Master the art of Python file management with these 5 essential examples for looping through directories

Table of content

  1. Introduction
  2. Example 1: Walk through a single directory
  3. Example 2: Loop through multiple directories
  4. Example 3: Delete files older than a certain date
  5. Example 4: Search for specific files with regex
  6. Example 5: Copy files to a new location
  7. Conclusion


In today's digital age, managing files is a critical skill that individuals and organizations alike must master. One of the most common programming languages used to handle file management tasks is Python. Python offers a range of functions and modules specifically designed for file management, making it easier to handle large directories and complex file systems. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced programmer, the ability to loop through directories effectively is an essential skill to have when working with files in Python. In this article, we'll provide you with 5 examples of how to loop through directories using Python, highlighting some of the key features and functions that can be used to efficiently manage your files. With these essential examples at your fingertips, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of Python file management.

Example 1: Walk through a single directory

Walking through a single directory is one of the most basic and essential file management operations in Python. Essentially, it means looping through all the files and subdirectories in a given directory and performing certain operations on them.

To do this, you can use the os module, which provides a range of functions for interacting with the operating system. One of these functions is os.walk(), which returns a generator that yields a tuple of three values for each directory it traverses: the path of the directory, a list of the subdirectories in that directory, and a list of the files in that directory.

Here's an example of how to use os.walk() to walk through a single directory:

import os

# the directory to be traversed
directory = '/path/to/directory'

for root, dirs, files in os.walk(directory):
    # print the name of the current directory
    print('Directory:', root)

    # loop through the subdirectories
    for name in dirs:
        print('  Subdirectory:', os.path.join(root, name))

    # loop through the files
    for name in files:
        print('  File:', os.path.join(root, name))

In this example, os.walk() is called with the path to the directory we want to traverse. The function returns a tuple of three values for the first directory it encounters, which are assigned to the variables root, dirs, and files.

The for loop then iterates through each of these values. The first loop prints the path of the current directory, while the nested loops print the names of the subdirectories and files contained within that directory.

One thing to note is that os.walk() is a recursive function, meaning it will continue to loop through all subdirectories until it has traversed the entire directory tree. This can potentially take a long time if the directory has a large number of files and subdirectories.

So, if you're just starting out with file management in Python, walking through a single directory is a good place to start. It's a simple yet powerful operation that can be used for a range of practical applications, from cleaning up files to organizing data.

Example 2: Loop through multiple directories

In Example 2, we will learn how to loop through multiple directories. This is useful when you have multiple folders with similar files that need to be accessed and manipulated.

To start, we need to use the os module to access the directories. We can begin by importing it:

import os

We can then use the os.listdir() method to list all the directories in a given path:

for folder in os.listdir('/path/to/main/folder'):
    # do something with folder

Inside the for loop, we can perform operations on each individual folder. For example, we can check if the folder contains a specific file and print its path:

for folder in os.listdir('/path/to/main/folder'):
    if 'example_file.txt' in os.listdir('/path/to/main/folder/' + folder):
        print('/path/to/main/folder/' + folder + '/example_file.txt')

In this example, we are checking if the folder contains a file called "example_file.txt", and printing its path if it exists.

We can also use nested for loops to access files within subfolders:

for folder in os.listdir('/path/to/main/folder'):
    for subfolder in os.listdir('/path/to/main/folder/' + folder):
        for file in os.listdir('/path/to/main/folder/' + folder + '/' + subfolder):
            # do something with file

In this example, we are accessing files within subfolders of each folder. It is important to note that the order of the for loops matters – we need to access the subfolders before we can access the files within them.

By mastering the art of looping through multiple directories, we can efficiently manage large amounts of data and perform complex operations on them.

Example 3: Delete files older than a certain date

In some cases, you may want to delete files that haven't been updated in a while. This can be useful for managing storage or clearing out temporary files. Python makes it easy to delete files based on their creation date or last modification date.

First, you need to import the os and datetime libraries. The os library provides functions for interacting with the file system, while the datetime library is used to work with dates and times.

import os
import datetime

Next, you need to specify the directory you want to search in and the age limit for the files. In this example, we will delete files older than 7 days.

directory = '/path/to/directory'
age_limit = 7

Then, you can loop through the directory and check the date of each file. We can use the os.stat() function to get information about each file, including its last modification time. We can then calculate the age in days by subtracting the modification time from the current time and dividing by the number of seconds in a day.

for filename in os.listdir(directory):
    file_path = os.path.join(directory, filename)
    modification_time = os.stat(file_path).st_mtime
    age = ( - datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp(modification_time)).days
    if age > age_limit:

In this code, we use the os.remove() function to delete the file if it's older than the limit. This function permanently deletes the file, so use it with caution.

Overall, this example demonstrates how Python can be used to automate file management tasks. By using programming to manage files, we can save time and improve our workflow. With the ability to work with files based on their creation date or modification time, we have the power to create custom file management solutions that meet our specific needs.

Example 4: Search for specific files with regex

Regular expressions (regex) are a powerful tool for matching string patterns. With Python's built-in re module, you can use regex to search for specific files in a directory. This is especially useful if you only want to work with certain files or if you need to perform a specific operation on a set of files that share a common pattern or naming convention.

To search for files using regex, you can use the function to match the pattern against the filename. Here's an example:

import os
import re

dir_path = '/path/to/directory'     # replace with actual directory path
pattern = r'sample_\d+.txt'         # match files with names like 'sample_1.txt' or 'sample_12345.txt'

for root, dirs, files in os.walk(dir_path):
    for file in files:
        if, file):
            file_path = os.path.join(root, file)
            # do something with file_path

In this example, we use the os.walk() function to iterate through all the files in the directory and its subdirectories. For each file, we use to match the pattern against the filename. If there's a match, we get the full file path using os.path.join() and perform whatever operation we need to on that file.

The pattern variable is a regular expression that matches filenames with the prefix 'sample_' and one or more digits before the '.txt' extension. If you want to use a different pattern, you can modify the regex accordingly.

Regex can be a bit daunting at first, but they're a valuable skill to have in your programming toolbox. With some practice, you can use regex to search for and manipulate files in a variety of ways.

Example 5: Copy files to a new location

Copying files from one location to another is a common task in programming. It allows you to create backups or move files between folders or drives. Using Python, you can copy files easily with just a few lines of code.

To copy files to a new location, you need to specify the source and destination for each file. The shutil module in Python provides a simple function called copy2() that does this for you. It takes two arguments: the source file path and the destination file path.

Here is an example of how to copy a single file to a new location:

import shutil

source = "C:/Users/User/Documents/file.txt"
destination = "C:/Users/User/Desktop/file.txt"
shutil.copy2(source, destination)

In this example, we use the copy2() function to copy the file.txt from the Documents folder to the Desktop. We specify the source and destination paths as strings, using forward slashes (/) to separate directories.

If you want to copy multiple files at once, you can use a loop to iterate through a directory and copy each file. Here is an example:

import shutil
import os

source_folder = "C:/Users/User/Documents"
destination_folder = "C:/Users/User/Desktop"

for file_name in os.listdir(source_folder):
    source = os.path.join(source_folder, file_name)
    destination = os.path.join(destination_folder, file_name)
    shutil.copy2(source, destination)

In this example, we use the os module to iterate through all the files in the Documents folder. For each file, we use os.path.join() to create the source and destination file paths. Then, we call the copy2() function to copy each file to the new location.

By mastering Python file management techniques like this one, you open up a world of possibilities for automating routine tasks and creating software solutions that can transform businesses and enhance productivity in countless ways.


In , file management is an essential skill for anyone working with programming languages like Python. By mastering the art of looping through directories, you can efficiently manage your files and easily access the information you need. Knowing how to use the methods os.listdir(), os.path.isdir(), os.path.join(), and os.path.abspath() is an excellent start to creating advanced and sophisticated file management programs.

You can use these skills to create powerful programs that can help you automate repetitive tasks, organize files, and extract valuable data. With Python's flexibility and versatility, the possibilities are endless, and the only limit is your creativity.

Learning to code is a journey, and it can be a challenging one. But with the right resources and dedication, anyone can learn the skills they need to succeed in the tech industry. Keep practicing, stay curious, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Programming is a community, and we're all here to support and learn from each other.

As an experienced software engineer, I have a strong background in the financial services industry. Throughout my career, I have honed my skills in a variety of areas, including public speaking, HTML, JavaScript, leadership, and React.js. My passion for software engineering stems from a desire to create innovative solutions that make a positive impact on the world. I hold a Bachelor of Technology in IT from Sri Ramakrishna Engineering College, which has provided me with a solid foundation in software engineering principles and practices. I am constantly seeking to expand my knowledge and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies in the field. In addition to my technical skills, I am a skilled public speaker and have a talent for presenting complex ideas in a clear and engaging manner. I believe that effective communication is essential to successful software engineering, and I strive to maintain open lines of communication with my team and clients.
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