Copy a directory recursively using Python (with examples)
Shutil module in Python provides many functions of high-level operations on files and collections of files. It comes under Python’s standard utility modules. This module helps in automating process of copying and removal of files and directories.
shutil.copytree() method recursively copies an entire directory tree rooted at source (src) to the destination directory. The destination directory, named by (dst) must not already exist. It will be created during copying. Permissions and times of directories are copied with copystat() and individual files are copied using shutil.copy2().
Syntax: shutil.copytree(src, dst, symlinks = False, ignore = None, copy_function = copy2, ignore_dangling_symlinks = False)
src: A string representing the path of the source directory.
dest: A string representing the path of the destination.
symlinks (optional): This parameter accepts True or False, depending on which the metadata of the original links or linked links will be copied to the new tree.
ignore (optional): If ignore is given, it must be a callable that will receive as its arguments the directory being visited by copytree(), and a list of its contents, as returned by os.listdir().
copy_function (optional): The default value of this parameter is copy2. We can use other copy function like copy() for this parameter.
ignore_dangling_symlinks (optional): This parameter value when set to True is used to put a silence on the exception raised if the file pointed by the symlink doesn’t exist.
Return Value: This method returns a string which represents the path of newly created directory.
Example: Suppose the directory looks like this.
We want to copy the folder ‘src’ to a new folder ‘dst’. Below is the implementation.
Copy both file and directories
Tweaking the above code by a little bit allows us to copy both files or directories. This can be done using copytree() function and a try-except block. We will catch the exception and if the exception is ENOTDIR then we will use copy2() function to copy the files. Doing this allows us to copy both files and directories using a single code.
Let’s suppose the destination directory looks like this.
We want to copy a text file present in the src folder to this destination folder. Below is the implementation.
Ignoring files and directories
Sometimes, while copying a directory to another directory, one may not want to copy the some files or sub-directories. Even this is handled by the shutil module. The function copytree() takes the argument ignore that allows specifying a function that returns a list of directories or files that should be ignored. This function takes the file or directory name as an argument which acts as a filter for names. If the argument passed is in names, then it is added to a list that specifies the copytree() which file or directory to skip.
Example: Suppose the source folder looks like this.
We want to copy the contents of above folder with the folder ‘a’. Below is the implementation.
To remove more than one file or a file with a particular format, shutil.ignore_patterns is used. This function is passed as an argument to the copytree() method that specifies the glob patterns to filter out the files and directories.
Example: We will use the above source folder as an example and will not copy any .txt file and folder ‘a’. Below is the implementation.
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