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Copy directory to directory linux

How do I copy folder with files to another folder in Unix/Linux? [closed]

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I am having some issues to copy a folder with files in that folder into another folder. Command cp -r doesn’t copy files in the folder.

3 Answers 3

The option you’re looking for is -R .

  • If destination doesn’t exist, it will be created.
  • -R means copy directories recursively . You can also use -r since it’s case-insensitive.
  • Note the nuances with adding the trailing / as per @muni764’s comment.

You are looking for the cp command. You need to change directories so that you are outside of the directory you are trying to copy.

If the directory you’re copying is called dir1 and you want to copy it to your /home/Pictures folder:

Linux is case-sensitive and also needs the / after each directory to know that it isn’t a file.

is a special character in the terminal that automatically evaluates to the current user’s home directory. If you need to know what directory you are in, use the command pwd .

When you don’t know how to use a Linux command, there is a manual page that you can refer to by typing:

at a terminal prompt.

Also, to auto complete long file paths when typing in the terminal, you can hit Tab after you’ve started typing the path and you will either be presented with choices, or it will insert the remaining part of the path.


Copy Directory/Folder in Linux via Command Line

Last Updated: October 10th, 2019 by Hitesh J in Guides , Linux

There are various commands in Linux operating systems to copy a folder. The cp command helps you to do so. To organize files on your server, you will need to be copying. With cp command, you can copy a directory and an entire subdirectory with its content and everything beneath it. cp and rsync are one of the most popular commands for copying files and directory.

In this tutorial, we will explain how to copy the folder in Linux operating system.

Basic Syntax of cp Command

cp command is used to copy files or directories in Linux. It creates an exact copy of a file on a disk with different name.

basic syntax of cp command is shown below:

cp [OPTION] Source Destination
cp [OPTION] Source-1 Source-2 Source-3 Destination

You should see all the options available with cp command by running the following command:

You should see the following screen:

Copying Directories with cp Command

If you want to copy directory, including all its files and subdirectories, use -R or -r option with cp command.

For example, copy /etc directory to the /opt directory with the following command:

The above command will create a destination directory and copy all files and subdirectories recursively to the /opt directory.

If the destination directory already exists and you want to copy only the files and subdirectories but not the target directories, run the cp command with -T option as shown below:

If you want to preserve the specified attributes such as, ownership, timestamps, context and links, run the cp command with -a option as shown below:

If you want to display output during the copying process, use -v option with cp command:

You should see the output as shown below:

If you want to copy only the content of /etc directory to /opt, you will need to specify the star wildcard as shown below:

If you want to copy multiple directories like, /etc and /var to /opt directory run the following command:

cp -avR /etc /var /opt/

Note : In order to copy directories, you must have read permissions on source directory and write permissions on the destination directory.

Copying Directories with rsync Command

rsync is an advanced file copying tool that allows you to copy directory across local the remote location.

The basic syntax of rsync command is shown below:


You can see all the options available with rsync command as shown below:

You should see the following screen:

To copy /etc directory to /opt, run the following command:

In the above command -a option will copy a directory with all its permission and other information including recursive copy. If the destination directory exists rsync will overwrite it.

If you want to copy only the contents of the /etc directory then put a trailing slash / at the end of /etc:

You can use rsync with -v option to display the verbose output as shown below:

You should see the following screen:

If you want to display progress during the copying process, run the rsync with -P option as shown below:

You can also use -z option with rsync command to compress file data during the transfer:

If you want to exclude a specific directory from the source, run the following command:

rsync -a –exclude ‘directoryname’ /opt/

To excluse multiple directories, run the following command:

If you want to copy multiple directories to /opt, run the following command:

rsync -a /etc /usr /opt/


In the above tutorial, we learned how to copy a directory with cp and rsync command. For more information, you can visit the Rsync official documentation at Rsync Doc.

Comments & Discussion:

Thanks for the tips, we use Rsync for local to remote backups and this was helpful for using it to copy local/local!


How to Copy a Directory in Linux Command Line [Beginner’s Tip]

This quick tip for beginners demonstrates how to copy a directory in Linux using the cp command. You’ll also learn a few additional tips around copying directory.

If you are new to Linux command line, you probably have this question in mind: How do I copy a directory and the files inside it to another directory in Linux command line?

Here’s how to copy a directory in Linux:

You probably already know that you can use cp command to copy files in Linux. Do you know that you can use the same cp command to copy a folder in Linux command line?

Hah! You already tried that and perhaps got this error:

Let me show you a thing or two about copying directory in Linux.

Copy directory in Linux command line

You can definitely use the same cp command but with the recursive option -r to copy a folder with its content to another folder. The above mentioned error also hints that you missed the -r option.

All you got to do is to use the command in this fashion:

And now if you use ls command on the destination directory, it should have the entire source directory inside it.

The -r option allows the recursive option. This means the entire content of the directory including its own subdirectories, everything in the directory will be copied to the destination.

A few things to note about copying directory in Linux

Here are a couple of things to note and tips about copying folders.

The destination directory doesn’t exist? It will be created

If the destination directory doesn’t exist (but the path exists), it will be created up to one level (explained in the next section). However, it will now copy the contents of the source directory, not the source directory itself.

For example, if you do this:

The non_existing_directory will be created with the content of the source_directory but it won’t have the source_directory inside it. Just the files of source_directory will be copied. It would be like non_existing_directory will be a replica of source_directory.

Can’t create nested directory while copying

You cannot use the above command to create nested directory structure.

For example, if you try to use cp -r source_dir dir1/dir2/dir3 but dir2 and dir3 don’t exist, it won’t create the nested directory structure and the command fails.

Preserve the original file attributes

One last tip to keep things short. If you use the -a option along with the -r option, it will preserve the original file information such as file permissions, file timestamps etc. It will archive the directory to the new location instead of creating it afresh.

That’s it

This much information should be enough for you to know how to copy a directory in Linux. If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.


Linux – How To Copy a Folder [ Command Line Option ]

How To Copy a Folder with cp Command

The cp command is a Linux command for copying files and directories. The syntax is as follows:

cp source destination cp dir1 dir2 cp -option source destination cp -option1 -option2 source destination

Linux cp command examples

In this example copy /home/vivek/letters/ folder and all its files to /usb/backup/ directory:
cp -avr /home/vivek/letters /usb/backup

  • -a : Preserve the specified attributes such as directory an file mode, ownership, timestamps, if possible additional attributes: context, links, xattr, all.
  • -v : Verbose output.
  • -r : Copy directories recursively.

More examples of cp command to copy folders on Linux

Copy a folder called /tmp/conf/ to /tmp/backup/:
$ cp -avr /tmp/conf/ /tmp/backup/
Sample outputs:

Fig.01: cp command in action

Use Linux rsync Command to copy a folder

You can also use rsync command which is a fast and extraordinarily versatile file copying tool. It can make copies across the network. The syntax is as follows for the rsync command

rsync -av /path/to/source/ /path/to/destination/ rsync -av /path/to/source/ /path/to/destination/source/

To backup my home directory, which consists of large files and mail folders to /media/backup, enter:
$ rsync -avz /home/vivek /media/backup
I can copy a folder to remote machine called server1.cyberciti.biz as follows:
$ rsync -avz /home/vivek/ server1.cyberciti.biz:/home/backups/vivek/

  • -a : Archive mode i.e. copy a folder with all its permission and other information including recursive copy.
  • -v : Verbose mode.
  • -z : With this option, rsync compresses the file data as it is sent to the destination machine, which reduces the amount of data being transmitted something that is useful over a slow connection.

Fig.02: rsync command in action


You just learned how to copy a folder on a Linux like operating system using the cp command and rsync command. In conclusion, use rsync for a network folder transfer and cp for a local disk transfer.


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