C++ File Handling

C++ has a standard library fstream which is used for file handling. <fstream> header file must be included in your program to process files. It has three data types ofstream, ifstream and fstream.


ofstream is the output file stream which is used to create files and to write information to files.


ifstream is the input file stream which is used to read information from files.


fstream is the general file stream which can be used to create files, write information to files, and read information from files.

Opening a file

If you want to write or read from a file first you must open the file. ifstream object is used to open a file to just read from it, ofstream and fstream objects can be used to open a file for writing. The open() function is a member of fstream, ifstream, and ofstream objects. The first argument specifies the name and location of the file and second argument specifies the mode in which the file should be opened.

fstream myFile;
myFile.open(“myFile.txt”, ios::out | ios::in );

Mode Description
ios::app The output to that file will be appended to the end.
ios::ate Move the read/write control to the end of the file.
ios::in Open the file for reading.
ios::out Open the file for writing.
ios::trunc The contents will be truncated before opening the file if it already exists.

Closing a file

The close() function is is a member of fstream, ifstream, and ofstream objects and used to close opened files. C++ automatically flush all the streams, opened files and release allocated memory when a program terminates. But it is good practice to close all the opened files before program termination. Following is the syntax to close a file.

void close();

Writing & reading from a file

The stream insertion operator (<<) is used with the ofstream or fstream object to write information to a file. The stream extraction operator (>>) is used with the ifstream or fstream object to read information from a file.

File Handling Example

#include <fstream>
#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main () {

char data[50];

ofstream myFile;

cin.getline(data, 50);

//writing information into the file
myFile << data << endl;

//closing file

//opening the file in read mode
ifstream oldFile;

oldFile >> data;

//printing the data on screen.
cout << data << endl;

//closing file

return 0;


File Handling in C

A file is a collection of bytes stored on a secondary storage device, which is generally a disk of some kind. The collection of bytes may be interpreted, for example, as characters, words, lines, paragraphs and pages from a textual document; fields and records belonging to a database; or pixels from a graphical image. There are two kinds of files that programmers deal with text files and binary files.

C Text Files

A text file can be a stream of characters that a computer can process sequentially. It is not only processed sequentially but only in forward direction. For this reason a text file is usually opened for only one kind of operation (reading, writing, or appending) at any given time.

C Binary Files

A binary file is no different to a text file. It is a collection of bytes. In C Programming Language a byte and a character are equivalent. No special processing of the data occurs and each byte of data is transferred to or from the disk unprocessed. C Programming Language places no constructs on the file, and it may be read from, or written to, in any manner chosen by the programmer.

Opening a File in C

The general format of the function used for opening a file is

FILE *fp;

The first statement declares the variable fp as a pointer to the data type FILE. As stated earlier, File is a structure that is defined in the I/O Library. The second statement opens the file named filename and assigns an identifier to the FILE type pointer fp. fopen() contain the file name and mode (the purpose of opening the file).

  1. r is used to open the file for read only.
  2. w is used to open the file for writing only.
  3. a is used to open the file for appending data to it.

Closing a File in C

A file must be closed as soon as all operations on it have been completed. This would close the file associated with the file pointer. The input output library supports the function to close a file.



void main(void)

FILE *myfile;
char c;
myfile = fopen(“firstfile.txt”, “r”);
if (myfile == NULL)
printf(“File doesn’t exist\n”);
else {

do {

c = getc(myfile);

} while (c != EOF);



C File Operation Functions

Function Name
fopen() Creates a new file. Opens an existing file.
fclose Closes a file which has been opened for use
getc() Reads a character from a file
putc() Writes a character to a file
fprintf() Writes a set of data values to a file
fscanf() Reads a set of data values from a file
getw() Reads a integer from a file
putw() Writes an integer to the file
fseek() Sets the position to a desired point in the file
ftell() Gives the current position in the file
rewind() Sets the position to the beginning of the file