Session support in PHP consists of a way to preserve certain data across subsequent accesses.

A visitor accessing your web site is assigned a unique id, the so-called session id. This is either stored in a cookie on the user side or is propagated in the URL.

The session support allows you to store data between requests in the $_SESSION superglobal array. When a visitor accesses your site, PHP will check automatically (if session.auto_start is set to 1) or on your request (explicitly through session_start()) whether a specific session id has been sent with the request. If this is the case, the prior saved environment is recreated.


If you turn on session.auto_start then the only way to put objects into your sessions is to load its class definition using auto_prepend_file in which you load the class definition else you will have to serialize() your object and unserialize() it afterwards.

$_SESSION (and all registered variables) are serialized internally by PHP using the serialization handler specified by the session.serialize_handler ini setting, after the request finishes. Registered variables which are undefined are marked as being not defined. On subsequent accesses, these are not defined by the session module unless the user defines them later.


Because session data is serialized, resource variables cannot be stored in the session.

Serialize handlers (php and php_binary) inherit register_globals limitations. Therefore, numeric index or string index contains special characters (| and !) cannot be used. Using these will end up with errors at script shutdown. php_serialize does not have such limitations. php_serialize is available from PHP 5.5.4.


Please note when working with sessions that a record of a session is not created until a variable has been registered using the session_register() function or by adding a new key to the $_SESSION superglobal array. This holds true regardless of if a session has been started using the session_start() function.


PHP 5.2.2 introduced an undocumented feature to store session files in "/tmp" even if open_basedir was enabled and "/tmp" is not explicitly added to the allowed paths list. This feature has been removed from PHP as of PHP 5.3.0.

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User Contributed Notes 3 notes

ryan dot jentzsch at gmail dot com
1 year ago
One thing that should be understood is that if you are creating a RESTfull service using sessions is by nature NOT a RESTfull process.
harshitcode25 at gmail dot com
2 years ago
PHP Session Variables
When you are working with an application, you open it, do some changes and then you close it. This is much like a Session. The computer knows who you are. It knows when you start the application and when you end. But on the internet there is one problem: the web server does not know who you are and what you do because the HTTP address doesn't maintain state.

A PHP session solves this problem by allowing you to store user information on the server for later use (i.e. username, shopping items, etc). However, session information is temporary and will be deleted after the user has left the website. If you need a permanent storage you may want to store the data in a database.

Sessions work by creating a unique id (UID) for each visitor and store variables based on this UID. The UID is either stored in a cookie or is propagated in the URL.
payal at radixweb dot com
6 years ago
If you use auto start session, Session cookie will not be created , it will be created only if you will use session_start()
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