Linux Copy File Command [ cp Command Examples ]

by on May 29, 2006 · 18 comments· LAST UPDATED March 20, 2015

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How do I copy files under Linux operating systems? How do I make 2nd copy of a file on a Linux bash shell? How can I copies files and directories on a Linux?

To copy files and directories use the cp command under a Linux, UNIX-like, and BSD like operating systems. cp is the command entered in a Unix and Linux shell to copy a file from one place to another, possibly on a different filesystem. The original file remains unchanged, and the new file may have the same or a different name.

cp Command Syntax

Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy (rss)
Root privilegesNo
RequirementsTerminal app/Shell prompt
Estimated completion time2m
The syntax is as follows to copy files and directories using the cp command:

cp SOURCE DEST
cp SOURCE DIRECTORY
cp SOURCE1 SOURCE2 SOURCE3 SOURCEn DIRECTORY
cp [OPTION] SOURCE DEST
cp [OPTION] SOURCE DIRECTORY

Where,

  • In the first and second syntax you copy SOURCE file to DEST file or DIRECTORY.
  • In the third syntax you copy multiple SOURCE(s) (files) to DIRECTORY.

Note: You need to type the cp command at the dollar sign ($) prompt. This prompt means that the shell is ready to accept your typed commands. Do not type the dollar ($) sign. You need to open the Terminal app to use cp command on a Linux.

Linux Copy File Examples

To make a copy of a file called file.doc in the current directory as newfile.doc, enter:
$ cp file.doc newfile.doc
$ ls -l *.doc

Sample outputs:

-rw-r--r--  1 veryv  wheel  20 Mar 20 17:42 file.doc
-rw-r--r--  1 veryv  wheel  20 Mar 20 17:43 newfile.doc

You can copy multiple files simultaneously into another directory. In this example, copy the files named main.c, demo.h and lib.c into a directory named backup:
$ cp main.c demo.h libc. backup
If backup is located in /home/project, enter:
$ cp main.c demo.h libc. /home/project backup

Copy a file to another directory

To copy a file from your current directory into another directory called /tmp/, enter:
$ cp filename /tmp
$ ls /tmp/filename
$ cd /tmp
$ ls
$ rm filename

Verbose option

To see files as they are copied pass the -v option as follows to the cp command:

$ cp -v filename.txt filename.bak
$ cp -v foo.txt /tmp

Sample outputs:

foo.txt -> /tmp/foo.txt

Preserve file attributes

To copy a file to a new file and preserve the modification date, time, and access control list associated with the source file, enter:
$ cp -p file.txt /dir1/dir2/
cp -p filename /path/to/new/location/myfile

This option force cp to preserve the following attributes of each source file in the copy as allowed by permissions:

  1. Modification time/date
  2. Access time
  3. File flags
  4. File mode
  5. User ID (UID)
  6. Group ID (GID)
  7. Access Control Lists (ACLs)
  8. Extended Attributes (EAs)

Copying all files

The star wildcard represents anything i.e. all files. To copy all the files in a directory to a new directory, enter:
$ cp * /home/tom/backup

The star wildcard represents anything whose name ends with the .doc extension. So, to copy all the document files (*.doc) in a directory to a new directory, enter:
$ cp *.doc /home/tom/backup

Recursive copy

To copy a directory, including all its files and subdirectories, to another directory, enter (copy directories recursively):
$ cp -R * /home/tom/backup

For more info see man pages: cp(1), ls(1).

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Genami Lakau June 5, 2010 at 11:33 pm

My Oracle runs on UNIX plat form. It could be best to know the basiz linus command.

Reply

2 Anonymous June 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I would like to know the basic UNIX / LINUS commands.

Reply

3 loki2441 September 4, 2010 at 8:27 am

cp -v file.doc{,.bak} will also be good

Reply

4 milind dhuri August 22, 2011 at 8:15 am

sir

i am having server where user are created in home partition i want to copy one file to eache users desktop wheather i.e. possible with one command of cp if somebody knows please mail me

Reply

5 adsf March 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

actually this is wrong. It doesn’t copy subdirectories

To copy all the files in a directory to a new directory, enter:
$ cp * /home/tom/backup

Reply

6 Magesh M March 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Today i have copyed all the files and folder to new directory using below commands

$ cp -R * /home/tom/backup

$ cp * /home/tom/backup

Reply

7 sophea October 18, 2013 at 4:53 am

Dear all,
I want to copy folder1 to folder2 folder3 folder4 folder5… so what the command line should i type in a single line?

Thanks

Reply

8 nixCraft October 18, 2013 at 7:16 am
cp -avr folder{1,2,3,4,5} /path/to/dest

OR

cp -avr folder* /path/to/dest

OR

cp -avr folder1 folder2 folderN /path/to/dest

Read the cp syntax for more info.

Reply

9 sophea February 25, 2014 at 3:38 am

Dear NixCraf,
Its not mean that. suppose i have one folder named folder1 but i need 6-more folder.
usually i type command as bellow to do my job,
cp folder1 folder2
cp folder1 folder3
cp folder2 folder3
….
i don’t want to use for-loop so, have any option in cp command to do that?
thanks for your reply
sophea

Reply

10 amol February 4, 2014 at 6:39 am

what is meanning of cp -b command??

Reply

11 ray November 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm

If you need helping with the copy command (CP)….

At the command line (CLI)… type:

cp –help

This will display the list of switches used on how to copy. It also shows the format on how to copy single, multiple files and directories.

Reply

12 sarmaji April 13, 2014 at 4:14 pm

How to avoid the overwriting of the file while copying if the file is already existing ?

Reply

13 Nix Craft April 14, 2014 at 1:56 pm

cp -i file dest
See -i option.

Reply

14 NHK July 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Hi dear,
I want to know how to create schedule copy script on red hat Linux. I mean database server to backup server.

Reply

15 Gil October 28, 2014 at 3:32 pm

How does this command know what directory you are saving the newly copied file too? Where is that in the below example?

$ cp filename /tmp
$ ls /tmp/filename
$ cd /tmp
$ ls
$ rm filename

Reply

16 Insider March 20, 2015 at 11:34 am

If i have stored the path in variable

e.g
path= /folder/xyz/
cp off.doc $path
it is giving error..

Reply

17 nixCraft March 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm

No gap between variable and value. Also avoid using variable called path. Use something like p:

## assuming that you are using bash/sh/ksh shell ##
p="/folder/xyz"
echo "$p"
cp -v off.doc "$p"

Reply

18 Sergei April 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

hi,

Can I copy file which is constantly written? Will it harm the original somehow?

Reply

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