BetterWalk, a better and faster os.walk() for Python -- DEPRECATED, see my "scandir" project
Python C
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tests Added unit tests for walk (copied from CPython's tests for os.walk) Nov 19, 2012
.gitattributes First version straight from original GitHub gist Nov 13, 2012
.gitignore Add _betterwalk.pyd to .gitignore Jan 9, 2013
CHANGES.txt Added "fields" and "pattern" keyword args Nov 19, 2012
LICENSE.txt First version straight from original GitHub gist Nov 13, 2012
_betterwalk.c Got C _betterwalk.listdir() proof of concept basically working Jan 8, 2013 Simplify benchmark's os_listdir so it's more like os.listdir() would do Nov 27, 2012 Simplify benchmark's os_listdir so it's more like os.listdir() would do Nov 27, 2012 Add README, CHANGES,, and some docs Nov 13, 2012 Added skeleton of C version of betterwalk Jan 1, 2013

BetterWalk, a better and faster os.walk() for Python [deprecated, see "scandir" project]

This project has been deprecated in favour of scandir, which has a better API and is more likely to be included in the standard library. See also Python Issue 11406 and the python-dev thread I started.

BetterWalk is a somewhat better and significantly faster version of Python's os.walk(), as well as a generator version of os.listdir().

This GitHub repo is where I'm developing it, but it's also available as a library on PyPI.


Python's built-in os.walk() is significantly slower than it needs to be, because -- in addition to calling listdir() on each directory -- it calls stat() on each file to determine whether the filename is a directory or not. But both FindFirstFile / FindNextFile on Windows and readdir on Linux/OS X/BSD already tell you whether the files returned are directories or not, so no further stat system calls are needed. In short, you can reduce the number of system calls from about 2N to N, where N is the total number of files and directories in the tree.

In practice, removing all those extra system calls makes walking about 2-3 times as fast on Windows, and about 1.5 times as fast on Linux and Mac OS X. So we're not talking about micro-optimizations. See more benchmarks below.

Somewhat relatedly, many people have also asked for a version of os.listdir() that yields filenames as it iterates instead of returning them as one big list.

So as well as a faster walk(), BetterWalk adds iterdir_stat() and iterdir(). They're pretty easy to use, but see below for the full API docs.

Why you should care

I'd love for these incremental (but significant!) improvements to be added to the Python standard library. BetterWalk was released to help test the concept and get it in shape for inclusion in the standard os module.

There are various third-party "path" and "walk directory" libraries available, but Python's os module isn't going away anytime soon. So we might as well speed it up and add small improvements where possible.

So I'd love it if you could help test BetterWalk, report bugs, suggest improvement, or comment on the API. And perhaps you'll see these speed-ups and API additions in Python 3.4 ... :-)


Below are results showing how many times as fast betterwalk.walk() is than os.walk() on various systems, found by running with no arguments as well as with the -s argument (which totals the directory size).

System version              Python version    Speed ratio    With -s
Windows 7 64 bit            2.6 64 bit        2.5            4.5
Windows 7 64 bit            2.7 64 bit        2.2            4.2
Windows 7 64 bit            3.2 64 bit        3.0            6.2
Windows XP 32 bit           2.7 32 bit        1.3            2.4
Windows XP 32 bit           3.3 32 bit        2.0            4.8

Debian 2.6.32 32 bit        2.6 32 bit        1.6            1.5
Ubuntu 12.04 64 bit VBox    2.7 64 bit        1.5            1.3
Ubuntu 12.04 64 bit VBox    3.2 64 bit        1.7            1.4

Mac OS X 10.7.5             2.7 64 bit        1.6            1.3

Originally I was benchmarking against the actual os.walk(), but that uses listdir() which is written in C, whereas iterdir_stat() is written in pure Python using ctypes. So (on Linux) the cost of ctypes was outweighing the speed increase due to not doing the stat. So I've changed the benchmark to use a ctypes version of listdir() so it's comparing apples with apples.

Some of these are systems I have running on VirtualBox -- if you can benchmark it on your own similar system on real hardware, send in the results and I'll replace these with your results.

Note that the gains are less than the above on smaller directories and greater on larger directories. This is why creates a test directory tree with a standardized size.



The API for betterwalk.walk() is exactly the same as os.walk(), so just read the Python docs.


The iterdir_stat() function is BetterWalk's main workhorse. It's defined as follows:

iterdir_stat(path='.', pattern='*', fields=None)

It yield tuples of (filename, stat_result) for each filename that matches pattern in the directory given by path. Like os.listdir(), . and .. are skipped, and the values are yielded in system-dependent order.

Pattern matching is done as per fnmatch.fnmatch(), but is more efficient if the system's directory iteration supports pattern matching (like Windows).

The fields parameter specifies which fields to provide in each stat_result. If None, only the fields the operating system can get "for free" are present in stat_result. Otherwise "fields" must be an iterable of st_* attribute names that the caller wants in each stat_result. The only special attribute name is st_mode_type, which means the type bits in the st_mode field.

In practice, all fields are provided for free on Windows; whereas only the st_mode_type information is provided for free on Linux, Mac OS X, and BSD.

Here's a good usage pattern for iterdir_stat. This is in fact almost exactly how the faster os.walk() implementation uses it:

dirs = []
nondirs = []
for name, st in betterwalk.iterdir_stat(top, fields=['st_mode_type']):
    if stat.S_ISDIR(st.st_mode):


The iterdir() function is similar to iterdir_stat(), except it doesn't provide any stat information, but simply yields a list of filenames.

Further reading


  • Windows FindFirst/Next wildcard matching is quirky (compared to fnmatch). From Random832 on python-ideas: it matches short filenames, the behavior you noted of "?" at the end of patterns also applies to the end of the 'filename portion' (e.g. foo?.txt can match foo.txt), and the behavior of patterns ending in ".*" or "." isn't like fnmatch. This and this might be helpful.
  • From John Mulligan on python-ideas: there is a potential race condition between calling the readdir and the stat, like if the object is removed between calls. Consider what to do here, maybe return None for all st_* fields on stat() error? See also "This race isn't the only reason that stat can fail" message from Andrew Barnert.
  • Test performance of pattern param on Windows versus fnmatch filtering afterwards.
  • Add tests, especially for reparse points / Win32 symbolic links
  • Consider adding "pattern" parameter to walk(), per Todd Whiteman

Flames, comments, bug reports

Please send flames, comments, and questions about BetterWalk to Ben Hoyt:

File bug reports or feature requests at the GitHub project page: