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check if a file exists

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Salvatore Mazzarino
Salvatore Mazzarino on 29 Sep 2012
Answered: donier vask on 2 May 2022
I'm using the "importdata" function to import data from a text file. I would like to have a way to check if the text file exists before attempting to import data from the file. If the file doesn't exist, I would then like to display a custom error message. What is the function that I should use?

Accepted Answer

Jan on 29 Sep 2012
Edited: MathWorks Support Team on 9 Nov 2018
Starting in R2017b, you can use the "isfile" function to check if a file exists. For example:
if isfile(filename)
% File exists.
% File does not exist.
The "isfile" function searches for files only on the specified path or in the current folder.
For R2017a and previous releases, use the "exist" function. For example:
if exist(filename, 'file') == 2
% File exists.
% File does not exist.
Be sure to specify an absolute path for the file name. The "exist" function searches all files and folders on the search path, which can lead to unexpected results if multiple files with the same name exist.
Jan on 21 Jul 2021
@sesilia maidelin: This is a job for the dir command:
FileList = dir(fullfile(yourFolder, '*.jpg'))
This gives you a list of jpg files in the folder.
sesilia maidelin
sesilia maidelin on 22 Jul 2021
hi there, thanks for replying @Jan , in my case i just want to know the existence of a particular file type in a folder, then move the folder to another parentfolder named complete. so if the folder AAA contains a .txt and .jpgs, i want to move AAA into the folder complete that contains folder AAZ, BBA, etc that also contain .txt and .jpg files. i attached the picture of how the source file look like. I want to move files like 00000715 to the folder complete. Thank you!

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More Answers (6)

Image Analyst
Image Analyst on 29 Sep 2012
if exist(fullFileName, 'file')
% File exists. Do stuff....
% File does not exist.
warningMessage = sprintf('Warning: file does not exist:\n%s', fullFileName);
Nelson dos Santos Netto
Nelson dos Santos Netto on 4 Mar 2016
Thanks for the information! Btw, I was wondering if this check is purely done regarding the file name or the content in the file itself...The thing is:I'm trying to develop a script to regularly copy files from a sourcefolder to a destinationfolder, but I wanted to make sure I copy only the most recent and modified data, in order to get a more efficient and quicker programme. Could you help me out, please?? Tks a lot!
Image Analyst
Image Analyst on 4 Mar 2016
It checks if a file with that filename is there. It does not check what the contents are, or even if there are contents. It's possible to have a file with zero bytes. You can use fileInfo = dir(filename) to check size.

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Azzi Abdelmalek
Azzi Abdelmalek on 29 Sep 2012
Edited: Azzi Abdelmalek on 29 Sep 2012
a=dir % or a=dir('folder')
goc3 on 6 May 2019
I prefer this answer, as it only checks in the current directory.
Jan on 6 May 2019
Edited: Jan on 6 May 2019
But if the current directory contains a huge number of files, it is a waste of time. If the current folder is in a network drive, the slow down is substantial. This is more efficient:
isfile(fullfile(cd, 'filename.txt'))
And if it is unknown, if the file contains a path or not, use

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José-Luis on 29 Sep 2012
Edited: José-Luis on 29 Sep 2012

Simon on 2 Nov 2016
Edited: Simon on 2 Nov 2016
A more modern / more succinct approach:
assert( exist( filename, 'file ) == 2, 'File not found.' );
Assert is a wonderful thing, and makes error-catching code a lot more compact than lots of if blocks! The way it works is,
assert( condition, error );
where condition is something that returns a logical true or false, and error is the message that results if it's false.
Miguel Diaz
Miguel Diaz on 17 Nov 2016
This is a very nice solution. Except exist(filename,'file') == 2 would occur when the file DOES exist. so a corrected version of this would be:
assert(exist(filename,'file') ~= 2, 'File not found.' );
Overall, nice solution my friend!
Image Analyst
Image Analyst on 17 Nov 2016
Though a friendlier more informative error message (like in my answer) would be an improvement.
But you're not totally correct. Like you said "exist(filename,'file') == 2 would occur when the file DOES exist." and exist(filename,'file') == 2 would be FALSE when the file DOES NOT exist. Since assert only spits out the error message when the file does not exist (the condition is false), it was correct as Simon originally had it, not your "correction".
Remember, in summary, if the file does exist, the condition is true, and the 'File not found.' message is not printed to the command window. If the file does NOT exist, the condition is false, and so the 'File not found.' message is printed to the command window.

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ABHAY K K on 4 Feb 2019
is there a way to check the files exists in a particular directory without using the filename, What i mean to say is the more generalised way to find out
Mahmoud Salah
Mahmoud Salah on 11 Oct 2020
you can use a function called isfile and can be used as followed
if isfile(filename)==1
Image Analyst
Image Analyst on 11 Oct 2020
No. If you don't know the filename(s), you cannot determine if a file exists. The best you could do is to see if ANY files exist in the folder by using the dir() function.

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donier vask
donier vask on 2 May 2022
If you are using Python 3 with pathlib you can access os.stat() information using the Path.stat() method, which has the attribute st_size (file size in bytes) can use to check whether python file exists and is not empty,
>>> import os
>>> os.stat("file").st_size == 0
But, the stat() method will throw an exception if the file does not exist. The following function will return True/False without throwing (simpler but less robust):
import os
def is_non_zero_file(fpath):
return os.path.isfile(fpath) and os.path.getsize(fpath) > 0


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