How can I upload files asynchronously with jQuery?

Uploading files asynchronously with jQuery can be a useful feature to improve the user experience on your website. Instead of refreshing the entire page after submitting a form with a file input field, asynchronous file uploads allow you to update a specific portion of the page without reloading it. This article will guide you through the process of implementing asynchronous file uploads using jQuery, Ajax and the XMLHttpRequest object.

Understanding Asynchronous File Uploads

Before diving into the code, it's important to understand the concept of asynchronous file uploads. Asynchronous file uploads rely on the XMLHttpRequest object, which is a JavaScript object that allows you to send HTTP requests to a server without reloading the page. By leveraging the power of AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), you can send the file data to the server in the background and update the page dynamically.

HTML Markup

To get started, you'll need to create an HTML form that includes a file input field and a submit button. This form will allow users to select a file from their local machine and submit it to the server asynchronously.

        <form id="uploadForm" enctype="multipart/form-data.">
            <input type="file" name="file" id="file">
            <input type="submit" value="Upload File">

In the above code snippet, we have a simple form with an id of "uploadForm". The form has an enctype attribute set to "multipart/form-data" to enable file uploads. The file input field has a name attribute of "file" and an id of "file". Finally, we have a submit button with the value "Upload File".

Handling the Form Submission

Now that we have our HTML markup in place, we can move on to handling the form submission and uploading the file asynchronously. To do this, we'll need to listen for the form's submit event and prevent the default form submission behavior.

            // Uploading the file asynchronously here

In the above code snippet, we use jQuery to select the form with the id "uploadForm" and attach a submit event listener to it. Inside the event listener function, we call e.preventDefault() to prevent the default form submission behavior, which would refresh the page.

Uploading the File Asynchronously

Now comes the exciting part - uploading the file asynchronously using jQuery's Ajax function and the XMLHttpRequest object. We can use the FormData object to collect the file data from the file input field and send it to the server without reloading the page.

            var formData = new FormData();
            var file = $('#file')[0].files[0];
            formData.append('file', file);
                url: 'upload.php', // Replace with your server-side file upload handler
                type: 'POST',
                data: formData,
                processData: false,
                contentType: false,
                success: function(response){
                    // Handle response from server
                error: function(jqXHR, textStatus, errorThrown){
                    // Handle error

In the code above, we first create a new FormData object and store it in the formData variable. Next, we retrieve the selected file from the file input field using the $('#file')[0].files[0] code snippet. We then append the file to the FormData object using formData.append('file', file).

Finally, we make an Ajax request to the server using the $.ajax function. We specify the URL of the server-side file upload handler (replace 'upload.php' with your own script), set the type to 'POST', pass in the formData as the data parameter, and set processData and contentType to false to prevent jQuery from automatically processing the data and setting the content type header, respectively.

We also provide success and error callbacks to handle the server's response and any errors that may occur during the file upload process.

Handling the Server-Side File Upload

On the server side, you'll need to handle the file upload and perform any necessary processing or validation. The exact implementation will depend on your server-side technology of choice. Here's a basic example using PHP:

            $file = $_FILES['file'];
            // Perform file upload and processing
            $response = array('success' => true, 'message' => 'File uploaded successfully.');
            echo json_encode($response);

In the PHP code snippet above, we first retrieve the uploaded file from the $_FILES superglobal array using the 'file' key. We can then perform any necessary file upload and processing operations. Once the file upload is complete, we create a response array containing a success flag and a message and use json_encode to convert it to JSON format. Finally, we echo the JSON-encoded response back to the client.

Handling the Server's Response

Back on the client side, we need to handle the server's response in the success callback function defined earlier. In this example, we'll simply display an alert with the server's response message.

        success: function(response){

In the code snippet above, we access the response message using response.message and display it in an alert dialog using the alert function. You can modify this code to suit your specific needs, such as updating a progress bar or displaying the uploaded file's details.

Handling Errors

In the error callback function, you can handle any errors that may occur during the file upload process. For example, you might display an error message to the user or log the error for debugging purposes. Here's an example of how to display an error message using the jQuery UI Dialog widget:

        error: function(jqXHR, textStatus, errorThrown){
' + errorThrown + '
').dialog({ modal: true, buttons: { OK: function(){ $(this).dialog('close'); } } }); }

In the code snippet above, we create a new div element with a title of "File Upload Error" and the error message as its content. We then apply the jQuery UI Dialog widget to the div element, making it a modal dialog with an OK button that closes the dialog when clicked.


By following the steps outlined in this article, you should now have a good understanding of how to upload files asynchronously with jQuery. You've learned how to create an HTML form, handle the form submission, upload the file asynchronously using the XMLHttpRequest object, handle the server-side file upload, and handle the server's response and any errors that may occur. Asynchronous file uploads can greatly improve the user experience on your website by making file uploads faster and more responsive.

Keep in mind that the code examples provided in this article may need to be adapted to suit your specific requirements and the server-side technology you are using. However, the general concepts and techniques outlined here should apply in most scenarios.