Struggling With the Linux Safe Copy Command? Use This scp Instance

Are you confused by the frightening syntax of the scp command on Linux? Check out these scp examples to get things cleared up.

You can use the scp command to efficiently copy a file between two different hosts. The syntax for scp reuses the syntax of cp, so it should look familiar to most Linux users.

The tricky thing about the scp command is that either the source or the destination can be remote; H. A computer connected to a different network than your local one. When specifying a file to copy, you must also provide details about the remote host. This includes the IP address and the user name.

Uploading a file using the scp command

The general scp syntax is:

scp source target

Note that this is essentially the same syntax as the cp command.

The simplest scp example is what you will probably use the most: uploading a file from your local computer to a remote server. In this case it is source Part of the command is straightforward and the aim is more complicated:

scp index.html / var / www / html /

This will copy a local file with the name index.html to the remote host. You can specify this just as you would specify a file for any other command. This can be an absolute or relative reference to the file. So, index.html, ../index.html, and /home/bobby/index.html There are several ways you can specify a local file.

The goal in the example is / var / www / html /. This means that:

  1. The user Bobby will own the new file on the remote server. This user must exist and be accessible.

  2. The host name of the server we want to upload the file to is We put the domain here, but you can use an IP address instead.

  3. On this server, scp uploads the file to the server / var / www / html / Directory.

Once you have entered this command, your terminal will usually prompt you for the password of the user you provided on the remote computer.

Download an entire directory

Here is a slightly more complicated variant that downloads an entire directory:

scp -rpC / tmp / docs / home / bobby

The first thing you should notice is that the source is now a remote machine while the aim is local. Apart from the order switching, these source and destination details should be known. However, this example also introduces three useful flags:

  1. -r: Recursively downloads an entire directory. All files contained therein are transferred / tmp / docs. This is very useful for doing quick backups or transferring a large number of files, especially if you don't have login access to the remote host.
  2. -p: Preserves file timestamps and modes of the original files. Your local copies have the same creation times or write permissions as their originals.
  3. -C: Activates compression. Transferring a lot of files can speed things up, especially if you are using a slow connection.

The scp command is almost as simple as cp

The basic usage of the scp command is simple: it's exactly the same as with cp. The main difference is that scp needs some more details for the remote server. As with cp, however, there are useful flags to extend the basic functionality. These include compression and recursive copying to allow multiple files to be downloaded.

Mastering the scp command can be useful when you have been asked to manage a Linux server. Backups and remote data transfer are a daily chore for someone involved in server management.

Securely copy files on Linux using the scp command

Moving files and folders remotely is easier than you think. The scp command is also used to encrypt files remotely.

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About the author

Bobby Jack
(41 articles published)

Bobby is a technology enthusiast who has worked as a software developer for nearly two decades. He loves gaming, works as a reviews editor at Switch Player Magazine and is immersed in all aspects of online publishing and web development.

From Bobby Jack

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