How to Fix “WordPress Download File Instead of Opening in Browser” Issue: Step-by-Step Guide

wordpress download file, wordpress download file instead of opening, wp file download

All of us have probably come across this problem at one point or another when we tried to open a webpage in a new browser, and over time things did not turn out according to our plans, and we ended up downloading the file instead of opening it.

This issue has recently caught the attention of some of our readers, which is why we decided to take note of it. And if you’re using WordPress, you’ve to make a lot of effort to fix these downloading file issues – but now you don’t need to.

After facing this issue on some of my websites, here I’m with another comprehensive tutorial to help anyone who is experiencing this issue on the web. And to save you from all this stress of finding ways, here I’m sharing all the six methods that you can do for fixing these types of issues on your website.

So, let’s get ahead!

Reasons for WordPress Downloading a File Instead of Opening in Browser

I would suggest that before we go ahead and jump to the solution portion of the article, you might want to take a moment to understand what is causing this issue.

If you experience this issue, it is likely because whenever you open your website, it takes it as a command and downloads a file called named index.php

This means that instead of opening your website in the browser, you now find that you have a completely blank page and a file has been downloaded to your system. This could be due to any of these reasons:

  • You have a cache plugin, and it isn’t compatible.
  • Any plugin in your website is malfunctioning.
  • There is an error in the code inside the .htaccess file.

How to Fix this Error?

After reading a bunch of articles on the internet and trying each method by ourselves, and testing if it is right, we have come up with the six most accurate and best steps that you can use to fix the “WordPress Download File Instead of Opening in Browser” error.

Let us see those solutions below.

1. Updating Server

There is a good chance that you have forgotten to update your server because you have been busy and have not done this in the past. If you are currently using an old version, which may have failed by now, you may notice that your WordPress website is downloading files when you try to view it in a new browser.

The first thing you need to do is check if you are using a personal hosting service. In case you are using a personal hosting service, then you need to check in the dashboard if there are any updates available. If there are, then you can update and download them right away.

Here I’m sharing an in-depth guide to updating your server.

Moreover, if you are using a shared hosting provider, then it will be better for you to get in touch with them. This will enable you to explain the situation you are experiencing in detail, and they’ll assist you and update the server.

2. Uninstalling Cache Plugin from WordPress

Generally speaking, plugins that deal with caching are one of the most common causes of these errors. So once you have checked the server update and everything is fine, but in case the warning persists, let’s try deactivating any caching plugins such as WP Rocket, Super Cache, and so forth.

But what if your admin panel is not accessible? It seems hectic, right?

Well, mostly, the admin panel is still reachable, and you can use any method for login, like using the link ( and deactivating the plugin.

But in case the panel is not available, follow the steps and do it manually:

The first thing you should do is go to the file manager of the server. In the file manager, search for the cache plugin that you are using and remove it. If your server doesn’t have a file manager, then log into SSH and delete the cache plugin from here.

wordpress download file, wordpress download file instead of opening, wp file download
WP Rocket (Homepage)

You will find the cache plugin under public_html.

In the directory “public_html” you will see “wp-content“, and in the folder “wp-content” you will see “plugins“. Now, you need to go inside the plugins folder and use the “rm -rf plugin-yourcachepluginname” command to delete the plugin.

In case the issue persists, you can reactivate your plugin and move on to the next step.

3. Removing addHandler Code from Your .htaccess File

If you have an Apache-based server, you will find lines in your .htaccess file with a suffix called AddHandler that you need to remove from your list of codes.

The AddHandler code looks like the one given in the below image.

wordpress download file, wordpress download file instead of opening, wp file download

Using SSH, you will need to log in to the server and look for the .htaccess file. You can edit these displayed commands using any command that is compatible with the server or a text editor such as Vi.

As soon as you have removed these codes from your site, you should check your website again and see if it’s fixed. If not, you may want to try the next method.

4. Replacing .htaccess File

If removing the AddHandler doesn’t work for you, you will have to replace the entire .htaccess file and modify it to match your requirements.

In WordPress, you will find a default code for the .htaccess file that will make it easier for you to customize the website. However, it is possible that these default codes may have some error in them that has caused WordPress to download the file instead of opening it in the browser.

Therefore, you may need to completely remove the .htaccess file from your server and create another .htaccess file with the default WordPress code.

Here’s what the code looks like for reference:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ – [L] RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L] </IfModule>

In order to do this, you will just need to copy and paste the entire code into your .htaccess file.

It is now likely that the error has been solved, and your website will start opening rather than downloading the file.

5. Reinstalling WordPress

A common problem in the internet world is malware, which causes a lot of bother and annoyance. So if the previous methods have not worked for you, it could be because you are suffering from a malfunctioning malware attack.

As a solution to this issue, the best thing you can do is refresh everything and reinstall WordPress.

Reinstalling WordPress is safe as long as you’re not deleting any juicy files from your server. If you’re not sure how to do it, just take a complete backup of your website and follow the steps given here. This article will help you reinstall WordPress.

6. Changing Hosting Provider

Last but not least, is the possibility that your hosting company may be having any malfunctions that are causing this error to occur on your website. Contact them to resolve the issue. If the problem persists, then you may have to change your hosting service.

It is also possible to fix this problem in your hosting service, but that is for technically trained people only. If you are a non-technical person, you are likely to mess everything up. So, it is best to just change your hosting service provider instead of trying to fix it yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We understand that you may have some extra questions in your mind after reading this article. So just in case you are left with any queries, we have compressed the most common of all here:

Q. What exactly causes the WordPress Downloads File Instead of Opening in Browser error?

There are a number of reasons for the WordPress downloading the files instead of opening in browser error:

  • Server issue
  • Cache Plugin Incompatibility
  • AddHandler Code malfunctioning
  • Wrong code of .htaccess File
  • Hosting Provider is not good enough
  • Malware in WordPress

Q. What if the problem persists even after trying out all the methods mentioned in this article?

If the problem still persists even after trying out all the methods, there is a possibility that you may have missed some steps. The best thing you can do at times like this is to seek professional help. They will exactly pinpoint the problem and solve it for you.

Q. How to know if my WordPress site is downloading files instead of opening in the browser error?

You can check if the file has been downloaded from the “Downloads” folder on your computer. If you see the file in the folder, it means that your site is having this particular error of downloading files instead of opening them in the browser.

Final Thoughts!

If you are currently facing this issue, then these methods will really help. If you are not, it’s better to keep checking things on a regular basis to solve any potential upcoming problem.

These six methods can be relied upon anytime by you to solve this issue. These are simple and time-saving methods that will help you to solve this pain point to a great extent.

I hope this article has cleared your doubts. In case you need further assistance, reach out to us in the comment section!

Avatar of Sunny Kumar
Sunny Kumar
Hello! I’m Sunny Kumar from New Delhi, India, a tech enthusiast and blogger with an IT degree from IIT-D. My expertise lies in SEO, Cloud Computing, Telecom & Networking, and CEH. I specialize in SEO, WordPress Development, and PC Building. And being a proficient WordPress user, I’m dedicated to delivering quality content and a remarkable user experience.

1 thought on “How to Fix “WordPress Download File Instead of Opening in Browser” Issue: Step-by-Step Guide”

  1. I found your article thoroughly helpful and well-structured. I can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is to understand the server, plugin, and .htaccess file involvement in resolving this WordPress issue. Thanks for sharing such resourceful insight.


Leave a Comment