Windows – Why “Content-Length: 0” in POST requests


A customer sometimes sends POST requests with Content-Length: 0 when submitting a form (10 to over 40 fields).

We tested it with different browsers and from different locations but couldn't reproduce the error. The customer is using Internet Explorer 7 and a proxy.

We asked them to let their system administrator see into the problem from their side. Running some tests without the proxy, etc..

In the meantime (half a year later and still no answer) I'm curious if somebody else knows of similar problems with a Content-Length: 0 request. Maybe from inside some Windows network with a special proxy for big companies.

Is there a known problem with Internet Explorer 7? With a proxy system? The Windows network itself?

Google only showed something in the context of NTLM (and such) authentication, but we aren't using this in the web application. Maybe it's in the way the proxy operates in the customer's network with Windows logins? (I'm no Windows expert. Just guessing.)

I have no further information about the infrastructure.

UPDATE: In December 2010 it was possible to inform one administrator about this, incl. links from the answers here. Contact was because of another problem which was caused by the proxy, too. No feedback since then. And the error messages are still there. I'm laughing to prevent me from crying.

UPDATE 2: This problem exists since mid 2008. Every few months the customer is annoyed and wants it to be fixed ASAP. We send them all the old e-mails again and ask them to contact their administrators to either fix it or run some further tests. In December 2010 we were able to send some information to 1 administrator. No feedback. Problem isn't fixed and we don't know if they even tried. And in May 2011 the customer writes again and wants this to be fixed. The same person who has all the information since 2008.

Thanks for all the answers. You helped a lot of people, as I can see from some comments here. Too bad the real world is this grotesque for me.

UPDATE 3: May 2012 and I was wondering why we hadn't received another demand to fix this (see UPDATE 2). Looked into the error protocol, which only reports this single error every time it happened (about 15 a day). It stopped end of January 2012. Nobody said anything. They must have done something with their network. Everything is OK now. From summer 2008 to January 2012. Too bad I can't tell you what they have done.

UPDATE 4: September 2015. The website had to collect some data and deliver it to the main website of the customer. There was an API with an account. Whenever there was a problem they contacted us, even if the problem was clearly on the other side. For a few weeks now we can't send them the data. The account isn't available anymore. They had a relaunch and I can't find the pages anymore that used the data of our site. The bug report isn't answered and nobody complaint. I guess they just ended this project.

UPDATE 5: March 2017. The API stopped working in the summer of 2015. The customer seems to continue paying for the site and is still accessing it in February 2017. I'm guessing they use it as an archive. They don't create or update any data anymore so this bug probably won't reemerge after the mysterious fix of January 2012. But this would be someone else's problem. I'm leaving.

Best Solution

Internet Explorer does not send form fields if they are posted from an authenticated site (NTLM) to a non-authenticated site (anonymous).

This is feature for challange-response situations (NTLM- or Kerberos- secured web sites) where IE can expect that the first POST request immediately leads to an HTTP 401 Authentication Required response (which includes a challenge), and only the second POST request (which includes the response to the challange) will actually be accepted. In these situations IE does not upload the possibly large request body with the first request for performance reasons. Thanks to EricLaw for posting that bit of information in the comments.

This behavior occurs every time an HTTP POST is made from a NTLM authenticated (i.e. Intranet) page to a non-authenticated (i.e. Internet) page, or if the non-authenticated page is part of a frameset, where the frameset page is authenticated.

The work-around is either to use a GET request as the form method, or to make sure the non-authenticated page is opened in a fresh tab/window (favorite/link target) without a partly authenticated frameset. As soon as the authentication model for the whole window is consistent, IE will start to send form contents again.