Intro To File Sharing


If you are reading this, I assume one of the following three things. If none of them holds, this text might not be for you:

  1. You have files you want to share with other people, and want to find out how to do it.
  2. You are searching to download files that others share.
  3. You already do one of the above, or both, but want a good overview of file sharing.

For more specific details, see the other guides available from the top menu. Files are any type of information that can exist digitally on a computer. This site limits itself to sharing digital information over the internet. Other options would include package delivery or postal services for example.
There are on the internet obviously all sorts of paying alternatives like renting server space etc, but this guide and will be limited to the free options. Free as in free beer, not free speech, because the former lessens the thirst, whereas the latter increases it.

Types of File Sharing

In general file sharing can be split up in some categories. In general you could distinguish between sharing with or receiving files from one other person, or sharing with and receiving from the general public. Some technologies are capable of handling both cases while others are not.

Technologies for sharing files with individuals

  1. Instant messengers
  2. Email attachments
  3. Browser extensions

Technologies for sharing files with the general public

  1. P2P software

Technologies for both

  1. One-click hosters
  2. Online Desktops???

How to get started sharing files

Get files across to one person

Publicly sharing files

First you need files to share. If you want to produce content that is up to standards, please have a look at the other guides we offer: sharing documents, sharing audio, sharing video, sharing software.
Next you need to choose your modus operandi. The main choice is between online hosting and p2p software. Note that if you want your files to be found by as many people as possible, you might choose to use both. Have a look at this list of advantages of both:

Reasons to use online hosting:

  1. Files are available when you are not online
  2. Upload only once, thus you don't need alot of bandwith
  3. With hosters that offer a directory, it might be easy to share a bunch of related files in a directory structure by just sending an url to people
  4. More userfriendly for people without computer knowledge. They only need a browser and click download, instead installing and configuring software.
  5. More appropriate for one time use, since you don't need to install and configure software.
  6. Downloads often go faster that with p2p software because in p2p, you need to wait in other users queue's until it's your turn to download from them, and someone must be sharing the file you need.

To get started with online hosting, please read one-click hosters.

Reasons to use p2p:

  1. Integrated system for both up and downloading files
  2. Integrated search for all types of files, and all genres of content in one place. (eg, search for files on online hosters gives significantly less content than on p2p at the moment, june 2008)
  3. No limitations on file size, download and other limits that a lot of online hosting services have.
  4. Your files don't disappear after 30 days of no downloads or other factors common with hosting services.
  5. Easier to reach people, since you don't have to send urls to anybody, because people use the search function of the software

To get started with p2p software, please read p2p software.

How to get started downloading files

Simply try some search engines to see if the files you are looking for are available. First have a look at one-click hosters search engines. If these yield no results, you might get more chance on p2p networks. Some online search engines exist for searching these networks, but not all networks can be searched through the www (like kademlia). You miss a significant amount of files by only searching on the www. See p2p search engines. To get started with p2p software, please read p2p software.


File sharing as a technology is considered legal, but some companies have been trying to sue software developers of p2p software.1 However, if a specific piece of information contains a copyright notice, it might be illegal to copy and distribute the information to other users. Legality is depended of the legal jurisdiction under which you reside. This is usually the national laws of the country from which you operate.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License