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Almost every email server has a file size limit, usually between 10MB and 40MB, and any file attached to an email that is larger than that is usually bounced or not sent. Apple has come up with an interesting solution to this problem called Mail Drop.
Essentially, MailDrop automatically detects when a large file has been placed in an email and asks if you want to use Mail Drop for the attachment instead of trying (and not) sending it through the email server. When you approve the MailDrop request, the file is uploaded to an iCloud server where the recipient receives a download link to the file attachment instead of a direct email attachment. If that sounds confusing it really isn’t, the whole thing is basically automated and it works pretty well.
Mail Drop was introduced in OS X Yosemite, so you as the sender must be using a modern version of OS X to get the feature in the Mail app. However, the recipient does not need to be running OS X Yosemite as the download link for the file is available to any user on any platform.
Sending large files with Mail Drop from Mac OS X
Sending a large file or document with Mail Drop is quite easy and the process is almost completely automated:
- Create a new email from the Mac Mail app as usual
- Attach the large file to the email, or with the attachment button, a keyboard shortcut or with drag and drop – notice how the file size is shown in red if it is too large, this indicates that MailDrop is triggered on sending
- As usual, try to send the email with the large file, you will immediately see a pop-up window asking “Do you want to send this attachment with Mail Drop?” – select “Use Mail Drop” to start uploading the file to iCloud
- Wait for the file to upload * and the email will be sent as usual
The download links generated via Mail Drop remain active for 30 days and are then automatically deleted. You can send up up to 5 GB this way, but keep in mind that uploading (and downloading) a 5 GB file may take a while.
Receive large files with Mail Drop
Being on the receiving end of a Mail Drop file is easy and works on any email app or client in any operating system.
- Open the new email with a large Mail Drop attachment
- Click the “Click to Download” link – the file size of the Mail Drop attachment is displayed, it downloads from Apple iCloud servers and is quite fast
You will notice that there is a message saying “Attachment available until June 14, 2020”, showing the expiration date of the file (all file associations will expire after 30 days).
In the OS X Mail app, receiving a Mail Drop file looks like a standard file attachment with an embedded file (in the latest version of OS X), or, if received in previous versions of the Mac Mail app, it shown as a download link instead:
On the iPhone Mail app (or iPad) you will receive a Mail Drop file as download link, expiration date and file size:
Mail Drop is really great feature and it works perfectly, if you plan to use this often it’s a good idea to set your default email client in Mac OS X to Mail app as third party apps will send Mail Drop files do not support – remember, other email clients will be able to receive these files.
Note that if you use the attachment deletion feature in the Mail app for OS X, the pre-downloaded file will be deleted, but the download link to Mail Drop will not be deleted (until at least it expires).
* For those interested, when a Mail Drop file is uploaded, the “cloudd” process will run in the background of OS X while the file is transferred to a remote server and then retrieved via a download link. The cloudd process takes up about 4-7% CPU when uploading and shouldn’t have a meaningful impact on Mac performance, although it can consume a lot of your internet bandwidth when the file is uploaded from the server. Likewise, downloading the file is basically the same as downloading any other file from anywhere else online, limited only by the speed of your internet connection.
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