I have some images in a section of a site that require the user to be logged in in order to view. These images are served by a PHP script, which checks the user's login state and if valid, serves the binary data with the appropriate headers. This all works fine.

The issue comes when a user tries to print one of these images. In Internet Explorer, when they go to print preview, they get the broken image box with a red cross in the corner instead of the actual file. This is also what gets printed. All other browsers can print the images without issue.

I have some images elsewhere on the site that are also served via. PHP but these don't require a login. These print fine.

The PHP-powered HTML pages on the site that require a login also print fine in IE. It's just login-required images.

When the user hits 'print preview', this does not seem to result in additional HTTP request to the server for the file. However I do see an additional HTTP request a few seconds later that comes from the same IP (may or may not be related), This request includes no host header, no REQUEST_URI and no user agent.

The 'please login' page sends an appropriate 403 header. I've also added a far-in-future expires header to the image response itself to ensure that browsers can serve/print the files from their own cache but this hasn't made any difference.

Why can't IE print the images and what else can I do to investigate or fix the problem?

  • Are these images presented in a standard img element? They aren't background-images for instance? I assume, from your question, that you don't have a print-only stylesheet? How is a user authenticated?
    – MrWhite
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 13:58
  • 1
    The user is viewing the images directly (i.e. example.com/private/chart.jpg), they aren't viewing them embedded within a HTML page. Authentication is a PHP session based login system. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 13:59

1 Answer 1


It seems that print preview doesn't have access to your current session, or just has a session on it's own. Or possible not even a 'browser' and just renders the page as an image towards a clientside app.

So I think your best bet is to use some other form of authentication for the images.

cookies? database? or provide a temporary full access page for printing without auth?

  • But if it was purely a problem with authentication wouldn't HTML pages (that required login) also be a problem? The OP states these print OK.
    – MrWhite
    Commented Aug 1, 2012 at 11:46
  • indeed, I didn't see that before..
    – woony
    Commented Aug 1, 2012 at 13:23

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