how to use rsync command in Linux

Learn how to use the rsync command in Linux for efficient and secure file synchronization and data backup between local and remote locations

  • Efficiently copies files to or from remote systems
  • Uses secure ssh connections for transport
    • rsync *.conf raju:/home/ravi/configs/
  • Faster than scp -copies differences in like files

Efficient network copies: rsync

rsync is a program that works in much the same way that the older rcp does, but has many more options and uses the rsync remote-update protocol to greatly increase the speed of file transfers when the destination file already exists.

The rsync remote-update protocol allows rsync to transfer just the differences between two sets of files using an efficient checksum-search algorithm. This utility is useful for tasks like updating web content because it will only transfer the changed files.

Useful options to rsync: –

  • -e command specifies an external, rsh-compatible program to connect with (usually ssh)
  • -a recuses subdirectories, preserving permissions, ownership, etc.
  • -r recuses subdirectories without preserving permissions, etc.
  • –partial continues partially downloaded files
  • –progress prints a progress bar while transferring
  • -P is the same as –partial –progress

See the rsync(1) man page for a complete list.


1. Basic Local File Copy:

To copy a file or directory from one location to another on the same system:

rsync -av /source/path/ /destination/path/
  • -a: Archive mode, which preserves permissions, ownership, timestamps, and more.
  • -v: Verbose mode, which shows the files being copied.

2. Local Directory Synchronization:

To synchronize the contents of two directories (updating the destination to match the source):

rsync -av /source/directory/ /destination/directory/

3. Copy Files to a Remote Server (over SSH):

To copy files or directories from the local system to a remote server using SSH:

rsync -av -e ssh /source/path/ username@remote_server:/destination/path/

4. Exclude Files or Directories:

You can exclude specific files or directories during synchronization using the --exclude option. For example:

rsync -av --exclude="*.log" /source/directory/ /destination/directory/

This command excludes all files with the “.log” extension from the synchronization.

5. Limit Bandwidth Usage:

To limit the bandwidth used during synchronization, you can use the --bwlimit option. For example, to limit to 1MB/s:

rsync -av --bwlimit=1000 /source/directory/ /destination/directory/

6. Dry Run (Preview):

To see what rsync would do without actually copying any files, you can use the --dry-run or -n option:

rsync -av --dry-run /source/directory/ /destination/directory/

7. Delete Files on Destination:

By default, rsync won’t delete any files on the destination that don’t exist on the source. To delete files on the destination that no longer exist on the source, use the --delete option:

rsync -av --delete /source/directory/ /destination/directory/

These are just some common examples of how to use rsync. It’s a versatile tool with many options, so you can tailor it to your specific needs for file synchronization and backup tasks. Always exercise caution when using rsync with the --delete option to avoid accidental data loss.

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