[Python-Dev] os.rename on windows

Andrew Bennetts andrew-pythondev at puzzling.org
Tue May 1 02:50:04 CEST 2007

Raghuram Devarakonda wrote:
> Hi,
> I have submitted a patch (http://www.python.org/sf/1704547) that
> allows os.rename to replace the destination file if it exists, on
> windows. As part of discussion in the tracker, Martin suggested that
> python-dev should discuss the change.

Does MOVEFILE_REPLACE_EXISTING mean the rename over an existing file is actually
atomic?  I cannot find any MSDN docs that say so (and I've seen some that
suggest to me that it probably isn't).

If it's not atomic, then this doesn't offer any advantage over shutil.move that
I can see (and in fact would damage the usefulness of os.rename, which is
currently atomic on all platforms AFAIK, even though it cannot succeed all the

If MOVEFILE_REPLACE_EXISTING miraculously turns out to be atomic, then my
opinion is:

  * this feature would be very useful, and I would like a cross-platform way to
    do this in Python.
  * this feature should not be called "os.rename", which for years has done
    something else on some platforms, and so changing it will invite unnecessary
    breakage.  A new function would be better, or perhaps an optional flag.  I
    propose "os.atomic_rename".

Also, I assume this cannot replace files that are in use?

> Currently, os.rename() on windows uses the API MoveFile() which fails
> if the destination file exists. The patch replaces this API with
> MoveFileEx() and uses the flag MOVEFILE_REPLACE_EXISTING which causes
> the destination file to be replaced if it exists. However, this change
> is subtle and if there is any existing code that depends on current
> os.rename behaviour on windows, their code is silently broken with
> (any) destination file being overwritten. But the functionality of
> replacing is important and I would like to know the best of way of
> supporting it. If it is deemed that this change is not good to go in
> as-is, how about having an optional parameter to os.rename (say,
> win_replace) that can be used by callers to explicitly request
> replacing?

I'd be ok with a flag, but it should have a cross-platform name.
"require_atomic" or "replace" or something like that.  I think a new function
makes more sense, though.

> I must also point out that the patch uses another flag
> MOVEFILE_COPY_ALLOWED effectively allowing renamed files to be on
> separate file systems. The renaming in this case is not atomic and I
> used this flag only to support current functionality. It is not a bad
> idea to disallow such renames which brings it in line with the
> behaviour on many unix flavors. This also has the potential to break
> code but not silently.

I don't quite follow what you're saying here, but I'd be against an operation
called "rename" that sometimes was atomic and sometimes wasn't.

> Lastly, I found an old discussion about the same topic by this list.
> http://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-dev/2001-May/014957.html
> Even though Guido indicated that he doesn't support API change in this
> thread, I am posting again as I did not see any one mention
> MoveFileEx() in that thread.

Does MoveFileEx solve the atomicity problem that Guido raised in that thread?  I
don't think it does, so I think the situation is still the same.


More information about the Python-Dev mailing list