To me at first, it should have a simple graceful solution, but turned out it has none.

I will try to convince you by the following scenario.


I have a python writer (to make sure the file will be written by another process rather than the node itself), here is the code:

import os
import time
from functools import partial

def copy(a, b):
    with open(a, 'rb') as r:
        with open(b, 'wb', 0) as w:
            for chunk in iter(partial(, 4 * 1024), b''):

Basically, it will write a file by copying chunk by chunk of 4 KB to the destination.

I have added some timeout in the code to make the write slower and to emphasize the problem.


Now, we expect that the reader must be able to know whether the file is being written by the code above.

Things that don’t work

  1. fs.access(path, fs.constants.R_OK & fs.constants.W_OK & fs.constants.X_OK, callback)
  2., 'r+', callback)
  3., 'a+', callback)
  4. lockfile.lock(path, {}, callback) by using npm install lockfile here. It just cannot lock whether how long.
  5. lockfile.lock(path, callback) by using npm install proper-lockfile here. It always can lock.

Things that do work

  1. Check the file size difference:
     const aSize = await fileSize(path)
     await delay(100)
     const bSize = await fileSize(path)
     return aSize !== bSize

    Note: It is not reliable though because you cannot guarantee that the delay you put is enough for any writer.

  2. Check whether the file can be moved:
     const tmp = path + '-tmp'
     try {
         await rename(path, tmp)
         await rename(tmp, path)
         return false
     } catch (err) {
         return true


To what I have to be working, try-moving-the-file wins because it is the most reliable !