The all-in-one method to get mimetypes with PHP

Getting the correct mimetype from a file in PHP is not an easy task. I used to find it through extension sniffing of the file combined with a known list of mimetypes.

Today I needed to find the correct mimetype to do some security checks on file uploaded by users. I couldn't rely on an extension-based approach because the filename could easily be faked by an uploader.

So I needed an other way. In fact, in PHP world there are at least 4 methods I'm aware of to get this information.


The classic PHP function mimecontenttype is supposed to return just that. Unfortunatly, it is deprecated. And not supported by Dreamhost, my host.

The FileInfo functions

We are now encouraged to use the Fileinfo functions instead of mime_content_type. Unfortunatly, they seems to be returning strange results. Alternatively, they are not supported by Dreamhost either (but it seems that you can ask them to install it on your server).

It is bundled into EasyPHP for Windows, but you need to enable it by uncommenting the line extension=php_fileinfo.dll in your php.ini

And you use it like this :

$finfo = finfo_open(FILEINFO_MIME);
$mimeType = finfo_file($finfo, $filepath);

Also note that the mimetype may be returned in a text/plain; charset=us- ascii form. You may need to parse the result to get it in the format you need.

The getimagesize function

The getimagesize function can be called on any image file. It will return an array containing image informations like width, heightand of course the mimetype.

Unfortunatly, it will cause a E_WARNING if called on a non-image file. You can't even catch that using a try/catch. You can suppress the error using @, tho.

Here's how I use it :

$imageData = @getimagesize($filepath);
if (!empty($imageData['mime'])) {
  $mimeType = $imageData['mime'];

Calling the system file

The last method I'm aware of is simply calling the filecommand on a unix system through exec.

$mimeType = exec("/usr/bin/file -i -b $filepath");

Merging all that into one do-it-all method

If you're not sure what your system is capable of or if you plan on distributing your code, you'd better test for all alternatives. Here's the code I'm using :

*    mimetype
*    Returns a file mimetype. Note that it is a true mimetype fetch, using php and OS methods. It will NOT
*    revert to a guessed mimetype based on the file extension if it can't find the type.
*    In that case, it will return false
function mimetype($filepath) {
 // Check only existing files
 if (!file_exists($filepath) || !is_readable($filepath)) return false;

 // Trying finfo
 if (function_exists('finfo_open')) {
   $finfo = finfo_open(FILEINFO_MIME);
   $mimeType = finfo_file($finfo, $filepath);
   // Mimetype can come in text/plain; charset=us-ascii form
   if (strpos($mimeType, ';')) list($mimeType,) = explode(';', $mimeType);
   return $mimeType;

 // Trying mime_content_type
 if (function_exists('mime_content_type')) {
   return mime_content_type($filepath);

 // Trying exec
 if (function_exists('exec')) {
   $mimeType = exec("/usr/bin/file -i -b $filepath");
   if (!empty($mimeType)) return $mimeType;

 // Trying to get mimetype from images
 $imageData = @getimagesize($filepath);
 if (!empty($imageData['mime'])) {
   return $imageData['mime'];

 return false;

Hope that helps !

Tags : #fileinfo #finfo #mime-content-type #mimetype #php #getimagesize #exec #file

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