How To Force File Download With PHP

Say you want a PHP script that will make the browser to download a file instead of opening it. This is useful for common filetypes that would normally be displayed in a browser, like .html, images, PDFs and .doc files.

You can find a lot of scripts that do this on the web but one thing most of them don’t handle is download resuming and multi-thread downloading. If you don’t need that feature, feel free to use a simpler script. Personally I’ve found that a function that handles download resuming works more reliably across various browsers (what actually happened : a simpler script didn’t work with Opera + my weird Internet connection, so I found another script and decided to make broad generalizations about download resuming :p).

Note – most of the code below isn’t mine. I found it somewhere on the web and adjusted it for my needs; unfortunately I’ve lost the URL of the original page. If you know where it came from, let me know and I’ll add a link to this post.

function output_file($file, $name, $mime_type='')
 This function takes a path to a file to output ($file), 
 the filename that the browser will see ($name) and 
 the MIME type of the file ($mime_type, optional).

 If you want to do something on download abort/finish,
 if(!is_readable($file)) die('File not found or inaccessible!');
 $size = filesize($file);
 $name = rawurldecode($name);
 /* Figure out the MIME type (if not specified) */
 	"pdf" => "application/pdf",
 	"txt" => "text/plain",
 	"html" => "text/html",
 	"htm" => "text/html",
	"exe" => "application/octet-stream",
	"zip" => "application/zip",
	"doc" => "application/msword",
	"xls" => "application/",
	"ppt" => "application/",
	"gif" => "image/gif",
	"png" => "image/png",
	"jpeg"=> "image/jpg",
	"jpg" =>  "image/jpg",
	"php" => "text/plain"
	 $file_extension = strtolower(substr(strrchr($file,"."),1));
	 if(array_key_exists($file_extension, $known_mime_types)){
	 } else {
 @ob_end_clean(); //turn off output buffering to decrease cpu usage
 // required for IE, otherwise Content-Disposition may be ignored
  ini_set('zlib.output_compression', 'Off');
 header('Content-Type: ' . $mime_type);
 header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="'.$name.'"');
 header("Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary");
 header('Accept-Ranges: bytes');
 /* The three lines below basically make the 
    download non-cacheable */
 header("Cache-control: private");
 header('Pragma: private');
 header("Expires: Mon, 26 Jul 1997 05:00:00 GMT");

 // multipart-download and download resuming support
	list($a, $range) = explode("=",$_SERVER['HTTP_RANGE'],2);
	list($range) = explode(",",$range,2);
	list($range, $range_end) = explode("-", $range);
	if(!$range_end) {
	} else {

	$new_length = $range_end-$range+1;
	header("HTTP/1.1 206 Partial Content");
	header("Content-Length: $new_length");
	header("Content-Range: bytes $range-$range_end/$size");
 } else {
	header("Content-Length: ".$size);

 /* output the file itself */
 $chunksize = 1*(1024*1024); //you may want to change this
 $bytes_send = 0;
 if ($file = fopen($file, 'r'))
	fseek($file, $range);
	while(!feof($file) && 
		(!connection_aborted()) && 
		$buffer = fread($file, $chunksize);
		print($buffer); //echo($buffer); // is also possible
		$bytes_send += strlen($buffer);
 } else die('Error - can not open file.');

			Example of use

Make sure script execution doesn't time out.
Set maximum execution time in seconds (0 means no limit).
output_file($file_path, 'some file.txt', 'text/plain');

Related info
Determining MIME type of a file automatically
Common MIME types
HTTP, caching and other stuff

Related posts :

112 Responses to “How To Force File Download With PHP”

  1. just another addict says:

    Thanks very much for this. You are a genius!!!

  2. […] How To Force File Download With PHP | header( 'Pragma: private' ); […]

  3. […] header( 'Pragma: private' ); header( "Expires: Mon, 26 Jul 1997 05:00:00 GMT" ); header( "Cache-control: private" ); How To Force File Download With PHP | […]

  4. hariharan says:

    Really Great … I have been searching nearly for a day to use ob_start with file download.. either one works but not both. At Last I found it from you to use @ob_end_clean() .. Which solved my problem….

    Thanks once again….

  5. twakspot says:

    after trying the 11th script without success, finally found this and how sweet it is! thank you so much. this is SOLID! all browsers happy.

  6. Scotty says:

    Am trying to use this as it is entirely. Just modified the example use code to suit my needs like so

    output_file($file_path, ‘mici_blossom.pdf’, ‘application/pdf’);

    Keep getting this error.
    C:\DOCUME~1\Scott\LOCALS~1\Temp\+6U2ePvN.pdf.part could not be saved, because the source file could not be read.

    Try again later, or contact the server administrator.

    The file is there and named correctly. It is a 25mb pdf. Can anyone tell me why? Or what am I missing?

  7. Jānis Elsts says:

    Your code looks fine to me. Maybe you could try watching the download with a HTTP debugger like Fiddler to see if there’s anything wrong with it.

  8. Nark Kims says:

    Hi there, I have seen that sometimes this webpage renders an 404 server error. I figured that you would be keen to know. Thanks

  9. Daidai says:


  10. dennis says:

    I have rewritten your function and created a class, which can be used with composer. I have linked to your source. Anyone interested in this can find it on github:

  11. […] I followed this guide here to build a more robust process for file downloads (, but there is a significant delay between when the script is executed and when the browser’s […]

  12. BG says:

    Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for!

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