How to Get the Current Working Directory in Java

Java provides various utilities and classes to interact with the underlying file system. One commonly needed piece of information when working with file IO or certain applications is the current working directory (CWD). In this post, we'll explore different ways to retrieve the current working directory in Java. 

What is the Current Working Directory? 

The current working directory refers to the directory in which the JVM was invoked. If you're running a Java application from an IDE like IntelliJ IDEA or Eclipse, the current working directory is typically the root directory of your project. If you're using the command line, it's usually the directory from which you ran your Java application.

1. Using the System Class

The System class offers a straightforward approach to getting the current working directory. The Java system property user.dir represents the directory in which the Java Virtual Machine was invoked.

String cwd = System.getProperty("user.dir");
System.out.println("Current working directory using System: " + cwd);

2. Using Paths and Path from java.nio.file

Java's New I/O (NIO) package provides a more modern approach to file handling. You can retrieve the current working directory using the Paths utility class:

import java.nio.file.Paths;

String cwd = Paths.get("").toAbsolutePath().toString();
System.out.println("Current working directory using Paths: " + cwd);

3. Using File Class

Though somewhat older, the File class can also be used to find the current working directory. By creating a new File object with a relative path and then retrieving the absolute path, you get the current working directory:


String cwd = new File("").getAbsolutePath();
System.out.println("Current working directory using File: " + cwd);

4. Using SystemUtils from Apache Commons Lang

If you're using the Apache Commons Lang library in your project, the SystemUtils class provides a convenient method:

import org.apache.commons.lang3.SystemUtils;

String cwd = SystemUtils.getUserDir().getAbsolutePath();
System.out.println("Current working directory using SystemUtils: " + cwd);

Points to Remember

Immutable current working directory: In Java, once the JVM starts up, the current working directory is set and cannot be changed programmatically. Always ensure you're cognizant of this behavior. 

Relative vs. Absolute Paths: Knowing your current working directory is essential when working with relative file paths. It gives context to where the relative path starts. 

Deployment Scenarios: Be cautious in deployment scenarios, especially when deploying as JARs or in containers. The directory from which the application is started can influence the current working directory and, in turn, the behavior of the application.


While there are multiple ways to determine the current working directory in Java, the best approach often depends on your specific use case and the libraries you're already using. Regardless of the method, being aware of your application's current working directory is crucial for ensuring reliable file and directory operations.

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