Zero byte files

There are a number of problems that can cause empty files to appear on the server. Because there are a number of different scenarios that can result in 0 byte files, it's good to try to figure out which specific issue is the one you're dealing with.

Webserver and chunked transfer encoding

There are a number of clients, in particular OS X's Finder and Transmit that use the so-called 'chunked transfer' encoding to create new files.

There are many webservers that do not support this. We recommend using Apache with mod_php (not fastcgi) or a recent version of nginx. Avoid Lighttpd.

When servers don't properly support chunked transfer encoding, the end result seems to consistently be that either:

  1. A 411 Length Required error is returned.
  2. Or: r the server completely discards the request body (from PUT) and effectively tells PHP and SabreDAV that an empty file was submitted.

See Webservers for more information.

Clients submitting files in two phases

There are a lot of WebDAV clients out there that create new files in two steps:

  1. PUT an empty file
  2. PUT again, but this time overwrite the original with the actual file data.

As a result, it may simply seem that there is an empty, broken PUT coming in, when the real one still has to arrive.

This can be a bit problematic for people who write custom storage mechanisms for SabreDAV (Virtual filesystems). So keep in mind that as you're writing custom nodes, and you want to support standard WebDAV clients, receiving an empty 0-byte file first is expected.


Furthermore, there are clients that support LOCK. Clients may LOCK a URL before creating a new file. The idea is that while the file is locked, some other client cannot start creating a file with the same name.

How LOCK should behave on a non-existent url is a bit confusing, because the initial webdav standard (rfc2518) differs from the updated standard (rfc4918). SabreDAV follows the recommendation from the latest specification.

That is: If a client makes a LOCK request on a URL that does not yet exist, SabreDAV itself will create an empty file at that location.

So this is another situation where an empty file may be created before the actual file comes in.

Another reason might be that the lock-file could not be created due to a nonexistent folder or insufficient permissions. Check your logfiles for errors.

What if there is no follow-up PUT?

If files stay empty, and there is no PUT request after the initial LOCK or preflight PUT, the only explanation that can be given is, "there's a bug somewhere".

It is possible that this bug is in your WebDAV client, it's also possible that it's in SabreDAV.

The best recommendation we have is to fire up Charles and start inspecting the traffic. You may simply come across a PHP error in charles that explains everything. Note that the problem may not be in the actual PUT request, but it could also be in surrounding requests such as PROPFIND

After that, we would just suggest to head to the mailing list so we can investigate. 9 times out of 10 this tends to be a configuration mistake or a bug somewhere in custom written code.

We will almost always need a charles capture or a publicly accessible server though. Have this prepared to get to a solution quicker.