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Linux / Unix rsync: Delete Source File After Transfer

I would like to move all desktop:~/Downloads/*.avi files from my desktop to laptop:~/Download/ using rsync. How do I delete source file after successful transfer is done using rsync command under BSD/Unix/Linux/Apple OS X operating systems?

Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy (rss)
Root privilegesNo
Estimated completion timeN/A

You need to pass the --remove-source-files option to the rsync command. It tells rsync to remove from the sending side the files (meaning non-directories) that are a part of the transfer and have been successfully duplicated on the receiving side. Do not pass the --delete option to rsync command as it delete extraneous files from destination directory.

Delete source after successful transfer using rsync

The syntax is:

rsync --remove-source-files -options /path/to/src/ /path/to/dest
rsync --remove-source-files -options /path/to/src/ computerB:/path/to/dest
rsync --remove-source-files -av /path/to/src/*.avi computerB:/path/to/dest

You can always perform a trial run with no changes made using --dry-run option:

rsync --dry-run --remove-source-files -azv /path/to/Download/*.avi laptop:~/Download

If you like output run the final command without --dry-run option:

rsync --remove-source-files -azv /path/to/Download/*.avi laptop:~/Download
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{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Vijay September 14, 2012, 5:17 am

    This is one of the good aspect of rsync. Additionally, you can use this too --delete-after.

    • Dan March 14, 2014, 6:33 am

      --delete-after will remove the destination files after the transfer, not the source files.

  • Jalal Hajigholamali September 15, 2012, 4:54 am

    Very nice article….

  • Pankaj July 24, 2013, 6:13 am

    this is to delete source file what would be the command if we want to delete an old file from destination after rsync complete
    my scenario is
    rsync -e ‘ssh -p 22’ -Cavz user@remote_computer:/home/user/dbbackup /home/user/backup/
    but this command rsync new file but also keep the old file in my home/user//backup/
    I want to remove the old file just want newly copied file.

    Please help.

  • Matt August 8, 2013, 7:09 pm

    actually its called –remove-sent-files now i think? Well my version was anyway

  • Bharat March 10, 2014, 8:18 am

    Please explain something about differential backup in rsync.

  • shgn January 11, 2015, 5:59 am

    Thank you. How to delete directory from source after sync beside –remove-source-files?

  • Tyee Cambron May 26, 2015, 2:02 am

    Wait, what is the -options perimeter for??? I don’t understand, because i didn’t see it in the ‘man rsync’ command on my macbook.

    • Andrew July 11, 2015, 11:11 am

      Tyee Cambron, the “-options” perimeter is not an actual perimeter. The author has added that in to show that that is where you put your options, such as avz. So “-options” would be replaced by “-avz”

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