Understanding the __pycache__ Folder in Python

Posted by Afsal on 14-Jun-2024

Hi Pythonistas!

If you have been working with Python, you might have come across a folder named __pycache__. This folder is automatically generated by Python and is crucial for optimizing the execution of your Python programs. In this post, we'll delve into what the __pycache__ folder is, why it exists, and how it impacts your development workflow.

What is the __pycache__ Folder?

The __pycache__ folder stores compiled versions of Python files (.py files) as bytecode. These compiled files have a .pyc extension and are created to make subsequent runs of the program faster. Bytecode is a lower-level, platform-independent representation of your source code that the Python interpreter can execute more quickly than the original .py files.

Why Does Python Use __pycache__?

  1. Performance Optimization: By storing bytecode, Python can skip the compilation step during future executions. This results in faster startup times for your programs.
  2. Efficiency: Compiling the source code every time you run a program can be resource-intensive. The __pycache__ folder helps in avoiding this overhead by caching the compiled files.
  3. Compatibility: The bytecode files in __pycache__ are specific to the Python version and optimization level. This means Python can maintain multiple versions of the bytecode for different environments, ensuring compatibility and performance.

How Does __pycache__ Work?

When you run a Python script, the interpreter checks if the corresponding .pyc file exists in the __pycache__ folder. If it does and is up-to-date (i.e., the source .py file hasn't changed since the .pyc file was created), Python will use this bytecode file instead of recompiling the source code. If the .pyc file does not exist or is outdated, Python will compile the source code and store the new bytecode in __pycache__.

For example, if you have a file named example.py, Python will create a corresponding example.cpython-<version>.pyc file inside the __pycache__ folder.

Managing __pycache__

While the __pycache__ folder is helpful, there are scenarios where you might want to manage it manually:

  • Development: During development, you might frequently change your source code. In such cases, Python automatically keeps the bytecode up-to-date, so you typically don't need to manage __pycache__ yourself.
  • Deployment: For deploying Python applications, you might choose to exclude __pycache__ from version control (e.g., by adding it to your .gitignore file) because bytecode can be regenerated on the target system.
  • Cleaning Up: If you need to clean up bytecode files, you can manually delete the __pycache__ folder. Python will recreate it as needed.

Best Practices

  1. Ignore in Version Control: Add __pycache__/ to your .gitignore file to avoid cluttering your repository with compiled files.
  2. Automated Cleanups: Use scripts or tools to clean up __pycache__ during your build or deployment processes if needed.


The __pycache__ folder plays a vital role in enhancing the performance of Python programs by caching compiled bytecode. Understanding its purpose and how it works can help you better manage your Python projects and optimize your development workflow. While it generally requires no manual intervention, knowing how to handle __pycache__ can be beneficial in certain scenarios.