Internet Explorer Unable to download files for SSL enabled web site

Today I was testing an application on staging server before deployment to production server. One part of the application allows users to download dynamically generated PDF file. When I clicked on the link to download the file, I got the following error.

Unable to download UserFiles.aspx from
Unable to open this Internet site.  The requested site is either unavailable
or cannot be found.  Please try again later.

I was not having any problem with this download on production site. First I thought it could be something in the server code that triggered it. I fired up fiddler and looked at the response. I could see the response has correct PDF content and file name that server generated. So as my routine diagnostic process of web application, I decided to try this on Chrome and FireFox instead of Internet Explorer. I was not too surprised to find that the download link worked perfectly. So it was browser related issue.

After digging through old Microsoft Knowledgebase articles, I found that back in IE6.0 days there was some issue with file downloads from SSL sites when cache-control header was set to no-cache or no-store etc. The KB mentioned that this issue was fixed. Just to make sure, I compared the response headers between working version and broken version, I realized that broken verion was sending headers with no-store, no-cahe set for Cache-Control.

--------- Production ----------
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Cache-Control: private
Content-Type: application/pdf
Compression-Control: whitespace
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
Content-disposition: attachment; filename=538785069.pdf
Content-Length: 15379

----------------------- Testing ----------

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Cache-Control: private,no-cache,no-store,max-age=0,
Content-Type: application/pdf
Compression-Control: whitespace
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
Content-disposition: attachment; filename=95736806.pdf
Content-Length: 28976
Pragma: no-cache

Then I realized that I have a compression software on server that compresses and adds some cache control headers as well. I turned off the caching headers for these PDF files and everything was back to normal. So much for fixed bug in IE6.0 that shows up in IE8.0.




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