Solve FileNotFoundError in Python [100% Working]

Deepak Prasad


In Python, there are two types of errors: syntax errors and exceptions. Syntax errors, also known as parsing errors, occur when Python's parser encounters a syntax error. Exceptions, on the other hand, occur when syntactically correct Python code results in an error. The "File Not Found Error" in Python is an example of an exception.

The "File Not Found Error " (FileNotFoundError) is raised when Python code attempts to open a file that doesn't exist, cannot be found at the specified location, or is not a regular file but a different kind of file system object. This can happen for several reasons:

  • The file doesn't exist
  • The file is in a different directory than specified
  • The program has insufficient permissions to access the file
  • The 'file' is a symbolic link that points to a non-existent file
  • The 'file' is actually a directory, named pipe, or other non-regular file type

When a "File Not Found Error" occurs, it interrupts the execution of the program. However, it can be handled through Python's error handling mechanism (using "try" and "except" statements), preventing the program from crashing and providing an opportunity to handle the situation gracefully. This includes handling situations where the file you're trying to open is not a regular file but a symbolic link, directory, or another type of file system object.

Different reasons for getting 'File Not Found Error'

1. Incorrect File Path:

One of the most common causes of the 'File Not Found Error' is providing an incorrect file path. This could be due to a simple typo in the file name or directory, or using the wrong case in case-sensitive file systems.

# Incorrect file name
with open('wrong_name.txt', 'r') as f:
    content =

2. File Does Not Exist:

Another straightforward cause is trying to access a file that does not exist in the file system. This could occur due to deleting a file manually while the Python program is still running or an error in the program that causes a file to be deleted prematurely.

# Nonexistent file
with open('nonexistent_file.txt', 'r') as f:
    content =

3. Improper Use of Relative and Absolute Paths:

Errors often arise from confusion between relative and absolute file paths. Relative file paths are interpreted in relation to the current working directory, which might not be the same as the directory where the Python script is located. On the other hand, an absolute path is a full path to the location of a file, starting from the root directory.

# Incorrect relative path
with open('wrong_directory/my_file.txt', 'r') as f:
    content =

# Incorrect absolute path
with open('/wrong_directory/my_file.txt', 'r') as f:
    content =

4. Trying to Open a Non-regular File:

As mentioned previously, trying to open a file that is not a regular file can also cause a 'File Not Found Error'. This includes symbolic links pointing to non-existent files, directories, named pipes, and more.

# Trying to open a symbolic link pointing to a nonexistent file
with open('symbolic_link_to_nonexistent_file', 'r') as f:
    content =

5. Insufficient File Permissions:

If your program doesn't have the necessary permissions to access a file, it can also result in a 'File Not Found Error'. This is common in multi-user systems where file access permissions are strictly managed.

# File without necessary permissions
with open('restricted_file.txt', 'r') as f:
    content =

How to Handle 'File Not Found Error'

In Python, error handling is performed using the try-except statement. Here's a basic structure:

    # code block where an exception might occur
except ExceptionType:
    # code to be executed in case the exception occurs

You put the code that might throw an exception in the try block and the code to handle the exception in the except block. Python allows multiple except blocks to handle different types of exceptions separately. If an exception occurs in the try block, Python will stop executing further code in the try block and jump to the except block that handles that exception type.

When working with files, a common error to handle is the 'FileNotFoundError'. Here's how to handle it:

    with open('non_existent_file.txt', 'r') as f:
except FileNotFoundError:
    print('The file could not be found.')

In this example, if the file does not exist, Python will throw a FileNotFoundError. The except block catches this exception and prints a message saying 'The file could not be found.' instead of stopping the program.

It's good practice to handle exceptions at the point where you have the information to deal with them appropriately. For example, if a function is responsible for reading a file and processing its contents, that function should handle any file-related exceptions because it knows what files it's dealing with and what errors might arise.

In some cases, you may want to do something when an exception occurs and then re-raise the exception. You can do this with the 'raise' statement:

    with open('non_existent_file.txt', 'r') as f:
except FileNotFoundError:
    print('The file could not be found.')

Here, if the file doesn't exist, Python will print a message and then re-raise the FileNotFoundError, allowing it to be caught and handled at a higher level in your code.

Best Practices to Avoid 'File Not Found Error'

1. Check If File Exists Before Opening It:

We can use the os.path module to check if the file exists before trying to open it can prevent a 'File Not Found Error. Here's an example:

import os

file_path = 'my_file.txt'
if os.path.isfile(file_path):
    with open(file_path, 'r') as f:
    print('The file does not exist.')

In this code, os.path.isfile(file_path) returns True if the file exists and False otherwise.

2. Use Absolute Paths Instead of Relative Paths:

While it's not always possible, using absolute paths can prevent errors due to confusion about the current working directory. If you need to use relative paths, make sure you know what the current working directory is. You can use os.getcwd() to check the current working directory.

A relative path is a path that starts from the current working directory. For instance, if the current working directory is /home/user/documents, and there's a file named my_file.txt within this directory, you can open this file with the relative path like this:

with open('my_file.txt', 'r') as f:

An absolute path is a path that starts from the root directory. It is a complete path to the location of a file or a directory in a file system. The absolute path to the file in the previous example would be /home/user/documents/my_file.txt. You can open the file with the absolute path like this:

with open('/home/user/documents/my_file.txt', 'r') as f:

3. Handle File Paths Carefully:

File paths can be a source of errors, especially on systems where the path separator varies (like / on Unix-based systems and \ on Windows). You can use os.path.join() to create file paths in a platform-independent way:

import os

file_path = os.path.join('my_directory', 'my_file.txt')

4. Ensure Proper File Permissions:

If your program needs to read or write files, make sure it has the necessary permissions to do so. This might mean running the program with a different user or modifying the file permissions.

In order to read, write, or execute a file in Python, the program must have the necessary file permissions. If the program lacks the permissions to perform the requested operation, Python will raise a PermissionError.

You can handle this exception in a try-except block. Here's an example:

    with open('restricted_file.txt', 'w') as f:
        f.write('Hello, World!')
except PermissionError:
    print('Permission denied. Please check if you have the correct permissions to write to this file.')

In this example, Python tries to open a file named 'restricted_file.txt' in write mode and write 'Hello, World!' to it. If the program doesn't have the necessary permissions to perform this operation, it will raise a PermissionError, and the except block will catch this exception and print a message to inform the user.

5. Check File Type Before Accessing:

Python's os module provides the os.path module which can be used to perform such checks. Here's a simple example:

import os

file_path = 'my_file.txt'

if os.path.isfile(file_path):
    print('Regular file')
    with open(file_path, 'r') as f:
elif os.path.isdir(file_path):
    # perform directory operations here
elif os.path.islink(file_path):
    print('Symbolic link')
    # perform symbolic link operations here
    print('Unknown file type')
    # handle other file types here

In this code:

  • os.path.isfile(file_path) checks if the path is a regular file.
  • os.path.isdir(file_path) checks if the path is a directory.
  • os.path.islink(file_path) checks if the path is a symbolic link.

Each of these functions returns True if the path is of the corresponding type, and False otherwise. You can use these checks to determine the file type and handle each type accordingly.


In this article, we explored Python's 'File Not Found Error', an exception raised when the Python interpreter can't find a file that the code is attempting to open or manipulate. This error can occur due to a variety of reasons: the file doesn't exist, the file is in a different location, the file is not a regular file (like a symbolic link, directory, or other non-regular file types), or the program doesn't have the necessary permissions to access the file.

We also examined the concept of exception handling in Python, specifically focusing on how the 'File Not Found Error' can be gracefully handled using try-except blocks. This method allows the program to continue running even when such an error occurs, enhancing the robustness of the Python code.

Several scenarios were discussed with code snippets to illustrate instances where the 'File Not Found Error' may be encountered. In particular, these scenarios highlighted the differences between absolute and relative file paths and the implications of incorrect file paths or non-existent directories.

Finally, we discussed a variety of tips and tricks to avoid encountering the 'File Not Found Error'. These include checking if a file exists before trying to open it using the os.path module, using absolute paths instead of relative paths when possible, careful handling of file paths, ensuring proper file permissions, and handling errors in a graceful manner.

Key Takeaways

  1. 'File Not Found Error' in Python is a common exception that can be avoided and handled with the right approaches.
  2. Using exception handling (try-except blocks), we can catch and manage these exceptions effectively to prevent the program from crashing.
  3. Checking the file or directory's existence and type before trying to open it can help avoid this error.
  4. Ensuring correct use of absolute and relative paths and verifying proper file permissions are crucial steps.
  5. Even with precautions, errors can still occur. It's essential to code in a way that gracefully handles potential exceptions and minimizes their impact.
  6. Understanding the nature of 'File Not Found Error' and the strategies to handle it will lead to the development of more robust and reliable Python programs.
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Deepak Prasad

He is the founder of GoLinuxCloud and brings over a decade of expertise in Linux, Python, Go, Laravel, DevOps, Kubernetes, Git, Shell scripting, OpenShift, AWS, Networking, and Security. With extensive experience, he excels in various domains, from development to DevOps, Networking, and Security, ensuring robust and efficient solutions for diverse projects. You can reach out to him on his LinkedIn profile or join on Facebook page.

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