Automating File Downloads in Selenium WebDriver

Automating File Downloads in Selenium WebDriver

3 July 2024 Stephan Petzl Leave a comment QA

Automating file downloads can be a challenging task when working with Selenium WebDriver, primarily because browsers use native dialogs for downloading files that cannot be controlled by JavaScript. This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to automate file downloads using Selenium WebDriver, particularly focusing on Firefox as the browser under test.

Setting Firefox Preferences for Automatic Downloads

One effective method to handle file downloads in Selenium WebDriver is by configuring Firefox’s preferences to save files automatically and suppress the download manager window. This approach allows you to bypass the native download dialog and directly download the file to a specified directory. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to set this up:

    FirefoxProfile fxProfile = new FirefoxProfile();
    fxProfile.setPreference("", 2);
    fxProfile.setPreference("", false);
    fxProfile.setPreference("", "c:\\mydownloads");
    fxProfile.setPreference("browser.helperApps.neverAsk.saveToDisk", "text/csv");
    FirefoxOptions options = new FirefoxOptions();
    WebDriver driver = new FirefoxDriver(options);

In this example, we configure Firefox to:

  • Save files directly to a specified directory (“c:\\mydownloads”).
  • Suppress the download manager window.
  • Automatically save files of the specified MIME type (“text/csv”).

Alternative Methods for Handling File Downloads

While configuring browser preferences is a straightforward approach, there are other methods to handle file downloads that may be more suitable in specific scenarios:

Using HTTP Libraries

If you need to verify that a file exists and can be downloaded, you can perform a HEAD request using an HTTP library. This method retrieves the file headers without downloading the entire file, which is useful for checking the file size and type.

Downloading Files via Ajax Requests

Another method involves using Ajax requests to download files directly within the browser session. This approach handles authentication and cookies automatically but may be restricted by the same-origin policy and may require significant memory for large files.


Automating file downloads in Selenium WebDriver can be complex due to the native dialogs used by browsers. However, by configuring browser preferences or leveraging HTTP libraries and Ajax requests, you can effectively handle file downloads in your automated tests.

For more advanced techniques and configurations, you can refer to our advanced configuration documentation and advanced testing techniques.

Enhance Your Testing with Repeato

While Selenium WebDriver provides robust solutions for automation, tools like Repeato can further simplify your testing process. Repeato is a no-code test automation tool for iOS and Android that helps you create, run, and maintain automated tests for your apps quickly and efficiently. By leveraging computer vision and AI, Repeato ensures that your tests are easy to set up and execute, making it an excellent choice for quality assurance teams.

For more information on how Repeato can help streamline your testing workflow, visit our getting started guide and explore our documentation.

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