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py2exe – generate single executable file

Posted by: admin November 1, 2017 Leave a comment


I thought I heard that py2exe was able to do this, but I never figured it out. Has anyone successfully done this? Can I see your setup.py file, and what command line options you used?

Basically I’m thinking of it giving me a single executable file that does something like unzips itself to maybe /temp and runs.


PyInstaller will create a single .exe file with no dependencies; use the --onefile option. It does this by packing all the needed shared libs into the executable, and unpacking them before it runs, just as you describe (EDIT: py2exe also has this feature, see minty’s answer)

I use the version of PyInstaller from svn, since the latest release (1.3) is somewhat outdated. It’s been working really well for an app which depends on PyQt, PyQwt, numpy, scipy and a few more.


The way to do this using py2exe is to use the bundle_files option in your setup.py file. For a single file you will want to set bundle_files to 1, compressed to True, and set the zipfile option to None. That way it creates one compressed file for easy distribution.

Here is a more complete description of the bundle_file option quoted directly from the py2exe site*

Using “bundle_files” and “zipfile”

An easier (and better) way to create
single-file executables is to set
bundle_files to 1 or 2, and to set
zipfile to None. This approach does
not require extracting files to a
temporary location, which provides
much faster program startup.

Valid values for bundle_files are:

  • 3 (default) don’t bundle
  • 2 bundle everything but the Python interpreter
  • 1 bundle everything, including the Python interpreter

If zipfile is set to None, the files will be bundle
within the executable instead of library.zip.

Here is a sample setup.py:

from distutils.core import setup
import py2exe, sys, os


    options = {'py2exe': {'bundle_files': 1, 'compressed': True}},
    windows = [{'script': "single.py"}],
    zipfile = None,


As the other poster mention, py2exe, will generate an executable + some libraries to load. You can also have some data to add to your program.

Next step is to use an installer, to package all this into one easy-to-use installable/unistallable program.

I have used InnoSetup ( http://www.jrsoftware.org/isinfo.php ) with delight for several years and for commercial programs, so I heartily recommend it.


You should create an installer, as mentioned before. Even though it is also possible to let py2exe bundle everything into a single executable, by setting bundle_files option to 1 and the zipfile keyword argument to None, I don’t recommend this for PyGTK applications.

That’s because of GTK+ tries to load its data files (locals, themes, etc.) from the directory it was loaded from. So you have to make sure that the directory of your executable contains also the libraries used by GTK+ and the directories lib, share and etc from your installation of GTK+. Otherwise you will get problems running your application on a machine where GTK+ is not installed system-wide.

For more details read my guide to py2exe for PyGTK applications. It also explains how to bundle everything, but GTK+.


I’ve been able to create a single exe file with all resources embeded into the exe.
I’m building on windows. so that will explain some of the os.system calls i’m using.

First I tried converting all my images into bitmats and then all my data files into text strings.
but this caused the final exe to be very very large.

After googleing for a week i figured out how to alter py2exe script to meet my needs.

here is the patch link on sourceforge i submitted, please post comments so we can get it included in
the next distribution.


this explanes all the changes made, i’ve simply added a new option to the setup line.
here is my setup.py.

i’ll try to comment it as best I can.
Please know that my setup.py is complex do to the fact that i’m access the images by filename.
so I must store a list to keep track of them.

this is from a want-to-b screen saver I was trying to make.

I use exec to generate my setup at run time, its easyer to cut and paste like that.

exec "setup(console=[{'script': 'launcher.py', 'icon_resources': [(0, 'ICON.ico')],\
      'file_resources': [%s], 'other_resources': [(u'INDEX', 1, resource_string[:-1])]}],\
      options={'py2exe': py2exe_options},\
      zipfile = None )" % (bitmap_string[:-1])


script = py script i want to turn to an exe

icon_resources = the icon for the exe

file_resources = files I want to embed into the exe

other_resources = a string to embed into the exe, in this case a file list.

options = py2exe options for creating everything into one exe file

bitmap_strings = a list of files to include

Please note that file_resources is not a valid option untill you edit your py2exe.py file as described in the link above.

first time i’ve tried to post code on this site, if I get it wrong don’t flame me.

from distutils.core import setup
import py2exe #@UnusedImport
import os

#delete the old build drive
os.system("rmdir /s /q dist")

#setup my option for single file output
py2exe_options = dict( ascii=True,  # Exclude encodings
                       excludes=['_ssl',  # Exclude _ssl
                                 'pyreadline', 'difflib', 'doctest', 'locale',
                                 'optparse', 'pickle', 'calendar', 'pbd', 'unittest', 'inspect'],  # Exclude standard library
                       dll_excludes=['msvcr71.dll', 'w9xpopen.exe',
                       #compressed=None,  # Compress library.zip
                       bundle_files = 1,
                       optimize = 2                        

#storage for the images
bitmap_string = '' 
resource_string = ''
index = 0

print "compile image list"                          

for image_name in os.listdir('images/'):
    if image_name.endswith('.jpg'):
        bitmap_string += "( " + str(index+1) + "," + "'" + 'images/' + image_name + "'),"
        resource_string += image_name + " "
        index += 1

print "Starting build\n"

exec "setup(console=[{'script': 'launcher.py', 'icon_resources': [(0, 'ICON.ico')],\
      'file_resources': [%s], 'other_resources': [(u'INDEX', 1, resource_string[:-1])]}],\
      options={'py2exe': py2exe_options},\
      zipfile = None )" % (bitmap_string[:-1])

print "Removing Trash"
os.system("rmdir /s /q build")
os.system("del /q *.pyc")
print "Build Complete"

ok, thats it for the setup.py
now the magic needed access the images.
I developed this app without py2exe in mind then added it later.
so you’ll see access for both situations. if the image folder can’t be found
it tries to pull the images from the exe resources. the code will explain it.
this is part of my sprite class and it uses a directx. but you can use any api you want or just access the raw data.
doesn’t matter.

def init(self):
    frame = self.env.frame
    use_resource_builtin = True
    if os.path.isdir(SPRITES_FOLDER):
        use_resource_builtin = False
        image_list = LoadResource(0, u'INDEX', 1).split(' ')

    for (model, file) in SPRITES.items():
        texture = POINTER(IDirect3DTexture9)()
        if use_resource_builtin: 
            data = LoadResource(0, win32con.RT_RCDATA, image_list.index(file)+1) #windll.kernel32.FindResourceW(hmod,typersc,idrsc)               
            d3dxdll.D3DXCreateTextureFromFileInMemory(frame.device,   #Pointer to an IDirect3DDevice9 interface
                                              data,                #Pointer to the file in memory
                                              len(data),           #Size of the file in memory
                                              byref(texture))      #ppTexture
            d3dxdll.D3DXCreateTextureFromFileA(frame.device, #@UndefinedVariable
                                               SPRITES_FOLDER + file,
        self.model_sprites[model] = texture
    #    raise Exception("'sprites' folder is not present!")

Any questions fell free to ask.


I’m told bbfreeze will create a single file .EXE, and is newer than py2exe.


c_x freeze
it can create a good standalone


I recently used py2exe to create an executable for post-review for sending reviews to ReviewBoard.

This was the setup.py I used

from distutils.core import setup
import py2exe


It created a directory containing the exe file and the libraries needed. I don’t think it is possible to use py2exe to get just a single .exe file. If you need that you will need to first use py2exe and then use some form of installer to make the final executable.

One thing to take care of is that any egg files you use in your application need to be unzipped, otherwise py2exe can’t include them. This is covered in the py2exe docs.


No, it’s doesn’t give you a single executable in the sense that you only have one file afterwards – but you have a directory which contains everything you need for running your program, including an exe file.

I just wrote this setup.py today. You only need to invoke python setup.py py2exe.