Servlet Upload File and Download File Example

Published on August 3, 2022


Servlet Upload File and Download File Example

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Servlet Upload File and Download File is a common task in java web application. Since I have written a lot about java servlet recently, I thought to provide a sample example of servlet file upload to server and then download from server to client.

Servlet Upload File

Our use case is to provide a simple HTML page where client can select a local file to be uploaded to server. On submission of request to upload the file, our servlet program will upload the file into a directory in the server and then provide the URL through which user can download the file. For security reason, user will not be provided direct URL for downloading the file, rather they will be given a link to download the file and our servlet will process the request and send the file to user. We will create a dynamic web project in Eclipse and the project structure will look like below image. Servlet Upload File, java upload file to server, servlet download file Let’s look into all the components of our web application and understand the implementation.

HTML Page for Java Uploading File to Server

We can upload a file to server by sending a post request to servlet and submitting the form. We can’t use GET method for uploading file. Another point to note is that enctype of form should be multipart/form-data. To select a file from user file system, we need to use input element with type as file. So we can have a simple HTML page index.html for uploading file as:

<form action="UploadDownloadFileServlet" method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data">
Select File to Upload:<input type="file" name="fileName">
<input type="submit" value="Upload">

Server File Location for File Upload

We need to store file into some directory at server, we can have this directory hardcoded in program but for better flexibility, we will keep it configurable in deployment descriptor context params. Also we will add our upload file html page to the welcome file list. Our web.xml file will look like below:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<web-app xmlns:xsi="https://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xmlns="https://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee" xsi:schemaLocation="https://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee https://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee/web-app_3_0.xsd" version="3.0">

ServletContextListener for File Upload Location

Since we need to read context parameter for file location and create a File object from it, we can write a ServletContextListener to do it when context is initialized. We can set absolute directory location and File object as context attribute to be used by other servlets. Our ServletContextListener implementation code is like below.

package com.journaldev.servlet;

import java.io.File;

import javax.servlet.ServletContext;
import javax.servlet.ServletContextEvent;
import javax.servlet.ServletContextListener;
import javax.servlet.annotation.WebListener;

public class FileLocationContextListener implements ServletContextListener {

    public void contextInitialized(ServletContextEvent servletContextEvent) {
    	String rootPath = System.getProperty("catalina.home");
    	ServletContext ctx = servletContextEvent.getServletContext();
    	String relativePath = ctx.getInitParameter("tempfile.dir");
    	File file = new File(rootPath + File.separator + relativePath);
    	if(!file.exists()) file.mkdirs();
    	System.out.println("File Directory created to be used for storing files");
    	ctx.setAttribute("FILES_DIR_FILE", file);
    	ctx.setAttribute("FILES_DIR", rootPath + File.separator + relativePath);

	public void contextDestroyed(ServletContextEvent servletContextEvent) {
		//do cleanup if needed

File Upload Download Servlet

Update: Servlet Specs 3 added support to upload files on server in the API, so we won’t need to use any third party API. Please check out Servlet 3 Upload File. For File upload, we will use Apache Commons FileUpload utility, for our project we are using version 1.3, FileUpload depends on Apache Commons IO jar, so we need to place both in the lib directory of the project, as you can see that in above image for project structure. We will use DiskFileItemFactory factory that provides a method to parse the HttpServletRequest object and return list of FileItem. FileItem provides useful method to get the file name, field name in form, size and content type details of the file that needs to be uploaded. To write file to a directory, all we need to do it create a File object and pass it as argument to FileItem write() method. Since the whole purpose of the servlet is to upload file, we will override init() method to initialise the DiskFileItemFactory object instance of the servlet. We will use this object in the doPost() method implementation to upload file to server directory. Once the file gets uploaded successfully, we will send response to client with URL to download the file, since HTML links use GET method,we will append the parameter for file name in the URL and we can utilise the same servlet doGet() method to implement file download process. For implementing download file servlet, first we will open the InputStream for the file and use ServletContext.getMimeType() method to get the MIME type of the file and set it as response content type. We will also need to set the response content length as length of the file. To make sure that client understand that we are sending file in response, we need to set “Content-Disposition” header with value as "attachment; filename=“fileName”. Once we are done with setting response configuration, we can read file content from InputStream and write it to ServletOutputStream and the flush the output to client. Our final implementation of UploadDownloadFileServlet servlet looks like below.

package com.journaldev.servlet;

import java.io.File;
import java.io.FileInputStream;
import java.io.IOException;
import java.io.InputStream;
import java.io.PrintWriter;
import java.util.Iterator;
import java.util.List;

import javax.servlet.ServletContext;
import javax.servlet.ServletException;
import javax.servlet.ServletOutputStream;
import javax.servlet.annotation.WebServlet;
import javax.servlet.http.HttpServlet;
import javax.servlet.http.HttpServletRequest;
import javax.servlet.http.HttpServletResponse;

import org.apache.commons.fileupload.FileItem;
import org.apache.commons.fileupload.FileUploadException;
import org.apache.commons.fileupload.disk.DiskFileItemFactory;
import org.apache.commons.fileupload.servlet.ServletFileUpload;

public class UploadDownloadFileServlet extends HttpServlet {
	private static final long serialVersionUID = 1L;
    private ServletFileUpload uploader = null;
	public void init() throws ServletException{
		DiskFileItemFactory fileFactory = new DiskFileItemFactory();
		File filesDir = (File) getServletContext().getAttribute("FILES_DIR_FILE");
		this.uploader = new ServletFileUpload(fileFactory);
	protected void doGet(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {
		String fileName = request.getParameter("fileName");
		if(fileName == null || fileName.equals("")){
			throw new ServletException("File Name can't be null or empty");
		File file = new File(request.getServletContext().getAttribute("FILES_DIR")+File.separator+fileName);
			throw new ServletException("File doesn't exists on server.");
		System.out.println("File location on server::"+file.getAbsolutePath());
		ServletContext ctx = getServletContext();
		InputStream fis = new FileInputStream(file);
		String mimeType = ctx.getMimeType(file.getAbsolutePath());
		response.setContentType(mimeType != null? mimeType:"application/octet-stream");
		response.setContentLength((int) file.length());
		response.setHeader("Content-Disposition", "attachment; filename=\"" + fileName + "\"");
		ServletOutputStream os = response.getOutputStream();
		byte[] bufferData = new byte[1024];
		int read=0;
		while((read = fis.read(bufferData))!= -1){
			os.write(bufferData, 0, read);
		System.out.println("File downloaded at client successfully");

	protected void doPost(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {
			throw new ServletException("Content type is not multipart/form-data");
		PrintWriter out = response.getWriter();
		try {
			List<FileItem> fileItemsList = uploader.parseRequest(request);
			Iterator<FileItem> fileItemsIterator = fileItemsList.iterator();
				FileItem fileItem = fileItemsIterator.next();
				System.out.println("Size in bytes="+fileItem.getSize());
				File file = new File(request.getServletContext().getAttribute("FILES_DIR")+File.separator+fileItem.getName());
				System.out.println("Absolute Path at server="+file.getAbsolutePath());
				out.write("File "+fileItem.getName()+ " uploaded successfully.");
				out.write("<a href=\"UploadDownloadFileServlet?fileName="+fileItem.getName()+"\">Download "+fileItem.getName()+"</a>");
		} catch (FileUploadException e) {
			out.write("Exception in uploading file.");
		} catch (Exception e) {
			out.write("Exception in uploading file.");


The sample execution of the project is shown in below images. Servlet File Upload HTML JSP Form Servlet File Upload to Server Servlet Download File

Download Servlet File Upload Download Project

You can download Apache Commons IO jar and Apache Commons FileUpload jar from below URLs. https://commons.apache.org/proper/commons-fileupload/download_fileupload.cgi https://commons.apache.org/proper/commons-io/download_io.cgi

Download Servlet File Upload Download Example Project

Check out next article in the series about Servlet Exception Handling.

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DigitalOcean Employee
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January 19, 2021

do you have this example to upload 2 files?

- Bmg

    DigitalOcean Employee
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    December 12, 2020

    Hey thank you for this tutorial. everything is working ;) . I don’t know if you still come around here to see comments, but do you know if there is a way to get the img in the server directory from an html page using php.

    - Alex

      DigitalOcean Employee
      DigitalOcean Employee badge
      September 4, 2020

      Hello Sir , Very Beatiful Example. I want to upload documents for particular user. ex:-1. John upload and views its documents 2. Marry upload and views its documents

      - rahul

        DigitalOcean Employee
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        December 11, 2019

        This was a great tutorial. I had a few issues with the code at first, but was able to resolve. As a suggestion it would be helpful to everyone to understand that your code is probably coding in a linux based system verses windows. If coding in windows, there maybe an issue with the AbsolutePath causing an issue with saving the file to the tempfile directory on the apache server. If using apache as the web server. C:\\ will cause havoc with Linux paths code. Also, the code is meant to upload the file once, any subsequent uploads will result in an exception because the file already exist. So, can force remove the existing file or simply add a ! file.exist check to solve the issue.

        - Clarence Leslie

          DigitalOcean Employee
          DigitalOcean Employee badge
          November 12, 2019

          I am getting a ClassNotFoundException: org.apache.commons.fileupload.FileItemFactory I downloaded the apache commons fileUpload jar from here: https://commons.apache.org/proper/commons-fileupload/download\_fileupload.cgi Any thoughts on this?

          - HL

            DigitalOcean Employee
            DigitalOcean Employee badge
            April 5, 2019

            Thank you so much. It helps me lots for my final year project.

            - Npac

              DigitalOcean Employee
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              February 19, 2019

              After uploading a file, my servlet page UploadDownloadFileServlet doesn’t print anything as the file uploaded… it’s empty…

              - Mohammed Akbar

                DigitalOcean Employee
                DigitalOcean Employee badge
                May 10, 2018

                Thanks for this tutorial,but when i upload the file it shows Exception in uploading file…can u give any suggestions

                - dinesh

                  DigitalOcean Employee
                  DigitalOcean Employee badge
                  January 25, 2018

                  if you have the exception you should create a file and will be sure that it has utf-8 encoding In my case i tryid to upload my old resume file, i had an exception. Then i opened this file in notepad++ and try to change encoding i failed. Then i create simple file with notepad++ and encoding utf-8 and everything workes properly/

                  - Sergey_Zimovets

                    DigitalOcean Employee
                    DigitalOcean Employee badge
                    June 21, 2017

                    I had to change a few things to make this work. The biggest problem was that fileItem.getName() is a full path to image, not its filename. After I added/changed these lines it worked like a charm: String fullPath = fileItem.getName(); String filename = fullPath.substring(fullPath.lastIndexOf(File.separator) + 1);; File file = new File(request.getServletContext().getAttribute("FILES_DIR") + File.separator + filename);; out.write("UploadDownloadFileServlet?fileName= + filename");

                    - Andrey

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