curl: If-Modified-Since Command Linux / Unix Example

HTTP protocol allows a client to specify a time condition for the document it requests. It is If-Modified-Since or If-Unmodified-Since. How do I use curl Unix/Linux command line option to test a server with If-Modified-Since condition and validate Last-Modified settings?

Tutorial details
Difficulty level Easy
Root privileges No
Requirements curl
Est. reading time N/A
You can use curl command to see if a copy (http resources such as text/html or image/png) that they hold is still valid. However, this will only work if response has a Last-Modified header. You can send a Last-Modified header using web server or your web application.

Step #1: Find out if response has a Last-Modified header

Type the following curl command:

curl --silent --head
curl --silent --head


curl -I
curl -I

In this example, note down the Last-Modified headers in the response to this HEAD request:
$ curl -I
Sample outputs:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2012 10:10:24 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
Connection: keep-alive
X-Whom: l2-com-cyber
Last-Modified: Tue, 11 Dec 2012 10:10:23 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=299, must-revalidate
Vary: Cookie
X-Galaxy: Andromeda-1
Vary: Accept-Encoding

The syntax is as follows to send If-Modified-Since header using the curl command line:
$ curl -I --header 'If-Modified-Since: DATE-FORMAT-HERE'
$ curl -I --header 'If-Modified-Since: Tue, 11 Dec 2012 10:10:24 GMT'

Sample outputs:

HTTP/1.1 304 Not Modified
Server: nginx
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2012 10:12:11 GMT
Connection: keep-alive
X-Whom: l2-com-cyber
Vary: Cookie
Last-Modified: Tue, 11 Dec 2012 10:10:23 GMT
X-Galaxy: Andromeda-1
Vary: Accept-Encoding

The resource sends a 304 Not Modified response, indicating that it supports Last-Modified validation.

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2 comments… add one
  • shiv Jan 16, 2014 @ 16:41

    How can you substitute the date part with a shell variable .. like this –

    curl –silent -I –header ‘If-Modified-Since: “$mod”‘


  • Ole Feb 16, 2016 @ 13:37

    Isn’t this handled by --remote-time and --time-conf FILE ?

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