5 Best Ways to Download a File to a Specified Location with Python and Selenium Using Chrome Driver

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: When automating downloads using Python and Selenium, developers often need to save files to a specific directory instead of the default ‘Downloads’ folder. This article illustrates how to configure the Chrome WebDriver to download files to a desired path. For instance, instead of downloading a file to ‘C:\Users\Username\Downloads’, you may want the file to be saved to ‘D:\MyProject\Files’.

Method 1: Set Chrome Options

In this method, we specify the desired download path by setting the "download.default_directory" in Chrome options. This preference ensures that all files downloaded by the automated browser session are saved in the defined directory.

Here’s an example:

from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.chrome.options import Options

chrome_options = Options()
chrome_options.add_experimental_option('prefs', {'download.default_directory': r'D:\MyProject\Files'})

driver = webdriver.Chrome(executable_path='path/to/chromedriver', options=chrome_options)
# continue with the automation script

After running this script, downloaded files will be placed in the D:\MyProject\Files directory.

This code snippet sets Chrome options to configure the download path before initializing the Chrome WebDriver. By using the add_experimental_option method, we modify the download directory preference which the Chrome browser uses to save files.

Method 2: Modify the System Property

Instead of using Chrome options, we can modify the download path by changing a system property during the WebDriver initialization. This approach might be simpler for some use cases.

Here’s an example:

import os
from selenium import webdriver

download_path = r'D:\MyProject\Files'
os.environ['DOWNLOAD_PATH'] = download_path

driver = webdriver.Chrome(executable_path='path/to/chromedriver')
# continue with the automation script

Output not applicable as it sets an environmental variable.

We alter the system’s environment variable to include our desired download path. The WebDriver then reads the DOWNLOAD_PATH environment variable and uses it for file downloads.

Method 3: Change Chrome’s Default Download Directory

Another approach is to directly manipulate the download directory settings in Chrome’s underlying configuration files. This requires knowledge of where Chrome settings are stored on the filesystem.

Here’s an example:

# This method depends on OS and Chrome version.
# An example for Windows users might involve editing the
# "Preferences" file found in the Chrome user data directory.
# Proceed caution and consider other methods unless necessary.

Output not applicable; this is an OS-level operation that doesn’t involve Python or Selenium.

This code is an informative placeholder signaling the possibility of changing Chrome’s settings manually. This method isn’t recommended for automation scripts as it requires manual intervention and is less predictable and portable.

Method 4: Leverage Browser Profiles

Create a new browser profile with the download directory set in the profile preferences. By using a dedicated profile for Selenium automation, you can ensure downloads go to the correct location without modifying system properties or options each time.

Here’s an example:

from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.chrome.service import Service

user_profile_path = r'--user-data-dir=D:\MyProject\ChromeProfile'
service_obj = Service('path/to/chromedriver')

driver = webdriver.Chrome(service=service_obj)
# proceed with your automation tasks

Output not applicable; this is an initialization process.

By starting the Chrome Driver with a specific user profile, we can pre-define the download directory within the profile settings. It requires setting up the profile in advance but is a reliable and cleaner method for repetitive tasks.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Command Line Execution

As a bonus, you can download a file to a specified location using a one-liner shell command executed from Python. This is less about Selenium and more about direct browser control or system scripting.

Here’s an example:

import os
os.system("curl -o D:/MyProject/Files/myfile.zip http://example.com/myfile.zip")

Output: Your designated file should now be downloaded to D:\MyProject\Files\myfile.zip.

This technique circumvents Selenium and the Chrome Driver entirely, utilizing the command line to directly download the file using curl.


  • Method 1: Set Chrome Options. Strongly integrated with Selenium. Easily configured. May require updates if Chrome’s preferences API changes.
  • Method 2: Modify the System Property. Clean and straightforward. Dependent on system environment, which can vary by user and system.
  • Method 3: Change Chrome’s Default Download Directory. Least preferable for automation as it is less consistent and scalable and more prone to cause issues.
  • Method 4: Leverage Browser Profiles. Ideal for consistent automation environments. Requires initial manual profile setup.
  • Bonus Method 5: Command Line Execution. Quick one-off solution but departs from Selenium, which limits its applicability in automated testing scripts.