Check if a file exists or not without exception in Python

In this article, we will briefly discuss about the different python scripting methods with the help of which we can check if a file exists or not without exception.

While we are working with python scripting, many times we may have to perform a certain task on if a particular file or directory exists and thus, in the upcoming sections we will discuss the solutions to our problem.

Check if a file exists

The simplest method of checking if a file exists or not in python without importing any libraries explicitly is using the try & except block.

The try and except block looks for the file provided and raises an IOError exception if file is not accessible.

Code 1:

    with open('E:\TestFolder\sample.txt') as f:
except IOError:
    print("File not accessible")


['Hello World']

Code 2:

    with open('E:\TestFolder\test.txt') as f:
except IOError:
    print("File not accessible")


File not accessible

In the above examples, we opened the file using the with keyword which makes sure that the file is properly closed even though an exception is raised and thus, making the code more dynamic by avoiding the close function.

If checking the existence of a file was so smooth, then why this article ?

This is because the above method is the least likely to be used method, because in this case we are trying to open a file ignoring the Race conditions.

Race conditions refer to a situation when more than one process try to access the same file.

For e.g.: While checking for existence, there might be another process running which tries to delete the same file and by using the try and except block, we are ignoring the Race conditions.

Python Methods to check existence of file without exception

There are a few methods by the help of which we can effectively evaluate the existence of a file.

Using the os module

We can evaluate the existence of a file/directory by using the exists() method of the os.path module.

For better filtering of our results, we can also use the isfile() and isdir() methods to know if the mentioned path leads to a file or a directory.

os.path.exists(path) returns a boolean value accordingly if the provided path leads to a file, directory, valid symlink or not.

os.path.isfile(path) returns a boolean value accordingly if the provided path leads to a file or not.

os.path.isdir(path) returns a boolean value accordingly if the provided path leads to a directory or not.

import os.path

if os.path.exists('E:\TestFolder\sample.txt'):
    print("File exists")
    print("File doesn't exist")



File exists

This method is a go-to use method if there are no simultaneous actions being performed on the same file like deleting the file or copying the file.

Using the pathlib module

This method can only be used by programmers using Python version equivalent or more than Python 3.4.

Pathlib is one of the easiest to use and understand module of Python that provides the object-oriented interface to work with the filesystem paths.

We can install pathlib using the following command:

pip install pathlib

After installing we have access to tap onto the path class of the pathlib module and in the path class , we have access to the exists() method with the help of which we can check if a file exists or not.

The path class accepts the path information.

import pathlib
f = pathlib.Path("E:\TestFolder\sample.txt")
if f.exists():
    print ("File exists")
    print ("File not exist")


File exists

This exists() method returns True if a file exists else if returns False if a file is not present.

In order to use the pathlib module in Python2 you can use the following command:

pip install pathlib2

The main difference between using the os and pathlib module is that pathlib allows the user to work with the filesystem paths as Path objects while os works with the paths as simple string objects.

Using the glob module

Python’s Glob module allows the user to interact with the filesystem. The main advantage of using the glob module is because of its ability to match a pattern.

By using the glob module, we get access to the glob() method that we can use to check if a file exists or not.

The glob() returns a Boolean value as the output i.e., True if file exists and is readable and False if the file doesn’t exist or isn’t readable.

import glob    
if glob.glob("E:\TestFolder\sampleFolder\Test.txt"):
    print ("File exists")
    print("File not exist")


File exists

This is how we can use the Glob module to evaluate if a file exists or not.

Different Use cases

Since we have discussed all the different methods of using Python scripting to check if a file exists or not.

Now, it’s the time that we should discuss some important use cases of these methods.

Check if all files of a list exist

Suppose, you have multiple files in a directory and you want to check if some particular files exist in that directory or not.

In that case we can add all the to be searched files inside of a list and can iterate through the list and by using list comprehension method we can check if each file exists using the os module and exists() combination.

Then we can use the all function to iterate through all the boolean outputs of the exists() method.

all function returns True if all the iterables are True in the list else it returns False even if one iterables is False inside the list.

import os.path

filelist = ['E:\\TestFolder\\sample.txt', 

if all([os.path.exists(f) for f in filelist]):
    print("All files exist")
    print("All files doesn't exist")


All files exist

Check if a file is empty or not

Sometimes we may come across use cases where our provided contains a file which is empty.

For such situations, we need to ensure that file is not empty and is not corrupted.

The os module comes with a pre-defined method called getsize() which returns 0 if file is empty else it returns the size of the file in bytes.

import os

file_path = "E:\TestFolder\sample.txt"

if os.path.exists(file_path) and os.path.getsize(file_path) > 0:
    print ("File exists and Not Empty")
elif os.path.exists(file_path) and os.path.getsize(file_path)==0:
    print ("File exists and Empty") 
    print ("File Doesn't exist") 



File exists and Empty

Check if a file exists with an extension

We can achieve the above result by using the regular expression & the Glob module.

This usecase comes into play when we want to check for files with a particular extension.

import glob

if glob.glob('E:\TestFolder\*.pptx'):
    print("PowerPoint File exists") 
    print("PowerPoint File doesn't exist")


PowerPoint File doesn’t exist


In this article we discussed in detail about all the various methods that can be used in python scripting to check if a file exists or not.

We also discussed some important use cases where these methods can be used to check if a file exists and reduce the code as well as improve runtime performance.


I am Dibyanshu Mohanty, Undergraduate Engineering Student at VIT, Vellore with a keen interest in Web and App Development