mod_xsendfile for Apache2


mod_xsendfile is a small Apache2 module that processes X-SENDFILE headers output handlers might have registered.

If it encounters the presence of such header it will discard all output and send the file specified by that header instead using Apache internals including all optimizations like caching-headers and sendfile or mmap if configured.

It is useful for processing script-output of e.g. php, perl, python or any *cgi.


Yep, it is useful.




  1. Grab the source.
  2. Compile and install
    • In general:
      apxs -cia mod_xsendfile.c
    • Debian/Ubuntu uses apxs2:
      apxs2 -cia mod_xsendfile.c
    • Mac users might want to build fat binaries:
      apxs -cia -Wc,"-arch i386 -arch x86_64" -Wl,"-arch i386 -arch x86_64" mod_xsendfile.c
  3. Restart apache
  4. That's all.




Description Enables or disables header processing
Syntax XSendFile on|off
Default XSendFile off
Context server config, virtual host, directory, .htaccess

Setting XSendFile on will enable processing.

The file specified in X-SENDFILE header will be sent instead of the handler output.

The value (file name) given by the header is assmumed to be url-encoded, i.e. unescaping/url-decoding will be performed. See XSendFileUnescape.
If you happen to store files using already url-encoded file names, you must "double" encode the names... %20 -> %2520

If the response lacks the X-SENDFILE header the module will not perform any processing.


Description Ignore script provided Etag headers
Syntax XSendFileIgnoreEtag on|off
Default XSendFileIgnoreEtag off
Context server config, virtual host, directory, .htaccess

Setting XSendFileIgnoreEtag on will ignore all ETag headers the original output handler may have set.
This is helpful for applications that will generate such headers even for empty content.


Description Ignore script provided LastModified headers
Syntax XSendFileIgnoreLastModified on|off
Default XSendFileIgnoreLastModified off
Context server config, virtual host, directory, .htaccess

Setting XSendFileIgnoreLastModified on will ignore all Last-Modified headers the original output handler may have set.
This is helpful for applications that will generate such headers even for empty content.


Description Unescape/url-decode the value of the header
Syntax XSendFileUnescape on|off
Default XSendFileUnescape on
Context server config, virtual host, directory, .htaccess

Setting XSendFileUnescape off will restore the pre-1.0 behavior of using the raw header value, instead of trying to unescape/url-decode first.
Headers may only contain a certain ASCII subset, as dictated by the corresponding RFCs/protocol. Hence you should escape/url-encode (and have XSendFile unescape/url-decode) the header value. Failing to keep within the bounds of that ASCII subset might cause errors, depending on your application framework.

Hence this setting is meant only for backwards-compatibility with legacy applications expecting the old behavior; new applications should url-encode the value correctly and leave XSendFileUnescape on. Of course, if your paths are always ASCII, then (usually) no special encoding is required.


Description White-list more paths
Syntax XSendFilePath <absolute path> [AllowFileDelete]
Default None
Context server config, virtual host, directory

XSendFilePath allow you to add additional paths to some kind of white list. All files within these paths are allowed to get served through mod_xsendfile.

Provide an absolute path as Parameter to this directive.

If the optional AllowFileDelete flag is specified, then files under this path can be served using the X-SENDFILE-TEMPORARY header, and will then be deleted once the file is delievered. Hence you should only set the AllowFileDelete flag for paths that do not hold any files that shouldn't be deleted!

You may provide more than one path.

Remarks - Relative paths

The current working directory (if it can be determined) will be always checked first.

If you provide relative paths via the X-SendFile header, then all whitelist items will be checked until a seamingly valid combination is found, i.e. the result is within the bounds of the whitelist item; it isn't checked at this point if the path in question actually exists.
Considering you whitelisted /tmp/pool and /tmp/pool2 and your script working directory is /var/www.

X-SendFile: file

  1. /var/www/file - Within bounds of /var/www, OK

X-SendFile: ../pool2/file

  1. /var/www/../pool2/file = /var/pool2/file - Not within bounds of /var/www
  2. /tmp/pool/../pool2/file = /tmp/pool2/file - Not within bounds of /tmp/pool
  3. /tmp/pool2/../pool2/file = /tmp/pool2/file - Within bounds of /tmp/pool2, OK

You still can only access paths that are whitelisted. However you have might expect a different behavior here, hence the documentation.

Please note: It is recommended to always use absolute paths.

Remarks - Inheritance

The white list "inherits" entries from higher level configuration.

XSendFilePath /tmp
<VirtualHost *>
  ServerName someserver
  XSendFilePath /home/userxyz
<VirtualHost *>
  ServerName anotherserver
  XSendFilePath /var/www/somesite/
  <Directory /var/www/somesite/fastcgis>
    XSendFilePath /var/www/shared

Above example will give:

*) Scripts, in this context, mean the actual script-starters. E.g. PHP as a handler will use the .php itself, while in CGI mode refers to the starter.

Windows users must include the drive letter to those paths as well. Tests show that it has to be in upper-case.



<Files out.php>
XSendFile on


if (
header("X-Sendfile: $path_to_somefile");
header("Content-Type: application/octet-stream");
header("Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=\"$somefile\"");
<h1>Permission denied</h1>
<p>Login first!</p>

Limitations / Issues / Security considerations


The idea comes from lighttpd - A fast web server with minimal memory footprint.

The module itself was inspired by many other Apache2 modules such as mod_rewrite, mod_headers and obviously core.c.


Copyright 2006-2012 by Nils Maier

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.

You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied.

See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.


Version 1.0

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Version 0.11.1

Version 0.11

Version 0.10

Version 0.9

Version 0.8