Fixing img src local file paths

Getting issues with img src not loading local file paths? Check these tips to find how to fix them!

Jan 9, 2023 | Read time 8 minutes

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A common annoyance that comes up when doing web design locally is loading up local files. For example in the below code, we are trying to load a file located in our C: temp folder - C:/temp/mylocalfile.jpg


<img src="C:/temp/mylocalfile.jpg">

Now this does not work because, C:/ is not a protocol. The <img> src attribute only accepts protocols. Now we can see that this will work with older Microsoft browsers such as IE9, but will fail with modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, etc!

To fix img src to load local file paths, we need to use the file protocol

Using the file protocol

If we want the <img> tag to load up a file within our own computer/machine, we need to use the file protocol (referenced here:

The file protocol follows the syntax:



<img src="file:///C:/Users/weekend/Desktop/snow.jpg" alt="Snow">

Keep in mind that we do not need to specify the host part. If there is not host part in the file URI, then it just resolves to localhost.

However, even when we do not set the host value, we still need to specify the extra forward slash file:///....

Img src local path on mac or linux systems

Using the file protocol is a bit different on mac (OSX) or linux systems versus on Windows. Consider the following img tag trying to load a photo.png file:


<img href="file:///~User/photo.png">

Notice that we are using the ~ tilde (~User). On mac (OSX) or linux systems, this is a common way to expand our path from the home path. However, the file protocol does not recognize things like the tilde character (~) so you will need to fill it out manually.

So you would need file:///home/User/photo.png (on most Unixes), and use file:///Users/User/photo.png (on Mac OS X)

There are also other things to check if the img src is not loading aswell.

Follow the below suggestions:

Check 1 - Validate the syntax

The syntax for loading a image from a source is by <img src="...">. Now src only accepts valid URLs with accepted protocols. A protocol is a few letters, then a colon and two slashes.

For example, HTTP://, and FTP:// are valid.

Going to back to our orignal code that was not loading the images correctly, <img src="C:/temp/mylocalfile.jpg">, the browser does not recognize that URL, since it is thinking to load http://c:/

When using the file protocol, we need to make sure that we have the correct slashes. file:///.. should be generally safe to use. On windows it is more forgiving and allows double slashes.

Additionally, if your filename contains spaces or special characters we need to encode it.

As an example, lets say we want to reference the file C:/temp/my local file.jpg - notice the spaces. We need to encode it - replacing the whitespace to %20.

<img src="file:///C:/temp/my%20local%20file.jpg">

Note: Why three slashes in file:///?

Using the three slashes file:///C:/etc is just a short hand. It is the same as file://localhost/C:/etc

Check 2 - Verify the file extension

One issue that can trip some people up is that the file names can be case insensitive. This will be based on the serve that is hosting your website.

With most Unix based servers (Linux, or OSX), the files are case sensitive. While on Windows servers, they are case insensitive.

As an example, if you are hosting with Apache on Ubuntu it does care about the casing on your filename or path.

As for under Windows it is correct to assume that aBc.html and abc.html are exactly the same file.

In the example below, lets say we have image called photo.png, the second line will not load the image due to the all caps PNG extension



    <img src="photo.PNG" alt="photo example">  <!-- Will not load (based on server)-->


Check 3 - Using relative paths

One way to get around issues around local file paths not loading with img src is to use relative paths. However, when we chooe to go down this path, we need to make sure that we are using the correct syntax to load relative files.

Explanation of use of the relative path syntax:

  • / - This means the root directory
  • ../ - This means going up on directory
  • ./ - This means the current directory (if you are working off the current directory, you may not need this - just use the file name)
  • ../../ - This means going up two directories

Lets say we got the following basic folder structure:

  <img href="myphoto_A.png">  <!-- Current directory -->

  <img href="./myphoto_A.png"> <!-- Current directory -->

  <img href="/myphoto_B.png">  <!-- Root directory -->

  <img href="../../myphoto_C.png">  <!-- Go up two levels -->

  <img href="../myphoto_E.png">  <!-- Go up one level -->

  <img href="./custom/myphoto_F.png">  <!-- Start at current directory and go down to the custom folder -->


Check 4 - Clear cache and check for errors

A common reason why you cant see your PNG src changes is that the browser is caching the image assets.

What I usually do is to open up dev tools (Option + โŒ˜ + J (on macOS), or Shift + CTRL + J (on Windows/Linux)) and tick the โ€œDisable Cache (while DevTools is open)โ€

image on how to open DevTools and open its settings. This way we can ensure that our code is using the most up to date image.

image on how to open DevTools and open its settings

Additionally, you can check if your image file (eg PNG or JPG) is loading correctly by inspecting the console in DevTools. Usually if it is not showing, we can see a 404 error:

image of how file is not loading shows in DevTools

Tip: Use a development server like Live Server in VS Code!

If you are coding with VS Code, then using the Live Server extension is a must. When you are just coding locally without a local server running, references to images can get a bit confusing.

For example, if you use the root directory / - this could mean your actual C:/ root folder instead of the current folder!

Live server can be downloaded here:


In this post, I went over some steps you can take to fix issues with loading img src from the local file path. Firstly, we need to make sure that we are using the file protocol (file:///) and that our syntax is correct.

We need to verify that the image path is correct and that we are considering case sensitivity. For windows systems, file paths are case sensitive, while linux or mac OSX are case insensitive.

An alternative to use the file protocol is using relative paths based on your projectโ€™s root folder.

Additionally, if the previous steps are not working, we can check to see if the browser is caching the error - in this case we should open up the browser settings (DevTools) to clear the cache!

๐Ÿ‘‹ About the Author

G'day! I am Huy a software engineer based in Australia. I have been creating design-centered software for the last 10 years both professionally and as a passion.

My aim to share what I have learnt with you! (and to help me remember ๐Ÿ˜…)

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