download.file {utils}R Documentation

Download File from the Internet

Description

This function can be used to download a file from the Internet.

Usage

download.file(url, destfile, method, quiet = FALSE, mode = "w",
              cacheOK = TRUE,
              extra = getOption("download.file.extra"),
              headers = NULL, ...)

Arguments

url

a character string (or longer vector e.g., for the "libcurl" method) naming the URL of a resource to be downloaded.

destfile

a character string (or vector, see the url argument) with the file path where the downloaded file is to be saved. Tilde-expansion is performed.

method

Method to be used for downloading files. Current download methods are "internal", "wininet" (Windows only) "libcurl", "wget" and "curl", and there is a value "auto": see ‘Details’ and ‘Note’.

The method can also be set through the option "download.file.method": see options().

quiet

If TRUE, suppress status messages (if any), and the progress bar.

mode

character. The mode with which to write the file. Useful values are "w", "wb" (binary), "a" (append) and "ab". Not used for methods "wget" and "curl". See also ‘Details’, notably about using "wb" for Windows.

cacheOK

logical. Is a server-side cached value acceptable?

extra

character vector of additional command-line arguments for the "wget" and "curl" methods.

headers

named character vector of HTTP headers to use in HTTP requests. It is ignored for non-HTTP URLs. The User-Agent header, coming from the HTTPUserAgent option (see options) is used as the first header, automatically.

...

allow additional arguments to be passed, unused.

Details

The function download.file can be used to download a single file as described by url from the internet and store it in destfile.

The url must start with a scheme such as http://, https://, ftp:// or file://. Which methods support which schemes varies by R version, but method = "auto" will try to find a method which supports the scheme.

For method = "auto" (the default) the "internal" method is used for file:// URLs, and "libcurl" for all others.

Support for method "libcurl" was optional on Windows prior to R 4.2.0: use capabilities("libcurl") to see if it is supported on an earlier version. It uses an external library of that name (https://curl.se/libcurl/) against which R can be compiled.

When method "libcurl" is used, it provides (non-blocking) access to https:// and (usually) ftps:// URLs. There is support for simultaneous downloads, so url and destfile can be character vectors of the same length greater than one (but the method has to be specified explicitly and not via "auto"). For a single URL and quiet = FALSE a progress bar is shown in interactive use.

For methods "wget" and "curl" a system call is made to the tool given by method, and the respective program must be installed on your system and be in the search path for executables. They will block all other activity on the R process until they complete: this may make a GUI unresponsive.

cacheOK = FALSE is useful for http:// and https:// URLs: it will attempt to get a copy directly from the site rather than from an intermediate cache. It is used by available.packages.

The "libcurl" and "wget" methods follow http:// and https:// redirections to any scheme they support. (For method "curl" use argument extra = "-L". To disable redirection in wget, use extra = "--max-redirect=0".) The "wininet" method supports some redirections but not all. (For method "libcurl", messages will quote the endpoint of redirections.)

Support for http:// URLs in the "internal" method and ftp:// URLs in the "internal" and "wininet" methods was deprecated in R 4.1.1 and removed in R 4.2.0.

See url for how file:// URLs are interpreted, especially on Windows. The "internal" and "wininet" methods do not percent-decode, but the "libcurl" and "curl" methods do: method "wget" does not support them.

Most methods do not percent-encode special characters such as spaces in URLs (see URLencode), but it seems the "wininet" method does.

The remaining details apply to the "wininet" and "libcurl" methods only.

The timeout for many parts of the transfer can be set by the option timeout which defaults to 60 seconds. This is often insufficient for downloads of large files (50MB or more) and so should be increased when download.file is used in packages to do so. Note that the user can set the default timeout by the environment variable R_DEFAULT_INTERNET_TIMEOUT in recent versions of R, so to ensure that this is not decreased packages should use something like

    options(timeout = max(300, getOption("timeout")))
  

(It is unrealistic to require download times of less than 1s/MB.)

The level of detail provided during transfer can be set by the quiet argument and the internet.info option: the details depend on the platform and scheme. For the "internal" method setting option internet.info to 0 gives all available details, including all server responses. Using 2 (the default) gives only serious messages, and 3 or more suppresses all messages. For the "libcurl" method values of the option less than 2 give verbose output.

A progress bar tracks the transfer platform-specifically:

On Windows

If the file length is known, the full width of the bar is the known length. Otherwise the initial width represents 100 Kbytes and is doubled whenever the current width is exceeded. (In non-interactive use this uses a text version. If the file length is known, an equals sign represents 2% of the transfer completed: otherwise a dot represents 10Kb.)

On a unix-alike

If the file length is known, an equals sign represents 2% of the transfer completed: otherwise a dot represents 10Kb.

The choice of binary transfer (mode = "wb" or "ab") is important on Windows, since unlike Unix-alikes it does distinguish between text and binary files and for text transfers changes \n line endings to \r\n (aka ‘CRLF’).

On Windows, if mode is not supplied (missing()) and url ends in one of .gz, .bz2, .xz, .tgz, .zip, .jar, .rda, .rds or .RData, mode = "wb" is set so that a binary transfer is done to help unwary users.

Code written to download binary files must use mode = "wb" (or "ab"), but the problems incurred by a text transfer will only be seen on Windows.

Value

An (invisible) integer code, 0 for success and non-zero for failure. For the "wget" and "curl" methods this is the status code returned by the external program. The "internal" method can return 1, but will in most cases throw an error.

What happens to the destination file(s) in the case of error depends on the method and R version. Currently the "internal", "wininet" and "libcurl" methods will remove the file if there the URL is unavailable except when mode specifies appending when the file should be unchanged.

Setting Proxies

For the Windows-only method "wininet", the ‘Internet Options’ of the system are used to choose proxies and so on; these are set in the Control Panel and are those used for system browsers.

For the "libcurl" and "curl" methods, proxies can be set via the environment variables http_proxy or ftp_proxy. See https://curl.se/libcurl/c/libcurl-tutorial.html for further details.

Secure URLs

Methods which access https:// and ftps:// URLs should try to verify the site certificates. This is usually done using the CA root certificates installed by the OS (although we have seen instances in which these got removed rather than updated). For further information see https://curl.se/docs/sslcerts.html.

This is an issue for method = "libcurl" on Windows, where the OS does not provide a suitable CA certificate bundle, so by default on Windows certificates are not verified. To turn verification on, set environment variable CURL_CA_BUNDLE to the path to a certificate bundle file, usually named ‘ca-bundle.crt’ or ‘curl-ca-bundle.crt’. (This is normally done for a binary installation of R, which installs ‘R_HOME/etc/curl-ca-bundle.crt’ and sets CURL_CA_BUNDLE to point to it if that environment variable is not already set.) For an updated certificate bundle, see https://curl.se/docs/sslcerts.html. Currently one can download a copy from https://raw.githubusercontent.com/bagder/ca-bundle/master/ca-bundle.crt and set CURL_CA_BUNDLE to the full path to the downloaded file.

Note that the root certificates used by R may or may not be the same as used in a browser, and indeed different browsers may use different certificate bundles (there is typically a build option to choose either their own or the system ones).

FTP sites

ftp: URLs are accessed using the FTP protocol which has a number of variants. One distinction is between ‘active’ and ‘(extended) passive’ modes: which is used is chosen by the client. The "libcurl" methods uses passive mode, and that is almost universally used by browsers.

Good practice

Setting the method should be left to the end user. Neither of the wget nor curl commands is widely available: you can check if one is available via Sys.which, and should do so in a package or script.

If you use download.file in a package or script, you must check the return value, since it is possible that the download will fail with a non-zero status but not an R error.

The supported methods do change: method libcurl was introduced in R 3.2.0 and was optional on Windows until R 4.2.0 – use capabilities("libcurl") in a program to see if it is available.

Note

Files of more than 2GB are supported on 64-bit builds of R; they may be truncated on some 32-bit builds.

Methods "wget" and "curl" are mainly for historical compatibility but provide may provide capabilities not supported by the "libcurl" or "wininet" methods.

Method "wget" can be used with proxy firewalls which require user/password authentication if proper values are stored in the configuration file for wget.

wget (https://www.gnu.org/software/wget/) is commonly installed on Unix-alikes (but not macOS). Windows binaries are available from Cygwin, gnuwin32 and elsewhere.

curl (https://curl.se/) is installed on macOS and commonly on Unix-alikes. Windows binaries are available at that URL.

See Also

options to set the HTTPUserAgent, timeout and internet.info options used by some of the methods.

url for a finer-grained way to read data from URLs.

url.show, available.packages, download.packages for applications.

Contributed packages RCurl and curl provide more comprehensive facilities to download from URLs.


[Package utils version 4.2.0 Index]