Definitive guide

Website maintenance basics

Website Downloading Instead of Opening In Browser (2023 Quick Fix)

Have you encountered a website downloading instead of opening in browser? I haven’t. But for those of you who have, I know that could be frustrating, especially if it’s your own website! No need to worry, though. I have some quick fixes for you regarding this issue. Beforehand, let’s understand the possible reasons why this happens.

Reasons a website is downloading instead of opening in a browser

There are several reasons why a website is downloading instead of opening. Experts identify that a website’s platform, built-in features, server misconfiguration, PHP errors, and outdated servers are culprits behind such an issue. Let me go through each one for a better understanding of it, as well as, the solutions for each.

Quick fixes for a website downloading instead of opening in a browser

1. Website platform

WPX.Com points out that this issue commonly occurs because the website is made in WordPress. What normally happens is that the index.php of the website gets downloaded instead of opening when visited. The first solution to the issue then is within the platform itself.

The good thing is the admin link of WordPress to the website exhibiting this issue would still work and users can log in to make the necessary changes to address the issue. It would require disabling some WordPress plugins and changing WordPress themes.

2. WordPress built-in features

The WordPress Plugin Super Cache is a common cause of the website being downloaded instead of opening in a browser. One has to deactivate and then delete the Super Cache Plugin from the Admin section or Dashboard of the website.

Here’s how to deactivate and delete the plugin:

1. From the Dashboard, scroll down and click Plugins to open its menu.

2. Choose Installed plugins. This will open the plugins page.

3. Look for the Super Cache from the list of installed plugins on your website.

4. Click the “Deactivate” option under the plugin’s name. You can also deactivate the plugin by clicking the box beside it and choosing “Deactivate” from the “Bulk Actions” drop-down menu near the “Apply” button at the top of the plugin list.

5. After deactivating, log out from the Admin section to check if the issue persists. If it doesn’t go back to the Plugins section to delete Super Cache.

6. Tick the box beside the Super Cache Plugin name and choose “Delete” from the “Bulk Action” drop-down menu.

7. Click “Apply” to complete the process. adds that other caching and optimization plugins such as the Cornerstone and CDN plugins may cause this issue. So you would have to deactivate all such plugins used in the website using the steps I just mentioned. Then you would have to reactivate each one of the plugins to check if it causes the issue before deleting it from your website.

Another WordPress feature that may cause the issue is using a particular theme such as a child theme. The website has to be reverted to a parent theme and removed from the customized codes of the former such as Javascript and CSS.

Now, if the steps mentioned above have been undertaken and the symptoms persist, it is probable that the solution lies in reconfiguring your server.

3. Server Misconfiguration

According to StackOverflow, a server misconfiguration would cause a website to be downloaded instead of being opened in a browser. This happens because the misconfiguration sends a wrong message or incorrect mime type to the browser accessing the website.

The incorrect mime type would often send an “application/x-httpd-php” setting instead of a “text/html” configuration for an HTML file, which is the page of a website.

Solving the issue would require one to modify the “.htaccess” file of the website. There are three ways to do this: deleting all the “AddHandler” string, renaming the “.htaccess” file, and modifying the “.htaccess” file.

Website Downloading Instead of Opening In Browser

Option 1: Deleting “AddHandler”

1. Look for the “.htaccess” file of your website from its control panel.

2. Once you locate the file, open it to edit its content.

3. Search for “AddHandler” and delete each one.

4. Save the file and close it.

5. Next, clear the cache of your browser before accessing your website again.

Option 2: Renaming “.htaccess” file

1. Rename your website’s “.htaccess” file as “.htaccess-bak” before going to your Dashboard.

2. From the Dashboard, scroll down to Settings and choose Permalinks from its menu.

3. This will open the Permalinks page where you just have to click on “Save Changes” to complete the process.

Option 3: Modifying “.htaccess” file

1. Open the “.htaccess” file from your website’s directory

2. Search for “application/x-httpd-php”

3. Add any of the following string after it: “AddType text/html .html” or “AddHandler application/x-httpd-php .php”

Note that this latter option would work for those whose websites are running on Apache servers or for those who set servers to automatically handle PHP requests. Thus, resulting in PHP configuration errors.

4. PHP configuration errors

Speaking of PHP configuration errors, one would have to disable the handlers added to the PHP when requests for it are automatically handled on the website. You could also manually modify your “wp-config.php” file by adding this line of code: “define( ‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘256M’ );

define( ‘WP_MAX_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘512M’ );”.

Correcting the PHP configuration would more often solve the issue of a website downloading instead of opening in a browser. But if it still persists, the last option would be to check the server if it is outdated.

5. Outdated Server

When a website’s server is outdated, the solution lies in upgrading it the soonest time possible. Running a particular command in your servers, such as those using Ubuntu or Centos, will implement the required update.

The command “apt-get -y update && apt-get -y upgrade” manually run on Ubuntu and “yum -y update && yum -y upgrade” on Centos should fix the problem. If this fails, your last recourse would be to move to a new hosting provider. But hopefully, you won’t have to go there and this issue would be solved already.


The issue of a website downloading instead of opening in a browser really has nothing to do with the type of browser being used. Though there are rare cases such as computer configuration and browser settings that could affect this, the issue is greatly more of a back-end conflict. The solution then lies in making the necessary changes to the website’s configuration and programming.


Is there a reason why some websites open and some don’t in a browser?

Yes, there are many possible reasons for this occurrence. A website may not open in a browser because it is not working properly or its hosting server is down. There could also be browser incompatibilities with the website. Another reason could be the owner of the website has banned your IP address and you can not access their website. The website may have overly-protective security features and have sensed your connection as a threat to it. Or it could be any of the aforementioned reasons in the article above.

Why is my website’s PHP file being downloaded when accessed?

This happens when the website’s handler code conflicts with the PHP version. You can check the versions in the “.htaccess” file of your website. You can check your website’s PHP version through its back-end menu. Normally, a notice from the hosting server would show a need for an update with the PHP and you simply need to install it.


Is there something else you’d like to know about this topic? Do send me a message and I’ll get back to you on it the soonest!

Website Downloading Instead of Opening In Browser 2

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Ralph de Groot – My Codeless Website

My name is Ralph de Groot. I'm the founder and author at My Codeless Website. Wake me up for a great web design. I love writing about website examples, too!

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