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Linux / Unix: curl Command Download File Example

I know how to use wget command to grab files. But, how do you download file using curl command line under Linux / Mac OS X / BSD or Unix like operating systems?

GNU wget is a free utility for non-interactive download of files from the Web. curl is another tool to transfer data from or to a server, using one of the supported protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, FTPS, SCP, SFTP, TFTP, DICT, TELNET, LDAP or FILE). The command is designed to work without user interaction. curl offers many features such as:

  1. Proxy support.
  2. User authentication.
  3. FTP upload.
  4. HTTP post.
  5. SSL connections.
  6. Cookies.
  7. File transfer resume and more.

curl download file

The syntax is as follows to grab (download) files from remote http/ftp server:

curl -o output.file http://server1.cyberciti.biz/file.tar.gz


curl -O http://server1.cyberciti.biz/file.tar.gz


curl --remote-name http://server1.cyberciti.biz/file.tar.gz

You can download a web page and store in a local file as follows:

curl -o nixcraft.html http://www.cyberciti.biz/low.html

You can grab or download multiple files as follows:

curl -O http://www.cyberciti.biz/low.html -O http://bash.cyberciti.biz/dl/581.sh.zip

curl download file from an ssh server

You can grab file securely using from an SSH server using SFTP:

curl -u username sftp://server1.cyberciti.biz/path/to/file.txt

OR (note ~ means your $HOME)

curl -u vivek sftp://home1.cyberciti.biz/~/docs/resume.pdf

You can grab a file from an SSH server using SCP using a private key to authenticate. The syntax is:

curl -u username: --key ~/.ssh/id_rsa --pubkey ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub scp://home1.cyberciti.biz/~/Videos/rhn_register.ogv


  • -u username – Specify the user name (and optional password) to use for server authentication.
  • -u username:password – Specify the user name (and optional password) to use for server authentication.
  • –key ~/.ssh/id_rsa – SSL or SSH private key file name. Allows you to provide your private key in this separate file.
  • –pubkey ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub – SSH Public key file name. Allows you to provide your public key in this separate file.
  • scp://home1.cyberciti.biz/~/Videos/rhn_register.ogv – Use scp protocol and download file from my home server called home1.cyberciti.biz.

Curl: Download a file using username and password

The syntax is as follows to grab a file using ftp username and password:

curl ftp://username:passwd@ftp1.cyberciti.biz:21/path/to/backup.tar.gz


curl -u UserName:PassWord ftp://ftp1.cyberciti.biz:21/backups/07/07/2012/mysql.blog.sql.tar.gz

Secure ftp user (ftp with ssl) can pass the –ftp-ssl option to curl command:

curl --ftp-ssl -u UserName:PassWord ftp://ftp1.cyberciti.biz:21/backups/07/07/2012/mysql.blog.sql.tar.gz

HTTP authentication

HTTP user can use the following syntax:

curl http://username:passwd@server1.cyberciti.biz/file/path/data.tar.gz


curl -u Username:Password http://server1.cyberciti.biz/file/path/data.tar.gz

Check out related media:

See also:
  • man page curl
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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Fo July 19, 2012, 7:13 am

    Why the hell would one use curl to do scp, when “scp” exists and is the direct tool?

    copy from remote host to “here”
    scp user@remote.host:/the/path/to/thefile . <– note the "."

    copy from "here" to remote host:
    scp file user@remote.host:/the/target/path/

    pub key authentication is automatic if there is a key that is acceptable to the server in your .ssh directory.

    • Kikko July 30, 2012, 9:14 am

      …just for the sake of argument? :)

    • Will August 2, 2012, 1:44 am

      A developer can include libcurl and get the ability to scp, http get, etc in their application all in one shot. Or if you are building an embedded system you can get a wide range of capabilities out of one tool which can be very valuable.

  • sami September 20, 2013, 2:34 pm

    i have a problem downloading pdf files using curl command from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov for the document with an id such as PMC3516508, i used the following command:


    but i don’t get the pdf file for the document.

  • Ryan September 3, 2015, 3:45 pm

    I would like to know how to download a specific file type using wget or curl from a webpage.

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