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Using Internet Explorer to download files for you

, 27 Dec 1999
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This article presents two methods of using the URLDownloadToFile function in IE3+ to download files.
  • Download demo project - 23 Kb

    Sample Image - URLDownload.gif

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    Downloading with URLDownloadToFile()

    A while ago, Chris Maunder posted a suggestion to one of the boards asking how to download files, with the ability to abort the download after a timeout period. One solution to doing this is a function provided by IE 3 and later called URLDownloadToFile(). This function is suprisingly simple - just give it a URL, a filename, and an object to handle progress callbacks, and IE handles the rest!

    The function can be used by any application rather easily. IE displays no UI during the download, so the caller can provide any desired progress indicators. IE informs the caller of the download progress, so showing progress UI is also pretty easy.

    The prototype for URLDownloadToFile() is:

    HRESULT URLDownloadToFile(
        LPUNKNOWN pCaller,
        LPCSTR szURL,
        LPCSTR szFileName,
        DWORD dwReserved,
    is used only if the caller is an ActiveX object. If the calling app is not an ActiveX object, this parameter can be NULL.
    is the absolute URL of the file to download.
    contains the fully-qualified name of the file to be created.
    must be zero.
    is a pointer to an IBindStatusCallback interface, which IE uses to inform you of the download progress.

    The steps involved in using URLDownloadToFile() are:

    • Obtain the URL for the file you want to download.
    • Construct the fully-qualified path for the file to be created.
    • Create an IBindStatusCallback-derived class and write an OnProgress() function for it.
    • Instantiate an object of that class.
    • Call URLDownloadToFile(). The call is synchronous, so you will probably want to call the function from a worker thread.
    • In your OnProgress() function, provide any progress indicators or other UI that you want. The return from OnProgress() tells IE whether to continue the download, or abort it.

    Using IBindStatusCallback

    IBindStatusCallback has eight methods, but for the purposes of downloading, the only function you need to be concerned with is OnProgress(). The others can just return E_NOTIMPL. The prototype for OnProgress() is:

    HRESULT OnProgress(
        ULONG  ulProgress,
        ULONG  ulProgressMax,
        ULONG  ulStatusCode,
        LPCWSTR  szStatusText );
    is the number of bytes downloaded so far.
    is the size of the file, or zero if the size is not known. Note that technically, this value may change between calls to OnProgress(), so you should not store the value in a static variable; you should check the value every time the function is called.
    is a string suitable for using in UI, if you want to take what IE gives you. This text is pretty bare-bones, and you'll probably want to use something more substantial for your progress UI. Note that technically, this parameter may be NULL, so be sure to check the value before using it.

    OnProgress() returns S_OK to tell IE to keep downloading, or E_ABORT to abort the download.

    The ATL Way

    If you have looked through the MSDN docs a bit, you may have seen that ATL has a CBindStatusCallback class. This class implements IBindStatusCallback for you. When using CBindStatusCallback, you provide ATL an object that has a couple of member functions that ATL will call back as the download proceeds. The object is given to ATL as the template parameter "T" in CBindStatusCallback<T>.

    Using this class involves more work, however, since you must provide a function that stores the incoming data. When you use URLDownloadToFile(), the data is saved for you automatically.

    The Sample Project

    The screen shot at the beginning of the article is from the sample project's app. You enter the URL of the file you want to download, and the full path of the target file on your system, and click Start. You can also enter a timeout in seconds, and the app will abort the download if that length of time passes before the donwload is complete.

    You can find the latest updates to this any my other articles at

  • License

    This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

    A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


    About the Author

    Michael Dunn
    Software Developer (Senior) VMware
    United States United States
    Michael lives in sunny Mountain View, California. He started programming with an Apple //e in 4th grade, graduated from UCLA with a math degree in 1994, and immediately landed a job as a QA engineer at Symantec, working on the Norton AntiVirus team. He pretty much taught himself Windows and MFC programming, and in 1999 he designed and coded a new interface for Norton AntiVirus 2000.
    Mike has been a a developer at Napster and at his own lil' startup, Zabersoft, a development company he co-founded with offices in Los Angeles and Odense, Denmark. Mike is now a senior engineer at VMware.

    He also enjoys his hobbies of playing pinball, bike riding, photography, and Domion on Friday nights (current favorite combo: Village + double Pirate Ship). He would get his own snooker table too if they weren't so darn big! He is also sad that he's forgotten the languages he's studied: French, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese.
    Mike was a VC MVP from 2005 to 2009.

    Comments and Discussions

    QuestionCan we start this with an task scheduler Pinmembersaopramod24-Sep-13 11:13 
    GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberRob Caldecott13-Mar-11 11:12 
    GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberTClarke17-Feb-11 23:38 
    QuestionWhy URLDownloadToFile always returns E_ABORT? Pinmemberbuaa_dep69-Dec-09 0:36 
    AnswerRe: Why URLDownloadToFile always returns E_ABORT? Pinmemberbuaa_dep69-Dec-09 15:57 
    Generalabout the project Pinmembermunnangi17-Dec-08 21:26 
    GeneralSave recordset to ADO file PinmemberErrol Obrique22-Sep-08 22:08 
    Questionability to continue download? Pinmembermonsieur_jj24-Apr-08 21:25 
    GeneralRetrieving HTTP response code PinmemberDave Shiel25-Oct-07 23:15 
    Hi Michael,
    Great article btw!
    I've adapted your sample and integrated it into my own code. I am currently trying to retrieve the HTTP response code to determine if the file was truly downloaded successfully.
    I thought it would be as simple as extending my CBindStatusCallbackImpl class (which currently derives from IBindStatusCallback) to derive from IHttpNegotiate also, and to override the OnResponse method (as the dwResponseCode parameter contains the code). But alas, when I debug the application my breakpoint aint hit Frown | :(
    Any ideas/thoughts?
    GeneralRe: Retrieving HTTP response code PinmvpMichael Dunn6-Jan-08 9:25 
    GeneralRe: Retrieving HTTP response code PinmemberDave Shiel6-Jan-08 23:16 
    GeneralRe: Retrieving HTTP response code PinmvpMichael Dunn7-Jan-08 4:59 
    GeneralRe: Retrieving HTTP response code PinmemberDLChambers13-Mar-08 16:47 
    GeneralRe: Retrieving HTTP response code PinmemberphCourage6-Oct-09 0:10 
    Generalerror = 800401E4 invalid syntax Pinmemberawah1-Jul-07 7:20 
    GeneralRe: error = 800401E4 invalid syntax PinmemberDLChambers13-Mar-08 16:18 
    AnswerRe: error = 800401E4 invalid syntax [modified] PinmemberEric35806554-Aug-08 19:01 
    GeneralRe: error = 800401E4 invalid syntax PinmemberDaleKing30-Sep-09 12:31 
    GeneralNice one PinmemberHakunaMatada15-Jun-07 20:06 
    GeneralRe: Nice one PinmvpMichael Dunn23-Jun-07 9:42 
    GeneralRe: Nice one PinmemberHakunaMatada7-Sep-10 3:55 
    GeneralThanks a lot !!! PinmemberHarviz Harrison7-May-07 9:28 
    QuestionHai [modified] PinmemberArun.Immanuel5-May-07 20:59 
    AnswerRe: Hai PinmvpMichael Dunn5-May-07 22:37 
    QuestionSockets programming possible inside Internet Explorer PinmemberMember #5007105-Mar-07 7:05 
    QuestionHelp... Pinmemberasfur22-Dec-06 6:22 
    QuestionIs there any way of getting title of not direct link? (php,asp, ets...) Pinmembervfilll9-Dec-06 10:53 
    AnswerRe: Is there any way of getting title of not direct link? (php,asp, ets...) PinsitebuilderMichael Dunn9-Dec-06 16:14 
    GeneralRe: Is there any way of getting title of not direct link? (php,asp, ets...) Pinmembervfilll9-Dec-06 23:23 
    AnswerRe: Is there any way of getting title of not direct link? (php,asp, ets...) PinmemberMisutka22-Aug-08 5:09 
    GeneralActiveX installer PinmemberAmit220320-Nov-06 3:29 
    GeneralRe: ActiveX installer PinsitebuilderMichael Dunn20-Nov-06 8:51 
    GeneralProblem when calling a Dialog to update the progress Pinmembersdancer7525-Jul-06 0:17 
    GeneralAuthentication PinmemberJohnFx21-Mar-06 10:45 
    GeneralRe: Authentication PinsitebuilderMichael Dunn22-Mar-06 11:52 
    GeneralRe: Authentication PinmemberJohnFx22-Mar-06 12:25 
    GeneralThanks a lot!! PinmemberMarchenko Ruslan6-Mar-06 6:24 
    Generalyou are the man PinmemberBen Bryant18-Oct-05 8:38 
    GeneralRe: you are the man PinsitebuilderMichael Dunn21-Oct-05 10:52 
    Generalnot using cache PinmemberJabraJabra18-Sep-05 21:29 
    GeneralRe: not using cache PinsitebuilderMichael Dunn21-Oct-05 10:48 
    GeneralError return! PinmemberKorivo28-Jul-05 6:39 
    GeneralRe: Error return! PinsitebuilderMichael Dunn29-Jul-05 10:52 
    GeneralRe: Error return! PinmemberKorivo29-Jul-05 12:34 
    Generalhelp for this Pinmembertasleem14310-Jul-05 0:47 
    QuestionThe ATL Way? PinmemberNotoriousBIG_PJ12-Jun-05 18:55 
    AnswerRe: The ATL Way? PinsitebuilderMichael Dunn13-Jun-05 11:47 
    General0x800401e4 Invalid syntax Pinmemberdjrisc29-Oct-04 23:41 
    GeneralRe: 0x800401e4 Invalid syntax PinsitebuilderMichael Dunn30-Oct-04 6:32 
    GeneralPause and Resum !!!!!! Pinmemberdongcm8212-Jul-04 19:25 

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