I need to transfer a file called ‘some cool movie.avi’ that contains whitespace under rsync. How do I escape a filename or directory name with spaces in them while using rsync command under Linux / *BSD / Unix like operating systems? How do I use rsync when files / dirs contain spaces?

You escape spaces in a remote path when using rsync over a remote SSH connection under Apple OS X / Linux or Unix like operating systems. [donotprint]
Tutorial details
Difficulty level Easy
Root privileges No
Requirements rsync
Est. reading time 1m
[/donotprint] If a filename contains whitespace, you can use any one of the following method to get rid of it.


The syntax is as follows to copy a file called “/path/to/This is a test youtube video.mp4“:

rsync -av user@desktop:'This\ is\ a\ test\ youtube\ video.mp4' /path/to/here


rsync -av 'user@desktop:This\ is\ a\ test\ youtube\ video.mp4' /path/to/here

You can also pass the -s or --protect-args option to avoid no space-splitting ( wildcard chars only ). The syntax is (note black slashes are removed with this option):

rsync -avs 'user@desktop:This is a test youtube video.mp4' /path/to/here


rsync -av --protect-args 'user@desktop:This is a test youtube video.mp4' /path/to/here


rsync -av --protect-args 'user@desktop:This is a test youtube video.mp4' '/path/to/My Download Folder'

To copy files to remote server called nas01 at /data/old.macbook.june-2013/MacMini/VirtualBox VMs/ folder type:

# cd to "$HOME/VirtualBox VMs/" #
cd ~/VirtualBox\ VMs/
# Make a backup to nas01 server #
rsync -avrPz . root@nas01:'/data/old.macbook.june-2013/MacMini/VirtualBox\ VMs/'

Sample outputs:

Fig.01: rsync over ssh when directory names have spaces on local or remote server

A note about older versions of rsync

If you are using an older versions of rsync Try the following syntax:

rsync -av user@server2:'dir1/file1 dir2/file2' /path/to/dest
rsync user@macbook.local::'modname/dir1/file1 modname/dir2/file2' /path/to/here/dest
See also:
  1. BASH Shell: For Loop File Names With Spaces
  2. man page rsync

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1 comment… add one
  • Jalal Hajigholamali Nov 29, 2012 @ 3:50


    Thanks, nice and useful article

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