An event that fires when a window is about to unload its resources. The document is still visible and the event is still cancelable.


window.onbeforeunload = funcRef
  • funcRef is a reference to a function or a function expression.
  • The function should assign a string value to the returnValue property of the Event object and return the same string.


window.onbeforeunload = function(e) {
  return 'Dialog text here.';


When this event returns a non-void value, the user is prompted to confirm the page unload. In most browsers, the return value of the event is displayed in this dialog. In Firefox 4 and later the returned string is not displayed to the user. Instead, Firefox displays the string "This page is asking you to confirm that you want to leave - data you have entered may not be saved." See bug 588292.

Since 25 May 2011, the HTML5 specification states that calls to window.alert(), window.confirm(), and window.prompt() methods may be ignored during this event. See the HTML5 specification for more details.

Note also that various mobile browsers ignore the result of the event (that is, they do not ask the user for confirmation). Firefox has a hidden preference in about:config to do the same. In essence this means the user always confirms that the document may be unloaded.

You can and should handle this event through window.addEventListener() and the beforeunload event. More documentation is available there.


The event was originally introduced by Microsoft in Internet Explorer 4 and standardized in the HTML5 specification.

Specification Status Comment
WHATWG HTML Living Standard
The definition of 'GlobalEventHandlers' in that specification.
Living Standard  
The definition of 'GlobalEventHandlers' in that specification.
Working Draft  
The definition of 'GlobalEventHandlers' in that specification.

Browser compatibility

Feature Chrome Firefox (Gecko) Internet Explorer Opera Safari (WebKit)
Basic support 1 1 4 12 3
Feature Android Firefox Mobile (Gecko) IE Phone Opera Mobile Safari Mobile
Basic support ? ? ? ? (no) defect

See also

Document Tags and Contributors

Last updated by: teoli,
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