How to fix “Headers already sent” error in PHP?[Solved]

In this post, the top best answers for the above-mentioned problem with be shared.

Problem:

When running my script, I am getting several errors like this:

Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /some/file.php:12) in /some/file.php on line 23

The lines mentioned in the error messages contain header() and setcookie() calls.

What could be the reason for this? And how to fix it?

Fix “Headers already sent” error in PHP- Answer #1

No output before sending headers!

Functions that send/modify HTTP headers must be invoked before any output is madesummary ⇊ Otherwise the call fails:

Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent (output started at script:line)

Some functions modifying the HTTP header are:

Output can be:

  • Unintentional:
    • Whitespace before <?php or after ?>
    • The UTF-8 Byte Order Mark specifically
    • Previous error messages or notices
  • Intentional:
    • printecho and other functions producing output
    • Raw <html> sections prior <?php code.

Why does it happen?

To understand why headers must be sent before output it’s necessary to look at a typical HTTP response. PHP scripts mainly generate HTML content, but also pass a set of HTTP/CGI headers to the webserver:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Powered-By: PHP/5.3.7
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8

<html><head><title>PHP page output page</title></head>
<body><h1>Content</h1> <p>Some more output follows...</p>
and <a href="/"> <img src=internal-icon-delayed> </a>

The page/output always follows the headers. PHP has to pass the headers to the webserver first. It can only do that once. After the double linebreak it can nevermore amend them.

When PHP receives the first output (printecho<html>) it will flush all collected headers. Afterward it can send all the output it wants. But sending further HTTP headers is impossible then.

How can you find out where the premature output occurred?

The header() warning contains all relevant information to locate the problem cause:

Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /www/usr2345/htdocs/auth.php:52) in /www/usr2345/htdocs/index.php on line 100

Here “line 100” refers to the script where the header() invocation failed.

The “output started at” note within the parenthesis is more significant. It denominates the source of previous output. In this example, it’s auth.php and line 52. That’s where you had to look for premature output.

Typical causes:

  1. Print, echoIntentional output from print and echo statements will terminate the opportunity to send HTTP headers. The application flow must be restructured to avoid that. Use functions and templating schemes. Ensure header() calls occur before messages are written out.Functions that produce output include
    • printechoprintfvprintf
    • trigger_errorob_flushob_end_flushvar_dumpprint_r
    • readfilepassthruflushimagepngimagejpeg
      among others and user-defined functions.
  2. Raw HTML areasUnparsed HTML sections in a .php file are direct output as well. Script conditions that will trigger a header() call must be noted before any raw <html> blocks.<!DOCTYPE html> <?php // Too late for headers already. Use a templating scheme to separate processing from output logic.
    • Place form processing code atop scripts.
    • Use temporary string variables to defer messages.
    • The actual output logic and intermixed HTML output should follow last.
  3. Whitespace before <?php for “script.php line 1” warningsIf the warning refers to output inline 1, then it’s mostly leading whitespace, text or HTML before the opening <?php token. <?php # There's a SINGLE space/newline before <? - Which already seals it. Similarly it can occur for appended scripts or script sections:?> <?php PHP actually eats up a single linebreak after close tags. But it won’t compensate multiple newlines or tabs or spaces shifted into such gaps.
  4. UTF-8 BOMLinebreaks and spaces alone can be a problem. But there are also “invisible” character sequences that can cause this. Most famously the UTF-8 BOM (Byte-Order-Mark) which isn’t displayed by most text editors. It’s the byte sequence EF BB BF, which is optional and redundant for UTF-8 encoded documents. PHP however has to treat it as raw output. It may show up as the characters ï»¿ in the output (if the client interprets the document as Latin-1) or similar “garbage”.In particular graphical editors and Java-based IDEs are oblivious to its presence. They don’t visualize it (obliged by the Unicode standard). Most programmer and console editors however do:joes editor showing UTF-8 BOM placeholder, and MC editor a dotThere it’s easy to recognize the problem early on. Other editors may identify its presence in a file/settings menu (Notepad++ on Windows can identify and remedy the problem), Another option to inspect the BOMs presence is resorting to an hexeditor. On *nix systems hexdump is usually available, if not a graphical variant which simplifies auditing these and other issues:beav hexeditor showing utf-8 bomAn easy fix is to set the text editor to save files as “UTF-8 (no BOM)” or similar to such nomenclature. Often newcomers otherwise resort to creating new files and just copy&pasting the previous code back in.Correction utilities There are also automated tools to examine and rewrite text files (sed/awk or recode). For PHP specifically there’s the phptags tag tidier. It rewrites close and open tags into long and short forms, but also easily fixes leading and trailing whitespace, Unicode and UTF-x BOM issues:phptags --whitespace *.php It’s safe to use on a whole include or project directory.
  5. Whitespace after ?>If the error source is mentioned as behind the closing ?> then this is where some whitespace or the raw text got written out. The PHP end marker does not terminate script execution at this point. Any text/space characters after it will be written out as page content still.It’s commonly advised, in particular to newcomers, that trailing ?> PHP close tags should be omitted. This eschews a small portion of these cases. (Quite commonly include()d scripts are the culprit.)
  6. Error source mentioned as “Unknown on line 0″It’s typically a PHP extension or php.ini setting if no error source is concretized.
    • It’s occasionally the gzip stream encoding setting or the ob_gzhandler.
    • But it could also be any doubly loaded extension= module generating an implicit PHP startup/warning message.
  7. Preceding error messagesIf another PHP statement or expression causes a warning message or notice being printed out, that also counts as premature output.In this case you need to eschew the error, delay the statement execution, or suppress the message with e.g. isset() or @() – when either doesn’t obstruct debugging later on.

No error message

If you have error_reporting or display_errors disabled per php.ini, then no warning will show up. But ignoring errors won’t make the problem go away. Headers still can’t be sent after premature output.

So when header("Location: ...") redirects silently fail it’s very advisable to probe for warnings. Reenable them with two simple commands atop the invocation script:

error_reporting(E_ALL);
ini_set("display_errors", 1);

Or set_error_handler("var_dump"); if all else fails.

Speaking of redirect headers, you should often use an idiom like this for final code paths:

exit(header("Location: /finished.html"));

Preferably even a utility function, which prints a user message in case of header() failures.

Output buffering as a workaround

PHPs output buffering is a workaround to alleviate this issue. It often works reliably, but shouldn’t substitute for proper application structuring and separating output from control logic. Its actual purpose is minimizing chunked transfers to the webserver.

  1. The output_buffering= setting nevertheless can help. Configure it in the php.ini or via .htaccess or even .user.ini on modern FPM/FastCGI setups.
    Enabling it will allow PHP to buffer output instead of passing it to the webserver instantly. PHP thus can aggregate HTTP headers.
  2. It can likewise be engaged with a call to ob_start(); atop the invocation script. Which however is less reliable for multiple reasons:
    • Even if <?php ob_start(); ?> starts the first script, whitespace or a BOM might get shuffled before, rendering it ineffective.
    • It can conceal whitespace for HTML output. But as soon as the application logic attempts to send binary content (a generated image for example), the buffered extraneous output becomes a problem. (Necessitating ob_clean() as a further workaround.)
    • The buffer is limited in size, and can easily overrun when left to defaults. And that’s not a rare occurrence either, difficult to track down when it happens.

Both approaches therefore may become unreliable – in particular when switching between development setups and/or production servers. This is why output buffering is widely considered just a crutch / strictly a workaround.

But it worked on the other server!?

If you didn’t get the headers warning before, then the output buffering php.ini setting has changed. It’s likely unconfigured on the current/new server.

Checking with headers_sent()

You can always use headers_sent() to probe if it’s still possible to… send headers. Which is useful to conditionally print info or apply other fallback logic.

if (headers_sent()) {
    die("Redirect failed. Please click on this link: <a href=...>");
}
else{
    exit(header("Location: /user.php"));
}

Useful fallback workarounds are:

  • HTML <meta> tagIf your application is structurally hard to fix, then an easy (but somewhat unprofessional) way to allow redirects is injecting a HTML <meta> tag. A redirect can be achieved with: <meta http-equiv="Location" content="http://example.com/"> Or with a short delay: <meta http-equiv="Refresh" content="2; url=../target.html"> This leads to non-valid HTML when utilized past the <head> section. Most browsers still accept it.
  • JavaScript redirectAs alternative a JavaScript redirect can be used for page redirects: <script> location.replace("target.html"); </script> While this is often more HTML compliant than the <meta> workaround, it incurs a reliance on JavaScript-capable clients.

Both approaches however make acceptable fallbacks when genuine HTTP header() calls fail. Ideally you’d always combine this with a user-friendly message and clickable link as last resort. (Which for instance is what the http_redirect() PECL extension does.)

Why setcookie() and session_start() are also affected

Both setcookie() and session_start() need to send a Set-Cookie: HTTP header. The same conditions therefore apply, and similar error messages will be generated for premature output situations.

(Of course, they’re furthermore affected by disabled cookies in the browser or even proxy issues. The session functionality obviously also depends on free disk space and other php.ini settings, etc.)

Further links

Fix “Headers already sent” error in PHP- Answer #2

This error message gets triggered when anything is sent before you send HTTP headers (with setcookie or header). Common reasons for outputting something before the HTTP headers are:

  • Accidental whitespace, often at the beginning or end of files, like this: <?php // Note the space before "<?php" ?>

       To avoid this, simply leave out the closing ?> – it’s not required anyways.

  • Byte order marks at the beginning of a php file. Examine your php files with a hex editor to find out whether that’s the case. They should start with the bytes 3F 3C. You can safely remove the BOM EF BB BF from the start of files.
  • Explicit output, such as calls to echoprintfreadfilepassthru, code before <? etc.
  • A warning outputted by php, if the display_errors php.ini property is set. Instead of crashing on a programmer mistake, php silently fixes the error and emits a warning. While you can modify the display_errors or error_reporting configurations, you should rather fix the problem.
    Common reasons are accesses to undefined elements of an array (such as $_POST['input'] without using empty or isset to test whether the input is set), or using an undefined constant instead of a string literal (as in $_POST[input], note the missing quotes).

Turning on output buffering should make the problem go away; all output after the call to ob_start is buffered in memory until you release the buffer, e.g. with ob_end_flush.

However, while output buffering avoids the issues, you should really determine why your application outputs an HTTP body before the HTTP header. That’d be like taking a phone call and discussing your day and the weather before telling the caller that he’s got the wrong number.

Fix “Headers already sent” error in PHP- Answer #3

I got this error many times before, and I am certain all PHP programmers got this error at least once before.

Possible Solution 1

This error may have been caused by the blank spaces before the start of the file or after the end of the file.These blank spaces should not be here.

ex) THERE SHOULD BE NO BLANK SPACES HERE

   echo "your code here";

?>
THERE SHOULD BE NO BLANK SPACES HERE

Check all files associated with file that causes this error.

Note: Sometimes EDITOR(IDE) like gedit (a default linux editor) add one blank line on save file. This should not happen. If you are using Linux. you can use VI editor to remove space/lines after ?> at the end of the page.

Possible Solution 2: If this is not your case, then use ob_start to output buffering:

<?php
  ob_start();

  // code 

 ob_end_flush();
?> 

This will turn output buffering on and your headers will be created after the page is buffered.

Fix “Headers already sent” error in PHP- Answer #4

Instead of the below line

//header("Location:".ADMIN_URL."/index.php");

write

echo("<script>location.href = '".ADMIN_URL."/index.php?msg=$msg';</script>");

or

?><script><?php echo("location.href = '".ADMIN_URL."/index.php?msg=$msg';");?></script><?php

It’ll definitely solve your problem. I faced the same problem but I solved through writing header location in the above way.

Hope your problem has been solved by now.

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