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Downloading Files with JavaScript Fetch API


Downloading files from a server is a common requirement in web development, and being able to accomplish this task using JavaScript is crucial. In this article, we will explore how to download files with the JavaScript Fetch API.

The Fetch API is a modern and powerful feature introduced in JavaScript that simplifies making HTTP requests. It provides a more elegant and straightforward way to interact with servers compared to traditional methods like XMLHttpRequest.

Learning how to download files with Fetch API is important because it allows us to retrieve files from a server and save them directly to the client's device without the need for additional plugins or libraries. This can be useful in various scenarios, such as downloading images, documents, or other resources from a server dynamically. By understanding how to use Fetch API for file downloads, developers can enhance the user experience by providing seamless and efficient file retrieval capabilities within their web applications.

What is Fetch API?

Fetch API is a modern JavaScript API that simplifies making HTTP requests in JavaScript. It provides a more intuitive and streamlined way to send and receive data from a server compared to traditional methods like XMLHttpRequest.

One of the main advantages of using Fetch API is its simplicity. It offers a more user-friendly syntax, using promises to handle asynchronous operations. This makes it easier to read and write code for making HTTP requests.

Another advantage of Fetch API is its built-in support for handling different types of data, such as JSON, binary files, and text. It automatically parses the response based on the specified content type, simplifying the process of working with different data formats.

Fetch API also allows for more control over the request and response by providing options to set headers, specify the request method, and handle redirects. It supports features like streaming response bodies and aborting requests, which were not easily achievable with the older XMLHttpRequest.

Overall, Fetch API provides a more modern and efficient way to make HTTP requests in JavaScript, making it a preferred choice over older methods like XMLHttpRequest.

Making a GET Request with Fetch API

To make a GET request to the server using Fetch API, you can use the fetch() function, which takes the URL of the server endpoint as its argument. Additionally, you can specify any necessary headers for the request.

Here's an example of how to make a GET request with Fetch API:

  .then(response => {
    // Handle the response
    if (response.ok) {
      return response.json(); // Assuming the response is in JSON format
    } else {
      throw new Error('Request failed');
  .then(data => {
    // Process the data returned from the server
  .catch(error => {
    // Handle any errors that occurred during the request

In the above code, we use the fetch() function to send a GET request to the endpoint. The returned response object can be checked for its ok property to determine if the request was successful. If it is, we can extract the response data using response.json() (assuming the response is in JSON format). If the request fails, we throw an error and handle it in the catch block.

By using Fetch API, you can easily make GET requests to server endpoints and handle the response data in a straightforward manner.

Handling the Response

When making a request using the Fetch API, we receive a response from the server. To handle this response, we can use the then() method, which allows us to chain multiple operations.

The response may be in different formats, such as JSON or plain text. To access the response data, we need to use the appropriate method for the desired format. For JSON, we can use the json() method, while for plain text, we can use the text() method.

Here's an example that demonstrates how to handle a response and extract the file data to initiate a download:

  .then(response => response.blob()) // Get the response as a Blob
  .then(blob => {
    // Create a temporary URL for the Blob
    const url = URL.createObjectURL(blob);
    // Create a link and set its href to the temporary URL
    const link = document.createElement('a');
    link.href = url;
    // Set the link attributes for downloading
    link.setAttribute('download', 'file.pdf');
    // Programmatically click the link to initiate the download;
    // Clean up the temporary URL
  .catch(error => console.error(error));

In this example, we make a request to and receive a response. We then convert the response to a Blob using the blob() method. A Blob represents raw data, such as a file.

Next, we create a temporary URL for the Blob using URL.createObjectURL(). This URL is then assigned to the href attribute of a dynamically created <a> element. We set the download attribute to specify the desired name of the downloaded file.

Finally, we programmatically click the link using the click() method to initiate the download. After the download is complete, we clean up the temporary URL using URL.revokeObjectURL().

By handling the response and extracting the necessary file data, we can easily initiate file downloads using the Fetch API.

Initiating the File Download

To initiate a file download on the client-side using JavaScript and Fetch API, you can create a link element with the desired file URL and programmatically click on it. This approach is commonly used for downloading files of different types, such as images, PDFs, or documents.

Here's an example of how to initiate a file download using this approach:

function downloadFile(url) {
  const link = document.createElement('a');
  link.href = url; = true;;

// Usage
const fileUrl = '';

In this example, the downloadFile function takes the file URL as a parameter. It creates a new link element using document.createElement('a'), sets the href attribute to the file URL, and the download attribute to true. The download attribute specifies that the file should be downloaded when the link is clicked. Finally, the function triggers the download by programmatically clicking on the link using

By dynamically creating a link element and simulating a click event, the file download is initiated without requiring the user to manually click on a download button or link.

It's important to note that the file being downloaded should be from the same origin as the website to avoid cross-origin security issues. If the file is from a different origin, you may need to configure the server to allow cross-origin resource sharing (CORS) or use a different approach, such as fetching the file data and creating a blob or object URL for download.

Additionally, you can customize the download behavior by setting the download attribute to a specific file name instead of true. This allows you to specify the desired name for the downloaded file.

Overall, this approach provides a simple and straightforward way to initiate file downloads on the client-side using JavaScript and Fetch API.

Handling Errors and Progress

When downloading a file using Fetch API, it is important to handle any errors that may occur during the process. Fetch API provides a way to catch and handle these errors using the catch method. By chaining the catch method after the then method, you can specify what action should be taken in case of an error.

  .then(response => {
    // Handle the response
  .catch(error => {
    console.log('An error occurred:', error);

Additionally, Fetch API allows you to track the progress of the file download. This is particularly useful when dealing with large files or when you want to provide the user with a progress indicator. To track the progress, you can use the progress event and the response.body property.

  .then(response => {
    // Handle the response
  .catch(error => {
    console.log('An error occurred:', error);
  .then(response => {
    const reader = response.body.getReader();
    let receivedLength = 0;
    let chunks = [];

    function handleChunkResult(result) {
      receivedLength += result.value.length;
      console.log(`Received ${receivedLength} bytes`);

    function handleProgress() {;


In the above example, the response.body.getReader() method returns a readable stream, which can be used to read the response body in chunks. The handleChunkResult function is called each time a chunk is read, allowing you to track the progress by keeping count of the received bytes.

By combining error handling and progress tracking, you can provide a better user experience when downloading files with Fetch API.


In this article, we explored the process of downloading files with JavaScript Fetch API. We started by introducing the Fetch API and its advantages over traditional methods like XMLHttpRequest. We then discussed how to make a GET request using Fetch API, specifying the URL and headers.

Handling the response was another important aspect we covered, including extracting file data and initiating the download process. We also discussed different techniques for initiating file downloads, such as images and PDFs, using JavaScript on the client-side.

Additionally, we explored error handling and progress tracking during file downloads using Fetch API. This allows developers to provide a better user experience by handling errors gracefully and tracking the progress of large file downloads.

To summarize, Fetch API is a powerful tool for downloading files in JavaScript. It simplifies the process of making HTTP requests, handling responses, and initiating file downloads. By using Fetch API, developers can enhance their applications by enabling seamless file download capabilities.

For further learning, here are some additional tips and resources:

  • The MDN Fetch API documentation provides detailed information and examples on using Fetch API.
  • The Fetch API polyfill can be used to support older browsers that do not natively support Fetch API.
  • Consider exploring other file manipulation libraries, such as FileSaver.js, which provides additional functionality for saving files on the client-side.

By mastering Fetch API and its file downloading capabilities, developers can enhance their web applications with efficient and seamless file download functionality.