View/download a file not in the public directory with PHP

When you need to give users access to files that are not in the public directory, where you cannot simply use an anchor tag with an “href”, you need to do a bit of work. For example, if you’ve created an authentication system where only authenticated users can download or view a file, this can be necessary.

$filename = 'something';
$file_path = '/somepath/to/the/file/';
$file_fullpath = $file_path . $filename;
//
//
if (!file_exists($file_fullpath)) {
    header("HTTP/1.0 404 Not Found");
    return;
}
//
// get the mime type
$finfo = finfo_open(FILEINFO_MIME_TYPE); 
$mimeType = finfo_file($finfo, $file_fullpath);
//
// calc values for header
$size = filesize($file_fullpath);
$time = date('r', filemtime($file_fullpath));
$fm = @fopen($file_fullpath, 'rb');
if (!$fm) {
    header('HTTP/1.0 505 Internal server error');
    return;
}
$begin = 0;
$end = $size;
if (isset($_SERVER['HTTP_RANGE'])) {
    if (preg_match('/bytes=\h*(\d+)-(\d*)[\D.*]?/i', $_SERVER['HTTP_RANGE'], $matches)) {
        $begin = intval($matches[0]);
        if (!empty($matches[1])) $end = intval($matches[1]);
    }
}
//
// create http header
if ($begin > 0 || $end < $size) {
    header('HTTP/1.0 206 Partial Content');
}else {
    header('HTTP/1.0 200 OK');
}
header('HTTP/1.0 200 OK');
header("Content-Type: $mimeType");
header('Cache-Control: public, must-revalidate, max-age=0');
header('Pragma: no-cache');
header('Accept-Ranges: bytes');
header('Content-Length:' . ($end - $begin));
header("Content-Range: bytes $begin-$end/$size");
header("Content-Disposition: inline; filename=$filename");
header("Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary\n");
header("Last-Modified: $time");
header('Connection: close');
// output the file
$cur = $begin;
fseek($fm, $begin, 0);
while (!feof($fm) && $cur < $end && (connection_status() == 0)) {
    print fread($fm, min(1024 * 16, $end - $cur));
    $cur+= 1024 * 16;
}

There you have it. Your user can click the link for the file, which then runs this code. In my case, this is in a Kohana controller.

The files are not stored in a public directory, so unauthenticated users cannot access them.

If a file is created on the fly, like a PDF of an invoice, this will also work.

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