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debugging - Reference - What does this error mean in PHP?

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This is a number of answers about warnings, errors, and notices you might encounter while programming PHP and have no clue how to fix them. This is also a Community Wiki, so everyone is invited to participate adding to and maintaining this list.

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Questions like "Headers already sent" or "Calling a member of a non-object" pop up frequently on Stack Overflow. The root cause of those questions is always the same. So the answers to those questions typically repeat them and then show the OP which line to change in their particular case. These answers do not add any value to the site because they only apply to the OP's particular code. Other users having the same error cannot easily read the solution out of it because they are too localized. That is sad because once you understood the root cause, fixing the error is trivial. Hence, this list tries to explain the solution in a general way to apply.

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Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent

Happens when your script tries to send an HTTP header to the client but there already was output before, which resulted in headers to be already sent to the client.

This is an E_WARNING and it will not stop the script.

A typical example would be a template file like this:

    <?php session_start(); ?>
    <head><title>My Page</title>

The session_start() function will try to send headers with the session cookie to the client. But PHP already sent headers when it wrote the <html> element to the output stream. You'd have to move the session_start() to the top.

You can solve this by going through the lines before the code triggering the Warning and check where it outputs. Move any header sending code before that code.

An often overlooked output is new lines after PHP's closing ?>. It is considered a standard practice to omit ?> when it is the last thing in the file. Likewise, another common cause for this warning is when the opening <?php has an empty space, line, or invisible character before it, causing the web server to send the headers and the whitespace/newline thus when PHP starts parsing won't be able to submit any header.

If your file has more than one <?php ... ?> code block in it, you should not have any spaces in between them. (Note: You might have multiple blocks if you had code that was automatically constructed)

Also make sure you don't have any Byte Order Marks in your code, for example when the encoding of the script is UTF-8 with BOM.

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