How to Copy Data with Rsync Via SSH

November 8, 2016 | Views: 2528

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I think rsync is a great tool for copying data and I would like to share some of the commands I use most frequently.

Some of the information presented in this guide was copied directly from the rsync man pages.


  • Copying Data on a Local Machine:

rsync -avHP /source/path/ /destination/path/


Flags Used

-a, –archive               archive mode; equals -rlptgoD (no -H,-A,-X)

-v, –verbose               Increase verbosity

-H, –hard-links            preserve hard links

-P                          same as –partial –progress


  • Pulling data via SSH:

rsync -avHP -e ssh root@ /destination/path/


  • Pushing data via SSH:

rsync -avHP -e ssh /source/path/ root@


Flags Used

-a, –archive                archive mode; equals -rlptgoD (no -H,-A,-X)

-v, –verbose               increase verbosity

-H, –hard-links          preserve hard links

-P                                  same as –partial –progress

-e, –rsh=COMMAND           Specify rsh replacement


  • Using rsync via SSH on Non-standard SSH ports is possible with the correct flags:

rsync -avzP -e “ssh -p 2222” root@ /local/path/


Flags Used

-a, –archive               archive mode; equals -rlptgoD (no -H,-A,-X)

-v, –verbose              increase verbosity

-z, –compress            compress file data during the transfer

-P                                  same as –partial –progress

-e, –rsh=COMMAND           Specify rsh replacement


  • “Options Summary” from the rsync man pages: 

I included this because the above commands may not suffice for your specific needs.

-v, –verbose            increase verbosity

-q, –quiet                 suppress non-error messages

–no-motd                 suppress daemon-mode MOTD (see caveat)

-c, –checksum         skip based on checksum, not mod-time & size

-a, –archive              archive mode; equals -rlptgoD (no -H,-A,-X)

–no-OPTION           turn off an implied OPTION (e.g. –no-D)

-r, –recursive           recurse into directories

-R, –relative             use relative path names

–no-implied-dirs       don’t send implied dirs with –relative

-b, –backup                make backups (see –suffix & –backup-dir)

–backup-dir=DIR        make backups into hierarchy based in DIR

–suffix=SUFFIX         backup suffix (default ~ w/o –backup-dir)

-u, –update                skip files that are newer on the receiver

–inplace               update destination files in-place

–append                append data onto shorter files

–append-verify         –append w/old data in file checksum

-d, –dirs                  transfer directories without recursing

-l, –links                 copy symlinks as symlinks

-L, –copy-links            transform symlink into referent file/dir

–copy-unsafe-links     only “unsafe” symlinks are transformed

–safe-links            ignore symlinks that point outside the tree

-k, –copy-dirlinks         transform symlink to dir into referent dir

-K, –keep-dirlinks         treat symlinked dir on receiver as dir

-H, –hard-links            preserve hard links

-p, –perms                 preserve permissions

-E, –executability         preserve executability

–chmod=CHMOD           affect file and/or directory permissions

-A, –acls                  preserve ACLs (implies -p)

-X, –xattrs                preserve extended attributes

-o, –owner                 preserve owner (super-user only)

-g, –group                 preserve group

–devices               preserve device files (super-user only)

–copy-devices          copy device contents as regular file

–specials              preserve special files

-D                          same as –devices –specials

-t, –times                 preserve modification times

-O, –omit-dir-times        omit directories from –times

–super                 receiver attempts super-user activities

–fake-super            store/recover privileged attrs using xattrs

-S, –sparse                handle sparse files efficiently

-n, –dry-run               perform a trial run with no changes made

-W, –whole-file            copy files whole (w/o delta-xfer algorithm)

-x, –one-file-system       don’t cross filesystem boundaries

-B, –block-size=SIZE       force a fixed checksum block-size

-e, –rsh=COMMAND           specify the remote shell to use

–rsync-path=PROGRAM    specify the rsync to run on remote machine

–existing              skip creating new files on receiver

–ignore-existing       skip updating files that exist on receiver

–remove-source-files   sender removes synchronized files (non-dir)

–del                   an alias for –delete-during

–delete                delete extraneous files from dest dirs

–delete-before         receiver deletes before xfer, not during

–delete-during         receiver deletes during the transfer

–delete-delay          find deletions during, delete after

–delete-after          receiver deletes after transfer, not during

–delete-excluded       also delete excluded files from dest dirs

–ignore-errors         delete even if there are I/O errors

–force                 force deletion of dirs even if not empty

–max-delete=NUM        don’t delete more than NUM files

–max-size=SIZE         don’t transfer any file larger than SIZE

–min-size=SIZE         don’t transfer any file smaller than SIZE

–partial               keep partially transferred files

–partial-dir=DIR       put a partially transferred file into DIR

–delay-updates         put all updated files into place at end

-m, –prune-empty-dirs      prune empty directory chains from file-list

–numeric-ids           don’t map uid/gid values by user/group name

–timeout=SECONDS       set I/O timeout in seconds

–contimeout=SECONDS    set daemon connection timeout in seconds

-I, –ignore-times          don’t skip files that match size and time

–size-only             skip files that match in size

–modify-window=NUM     compare mod-times with reduced accuracy

-T, –temp-dir=DIR          create temporary files in directory DIR

-y, –fuzzy                 find similar file for basis if no dest file

–compare-dest=DIR      also compare received files relative to DIR

–copy-dest=DIR         … and include copies of unchanged files

–link-dest=DIR         hardlink to files in DIR when unchanged

-z, –compress              compress file data during the transfer

–compress-level=NUM    explicitly set compression level

–skip-compress=LIST    skip compressing files with suffix in LIST

-C, –cvs-exclude           auto-ignore files in the same way CVS does

-f, –filter=RULE           add a file-filtering RULE

-F                          same as –filter=’dir-merge /.rsync-filter’

repeated: –filter=’- .rsync-filter’

–exclude=PATTERN       exclude files matching PATTERN

–exclude-from=FILE     read exclude patterns from FILE

–include=PATTERN       don’t exclude files matching PATTERN

–include-from=FILE     read include patterns from FILE

–files-from=FILE       read list of source-file names from FILE

-0, –from0                 all *from/filter files are delimited by 0s

-s, –protect-args          no space-splitting; wildcard chars only

–address=ADDRESS       bind address for outgoing socket to daemon

–port=PORT             specify double-colon alternate port number

–sockopts=OPTIONS      specify custom TCP options

–blocking-io           use blocking I/O for the remote shell

–stats                 give some file-transfer stats

-8, –8-bit-output          leave high-bit chars unescaped in output

-h, –human-readable        output numbers in a human-readable format

–progress              show progress during transfer

-P                          same as –partial –progress

-i, –itemize-changes       output a change-summary for all updates

–out-format=FORMAT     output updates using the specified FORMAT

–log-file=FILE         log what we’re doing to the specified FILE

–log-file-format=FMT   log updates using the specified FMT

–password-file=FILE    read daemon-access password from FILE

–list-only             list the files instead of copying them

–bwlimit=KBPS          limit I/O bandwidth; KBytes per second

–write-batch=FILE      write a batched update to FILE

–only-write-batch=FILE like –write-batch but w/o updating dest

–read-batch=FILE       read a batched update from FILE

–protocol=NUM          force an older protocol version to be used

–iconv=CONVERT_SPEC    request charset conversion of filenames

–checksum-seed=NUM     set block/file checksum seed (advanced)

-4, –ipv4                  prefer IPv4

-6, –ipv6                  prefer IPv6

–version               print version number

(-h) –help                  show this help (see below for -h comment)


Hopefully this information will come in handy! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or comments.

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  1. Mind if ask what the real world application of this method would be?

    • There are many applications for data syncing. For instance, let’s say you have a host on your network storing a 20GB database dump that you need copied to another host that’s not on your network (external host). Since rsync can use SSH (Secure Shell) the data transmitted is using that secured connection. Also, the -P flag specifically allows you to resume an interrupted transfer which can be helpful when transferring a large amount of data. Imagine a power failure at the last stage of a large data transfer. Using the -P flag, you could resume the transfer using the same command once the power is restored.

      Thanks for the inquiry and please let me know if you have any questions!

  2. Useful Info, thanks

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