How to set a header for a HTTP GET request, and trigger file download?

Update 20140702:

(but I'm marking one of the other answers as accepted instead of my own, as it got me halfway there, and to reward the effort)

It appears that setting a HTTP request header is not possible through links with <a href="...">, and can only be done using XMLHttpRequest.

However, the URL linked to is a file that should be downloaded (browser should not navigate to its URL), and I am not sure is this can be done using AJAX.

Additionally, the file being returned is a binary file, and AJAX is not intended for that.

How would one go about triggering a file download with a HTTP request that has a custom header added to it?

edit: fix broken link





<!-- placeholder , 
    `click` download , `.remove()` options ,
     at js callback , following js 


        $(document).ready(function () {
                // `url` 
                url: '/echo/json/',
                type: "POST",
                dataType: 'json',
                // `file`, data-uri, base64
                data: {
                    json: JSON.stringify({
                        "file": "data:text/plain;base64,YWJj"
                // `custom header`
                headers: {
                    "x-custom-header": 123
                beforeSend: function (jqxhr) {
                    alert("custom headers" + JSON.stringify(this.headers));
                success: function (data) {
                    // `file download`
                        "href": data.file,
                            "download": "file.txt"
                error: function (jqxhr, textStatus, errorThrown) {
                  console.log(textStatus, errorThrown)



There are two ways to download a file where the HTTP request requires that a header be set.

The credit for the first goes to @guest271314, and credit for the second goes to @dandavis.

The first method is to use the HTML5 File API to create a temporary local file, and the second is to use base64 encoding in conjunction with a data URI.

The solution I used in my project uses the base64 encoding approach for small files, or when the File API is not available, otherwise using the the File API approach.


        var id = 123;

        var req = ic.ajax.raw({
            type: 'GET',
            url: '/api/dowloads/'+id,
            beforeSend: function (request) {
                request.setRequestHeader('token', 'token for '+id);
            processData: false

        var maxSizeForBase64 = 1048576; //1024 * 1024

            function resolve(result) {
                var str = result.response;

                var anchor = $('.vcard-hyperlink');
                var windowUrl = window.URL || window.webkitURL;
                if (str.length > maxSizeForBase64 && typeof windowUrl.createObjectURL === 'function') {
                    var blob = new Blob([result.response], { type: 'text/bin' });
                    var url = windowUrl.createObjectURL(blob);
                    anchor.prop('href', url);
                    anchor.prop('download', id+'.bin');
                else {
                    //use base64 encoding when less than set limit or file API is not available
                        href: 'data:text/plain;base64,'+FormatUtils.utf8toBase64(result.response),
                        download: id+'.bin',

            function reject(err) {

Note that I'm not using a raw XMLHttpRequest, and instead using ic-ajax, and should be quite similar to a jQuery.ajax solution.

Note also that you should substitute text/bin and .bin with whatever corresponds to the file type being downloaded.

The implementation of FormatUtils.utf8toBase64 can be found here


I'm adding another option. The answers above were very useful for me, but I wanted to use jQuery instead of ic-ajax (it seems to have a dependency with Ember when I tried to install through bower). Keep in mind that this solution only works on modern browsers.

In order to implement this on jQuery I used jQuery BinaryTransport. This is a nice plugin to read AJAX responses in binary format.

Then you can do this to download the file and send the headers:

    url: url,
    type: 'GET',
    dataType: 'binary',
    headers: headers,
    processData: false,
    success: function(blob) {
        var windowUrl = window.URL || window.webkitURL;
        var url = windowUrl.createObjectURL(blob);
        anchor.prop('href', url);
        anchor.prop('download', fileName);

The vars in the above script mean:

  • url: the URL of the file
  • headers: a Javascript object with the headers to send
  • fileName: the filename the user will see when downloading the file
  • anchor: it is a DOM element that is needed to simulate the download that must be wrapped with jQuery in this case. For example $('').

i want to post my solution here which was done AngularJS, ASP.NET MVC. The code illustrates how to download file with authentication.

WebApi method along with helper class:

class FileController: ApiController
    [Authorize(Roles = "admin")]
    public HttpResponseMessage DownloadDocument([FromUri] int fileId)
        var file = "someFile.docx"// asking storage service to get file path with id
        return Request.ReturnFile(file);

static class DownloadFIleFromServerHelper
    public static HttpResponseMessage ReturnFile(this HttpRequestMessage request, string file)
        var result = request.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.OK);

        result.Content = new StreamContent(new FileStream(file, FileMode.Open, FileAccess.Read));
        result.Content.Headers.Add("x-filename", Path.GetFileName(file)); // letters of header names will be lowercased anyway in JS.
        result.Content.Headers.ContentType = new MediaTypeHeaderValue("application/octet-stream");
        result.Content.Headers.ContentDisposition = new ContentDispositionHeaderValue("attachment")
            FileName = Path.GetFileName(file)

        return result;

Web.config file changes to allow sending file name in custom header.

                <add name="Access-Control-Allow-Methods" value="POST,GET,PUT,PATCH,DELETE,OPTIONS" />
                <add name="Access-Control-Allow-Headers" value="Authorization,Content-Type,x-filename" />
                <add name="Access-Control-Expose-Headers" value="Authorization,Content-Type,x-filename" />
                <add name="Access-Control-Allow-Origin" value="*" />

Angular JS Service Part:

function proposalService($http, $cookies, config, FileSaver) {
        return {
                downloadDocument: downloadDocument

    function downloadFile(documentId, errorCallback) {
        url: config.apiUrl + "files/download-file?documentId=" + documentId,
        method: "GET",
        headers: {
            "Content-type": "application/json; charset=utf-8",
            "Authorization": "Bearer " + $cookies.get("api_key")
        responseType: "arraybuffer"  
    .success( function(data, status, headers) {
        var filename = headers()['x-filename'];

        var blob = new Blob([data], { type: "application/octet-binary" });
        FileSaver.saveAs(blob, filename);
    .error(function(data, status) {
        console.log("Request failed with status: " + status);
        errorCallback(data, status);

Module dependency for FileUpload: angular-file-download (gulp install angular-file-download --save). Registration looks like below.

var app = angular.module('cool',
. // other staff.

Pure jQuery.

  type: "GET",
  url: "",
  headers: {
    'Authorization': 'Bearer eyJraWQiFUDA.......TZxX1MGDGyg'
  xhrFields: {
    responseType: 'blob'
  success: function (blob) {
    var windowUrl = window.URL || window.webkitURL;
    var url = windowUrl.createObjectURL(blob);
    var anchor = document.createElement('a');
    anchor.href = url; = '';;
  error: function (error) {


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