PHP list files in directories

PHP has some great functions to handle files withing a specified directory. The following custom functions and code examples show how to use them is real cases.

Write filenames from a directory to MySQL

This script is an example how to import all filenames from a single directory into a MySQL database table. Extra features are:

  • The last modification date is stored in the database too
  • All filenames that are not imported to the database are stored in an error array.

The script is very easy to use: just place the script into the folder where you want to copy the files and modify the database connection string and then run the script via the browser.

Establish a database connection

$db = new mysqli('localhost', 'username', 'password', 'databasename');

This function will open a selected directory and returns and array with all filenames.

function select_files($dir) {
    if (is_dir($dir)) {
        if ($handle = opendir($dir)) {
            $files = array();
            while (false !== ($file = readdir($handle))) {
                if (is_file($dir.$file) && $file != basename($_SERVER['PHP_SELF'])) $files[] = $file;
            if (is_array($files)) sort($files);
            return $files;

Next insert the filename and the modification date of the current file

function insert_record($name, $mod_date) {
    $sql = sprintf("INSERT INTO example SET filename = '%s', lastdate = '%s'", $name, $mod_date);
    if ($db->query($sql)) {
        return true;
    } else {
        return false;

Create the table structure if not exists

  id bigint(20) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment,
  filename varchar(255) NOT NULL default '',
  lastdate datetime NOT NULL default '0000-00-00 00:00:00',
  PRIMARY KEY  (id),
  FULLTEXT KEY domain (filename)

Create the current file path

$path = dirname(__FILE__);

Check for the trailing slash (Windows or Linux type)

$path .= (substr($path, 0, 1) == "/") ? "/" : "\\";

Get the filenames from the directory

$file_array = select_files($path);

Creating some controle variables and arrays

$num_files = count($file_array);
$success = 0;
$error_array = array();

// if the file array is not empty the loop will start

if ($num_files > 0) {
     foreach ($file_array as $val) {
         $fdate = date("Y-m-d", filectime($path.$val));
         if (insert_record($val, $fdate)) {
         } else {
             $error_array[] = $val;
     echo "Copied ".$success." van ".$num_files." files...";
     if (count($error_array) > 0) echo "\n\n<blockquote>\n".print_r($error_array)."\n</blockquote>";
 } else {
     echo "No files or error while opening directory";

Order and remove files from a directory

Use this function to take care of the amount of files in a public map. Every time a new file is uploaded the oldest one must be removed (using the unlink() function) if a maximum limit is already reached. The second parameter is optional and will set the limit whenever the check should happen or not.

Demo: My PHP upload and download demo is using this function too.

function get_oldest_file($directory) {
    if ($handle = opendir($directory)) {
        while (false !== ($file = readdir($handle))) {
            if (is_file($directory.$file)) { // add only files to the array (ver. 1.01)
                $files[] = $file;
        if (count($files) <= 12) {
        } else {
            foreach ($files as $val) {
                if (is_file($directory.$val)) {
                    $file_date[$val] = filemtime($directory.$val);
    asort($file_date, SORT_NUMERIC);
    $oldest = key($file_date);
    return $oldest;

How to use this PHP directory and file function?

This example will show you the oldest file if there are more then 8 in the directory.

echo get_oldest_file("/path/to/your/directory/", 8);