How to Check if a File Exists With Python

2 min read

Checking if a file exists is a common task in while working with files. There are several ways to check if a file exists without raising an unwanted exception, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Here are a few different approaches. 

1. Using the os.path.exists() function

This method uses the os.path module to check if a file exists and returns True or False.

This is the simplest and most straightforward way to check for the existence of a file.

import os
if os.path.exists('path/to/file'):
    # do something

2. Using the os.path.isfile() function

This method also uses the os.path module and is similar to os.path.exists(). However, it specifically checks if the path provided is a file and returns True or False.

import os
if os.path.isfile('path/to/file'):
    # do something

3. Using the try-except statement

This method uses a try-except block to try to open the file and catch the FileNotFoundError exception that would be raised if the file does not exist.

If the file is not found, the code in the except block will be executed and you can handle the error as you see fit.

    with open('path/to/file') as f:
        # do something
except FileNotFoundError:
    # handle file not found error

4. Using the Path.exists()

The pathlib library, added in python 3.4, provides an object-oriented interface for working with file system paths.

The Path.exists() method can be used to check if a file exists and returns True or False.

from pathlib import Path

if Path('path/to/file').exists():
    # do something

Each of these approaches has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best approach will depend on the specific needs of your project.

The os.path.exists() and os.path.isfile() functions are easy to use and understand, but the try-except block and the Path.exists() method provide more control over handling errors.

It's important to note that if you are checking for the existence of a file before performing an action on it, it's always a good idea to check the file existence and then open it. This avoids race conditions where another process or thread might delete the file in the meantime.


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