smaller. Some compression tips:

  • Use utilities like WinZip or WinRAR to compress files on Windows.
  • On Mac, create an archive using the built-in compression tools.
  • Use 7-Zip open source tool for high compression rates.
  • Compare different compression formats like ZIP, 7Z, RAR, TAR and GZ.
  • Higher compression means smaller files but slower performance.

Compressed archives like ZIP files bundle one or more files into a single compressed file for easier sharing and storage. Just remember to uncompress archives after downloading to access the original files again.

Converting media formats

For media files like images, video and audio, converting to more space-efficient formats can dramatically shrink their size. Some options include:

  • Use JPEG instead of PNG or TIFF for photos.
  • Convert PNG files to JPG using image editors.
  • Use MP3 instead of WAV for audio files.
  • Convert videos to MP4 instead of AVI or MKV formats.
  • Reduce video resolution and compression levels in editors.
  • Downsample oversized images to smaller dimensions.

Converting documents like PDFs to Word or HTML can also reduce size in some cases. Just be careful not to lose any necessary formatting or quality.

Using cloud storage services

If you regularly need to share large files and attachments, using a cloud storage service can help. Options like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Box offer generous free storage tiers and paid plans with expanded limits. For example:

Service Free storage Paid max file size
Google Drive 15GB 5TB
Dropbox 2GB 100GB
OneDrive 5GB 100GB (with Office 365)

With cloud storage you can upload large files for sharing and then generate a download link to send. Some services even allow email attachments up to entire file size limits. Using cloud storage lets you bypass normal file size restrictions for easier sharing and collaboration.

Understanding email attachment limits

Email services tend to impose some of the strictest file size limits, often capping attachments at 5-25MB per message. Limits this low can be very frustrating if you need to email large documents, videos or images.

Email providers limit attachment sizes to conserve storage space on their servers and maintain fast performance. Most home and webmail providers only provide a few gigabytes of free storage. Large attachments can quickly fill up those allotments.

Here are the attachment limits for popular email providers:

Provider Maximum attachment size
Gmail 25MB
Outlook.com 20MB
Yahoo Mail 25MB
iCloud Mail 20MB

To share large file attachments by email, you have a few options:

  • Compress attachments to reduce size.
  • Split into multiple smaller attachments.
  • Upload to cloud storage and share link.
  • Use a file transfer service.
  • For very large files, send via postal mail on disk.

With persistence and creativity, you can usually find a way to reliably share large files through email when absolutely necessary.

Avoiding limits on websites

Websites also implement file size restrictions for user uploads such as:

  • Profile photos
  • Document attachments
  • Product images
  • Submitted media

Limits may range from just a few megabytes for images to hundreds of megabytes for documents and videos.

Exceeding a website’s specified file size limit will similarly result in upload errors and failed transfers. Potential fixes include:

  • Compress images as JPG and resize to smaller dimensions.
  • Lower video resolution and use mp4 format.
  • Split large files into multiple smaller uploads.
  • Convert documents to pdfs and optimize pdf sizes.

For sites you use regularly, take note of their specific upload limits and optimize your files accordingly before uploading. This can save you time and hassle in the long run.

When file size limits are increased

In some cases, online services may increase or eliminate their file size restrictions, enabling you to upload large files more easily. Some examples include:

  • Google Drive lifting limits to 5TB with paid plans.
  • Microsoft OneDrive supporting 100GB files for Office 365 subscribers.
  • Dropbox increasing max file size to 100GB for paid users.
  • Slack increasing upload limits to 1GB for paid accounts.

What prompts services to change size limits? A few key factors:

  • Improved storage infrastructure and bandwidth capabilities.
  • Pressure from users demanding higher limits.
  • Competition with other services offering higher limits.
  • Desire to offer premium features for paid accounts.

Higher limits do not guarantee unlimited capacity though. Performance can still degrade if usage is excessive. But improved limits provide much more flexibility for users to store and share large files.

Optimizing your files proactively

To avoid frustrations with file size limits, optimize your files proactively using these best practices:

  • Understand size restrictions before uploading files.
  • Check file sizes and compress files when possible.
  • Resize images and convert media to smaller formats.
  • Delete unnecessary data and prune file contents.
  • Split extra large files into smaller chunks.
  • Upgrade accounts to higher limits when needed.

With some minor adjustments, you can preemptively catch oversized files before hitting upload limits. Saving files correctly from the start will prevent problems accessing and sharing them later.

Use tools to check file sizes

To optimize file sizes, you need to be aware of how large your files are. Here are some ways to check:

  • View file properties in your operating system File Explorer.
  • Check sizes before uploading in your browser or app.
  • Install add-ons to show file sizes in Explorer.
  • Try utility apps like Disk Map to visualize file and folder sizes.

Knowing file sizes makes it easier to spot oversized outliers that may cause upload issues. Then you can focus optimization efforts on your largest problem files first.

Ask if large files are absolutely necessary

Before attempting to upload an extremely large file, ask yourself:

Does this file need to be so big? Are there options to reduce the size without losing critical information? Can I split it up or compress it? What specifically is taking up so much space?

With images and videos, massive file sizes are usually tied to high resolutions and uncompressed formats. But such large files may not be necessary for sharing in emails, documents or websites. Downsizing resolution or switching formats could shrink the file dramatically without any visible quality loss.

For other oversized files, identify what types of data are contributing most to size. Then selectively prune unnecessary data. This surgical optimization keeps your core content intact while slimming the file size.


File size limits online are a necessary reality and something every user will encounter occasionally. When you bump up against maximum size restrictions, remain calm and try reasonable fixes like compression, conversion or chunking. With the right tools and optimization strategy, any file can typically be sized down to meet upload requirements. The key is knowing your target file limits in advance, checking your files proactively, and having a plan to address overages before they block file transfers.