Python Program to Find Hash of File

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File hashing is an essential technique in computer science that serves a variety of purposes, from data integrity verification to data deduplication and security measures. In Python, hashing a file is a straightforward task thanks to its robust standard libraries. This comprehensive guide aims to cover every aspect of finding the hash of a file in Python. We’ll delve into the fundamental principles, libraries, code examples, best practices, and more.

What is Hashing?

Hashing is a technique that converts data into a fixed-size string of characters, which is typically a digest representing the data. Hash functions are designed to be fast, consistent, and to generate unique hashes so that even a small change in the data will produce a significantly different hash.

Why Hash a File?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s consider some scenarios where file hashing is useful:

  • Data Integrity: Hashing ensures that files have not been tampered with, either intentionally or accidentally.
  • Caching Mechanisms: Hashes can be used as keys in caching mechanisms.
  • Duplicate Detection: A quick way to identify duplicate files.
  • Digital Signatures: Hashing is crucial in the formation of digital signatures.

Python Libraries for File Hashing

Python’s standard library includes several modules that can perform various hashing algorithms:

  • hashlib : Provides algorithms like MD5, SHA-1, and SHA-256.
  • os : Offers essential functionalities for interacting with the operating system, like reading files.

Basic File Hashing Example

Here’s a simple example that uses the hashlib library to calculate the SHA-256 hash of a file:

import hashlib

def calculate_hash(filename):
    sha256 = hashlib.sha256()
    with open(filename, 'rb') as f:
        while chunk :=
    return sha256.hexdigest()

hash_value = calculate_hash('example.txt')
print(f'The SHA-256 hash of the file is: {hash_value}')

Advanced Techniques

Hashing Large Files

Reading large files entirely into memory is not feasible. That’s why, in our basic example, we read the file in chunks of 4096 bytes, updating the hash function for each chunk.

Using Different Algorithms

If you require a different hashing algorithm, you can easily replace hashlib.sha256() with other algorithms such as hashlib.md5() or hashlib.sha1().

def calculate_md5_hash(filename):
    md5 = hashlib.md5()
    with open(filename, 'rb') as f:
        while chunk :=
    return md5.hexdigest()

Best Practices

Use Modern Hash Functions

Older hash functions like MD5 and SHA-1 are considered insecure for cryptographic purposes, so use modern functions like SHA-256 or SHA-3.

Error Handling

File operations are prone to errors, such as file not found or permission errors. Always incorporate error handling in your programs:

    hash_value = calculate_hash('nonexistent_file.txt')
except FileNotFoundError:
    print('File not found.')


The speed of hashing can vary depending on the algorithm used. If performance is a concern, you might want to benchmark different algorithms for your specific use case.

Common Pitfalls

  • Not Checking File Existence: Always check if the file exists before attempting to hash it.
  • Ignoring Security Concerns: Avoid using deprecated or broken hash functions.
  • Lack of Error Handling: A robust hashing program should handle all kinds of exceptions gracefully.

Real-world Applications

Data Integrity in Data Lakes

In a data lake storing petabytes of data, ensuring data integrity is critical. File hashes can serve as a quick and effective way to achieve this.

Digital Forensics

Hashing is also commonly used in digital forensics to ensure that evidence files have not been tampered with during investigation.


Finding the hash of a file is a straightforward but crucial task in various fields from cybersecurity to data management. Python, with its rich standard libraries, offers a simple and effective way to calculate file hashes. Whether you are a beginner just starting out with Python or an experienced developer, understanding file hashing and its best practices can be incredibly beneficial. Armed with this knowledge, you can now confidently apply file hashing in your Python projects for various purposes, including data integrity checks, duplicate detection, and much more.

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