Transfer Files From One UNIX Server To Another Server Using Windows / Linux Desktop

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How do I securely transfer files from one UNIX / Linux server to another UNIX server using Windows or Linux desktop clients without using ftp client?

You need to use secure sftp or scp client for Windows XP / Vista / 7. Under Linux or Apple Mac OS X desktop you can use regular OpenSSH scp / sftp client to transfer files.

Windows SSH Client

You can use free SFTP, FTP and SCP client for Windows called putty or winscp.

Windows Winscp transfer files from one UNIX / Linux server to another
Fig.01: Winscp transfer files from one UNIX server to another (image credit Winscp website)

Linux / UNIX / OS X SSH scp Client Examples

Use the following command from the server to which you want the files to go. In this example, transfer all files (/var/www/html) from remote server called server1 to local directory called /backup:
scp -r user@server1:/var/www/html/ /backup
In the following example, transfer all files (/var/www/html) from remote server called server1 to another server called server2:
scp -r user@server1:/var/www/html/ user@server2:/var/www/html/

Say hello to rsync

I recommend using rsync command which will only push or download updated files. It can copy locally, to/from another host over any remote shell, or to/from a remote rsync daemon. In this example, copy files from remote server called server1 into /backup directory:
rsync -avz -e ssh user@server1:/var/www/html /backup

See also:


Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

27 comment

  1. putty– SSH client tool which is the powerful one
    winscp — ssh GUI tool , mostly useful for secured file transferring but not good for large file transfer.
    sftp : secured ftp file transfer
    vnc over ssh tunnel : secured Linux GUI administration
    lftp : FTP synchronization tool, which is a great helpful to admins to keep the incremental file synchronization over FTP.
    webdev+https : secured file sharing over the web, can be used as mapped network

  2. Umm, I’m getting this error:

    vps200:/tmp# scp -r root@vps204:/var/tmp/host-test root@vps243:/tmp/
    Host key verification failed.
    lost connection

    1. I got the same error too, i later modified to just
      scp -r /var/tmp/host/ user@server:/var/tmp/host/whatever
      It just asked me for the target server’s password and then copied.

  3. How about tranferring or downloading file from remote linux server to Windows machine?
    I used Winscp GUI tool but im still looking for a ways to do it by just running ascript.

    So far this is what I have in Windows machine:

    winscp> open
    winscp> get /root/file.txt //to download file fom the linux server
    winscp> put D:\file.txt /home/user1 //to upload file

    I am still looking for a way to specify the destination directory in the “get” command
    and how to rename the file in a desired format when I “put” the file in the linux server.

    Any help will be appreciated.

    1. Hi,

      I implemented same setup recently for one of my clienet.

      You need to write a VBScript or cmd or powershell, that will first convert the file name or extension based on your requirement and then you could pass file to unix enviorment using WINSCP (Command line or GUI, unattended and attended respectivily).

      Let me know in case of any issue.

      Pankaj Negi

  4. ..Israel
    try to run command with -v attribute . it will give us some information to debug..

    Is shell demading for any password for both of the server???

  5. you can also try pscp.exe, which is a command line tool

    d:\Distors\pscp.exe -r user@server1:/var/tmp/deb.iso .


  6. You can use scp command to copy ……..

    scp -r user@server1:/var/www/html/ user@server2:/var/www/html/

  7. Hola Vivek Gite … a BIG THank You on this post and your sharing the command line scp -r user@server1:dir-path examples … this worked brilliantly and i just got done migrating 26+ gigs of domain files from server01 to new server02 via your command line method …

    as fyi, i started at 10AM trying to do it via two open sessions of WinSCP but stopped after 12% of one of the 11 gig tar files on server01 ran and ran only to discover that WinSCP method was downloading the tar to my local machine (which was not NTFS drive thus would have crashed with 2 / 4 gig win fat32 limits) and then uploading it onto the new server02 which was useless …

    so around noon i cancelled said silliness, opened WinSCP as root on server02, launched Putty from within WinSCP, and started command line per your examples … 8 hours later, it looks like all tar.gz data files from domains on server01 are nicely arrived and awaiting to be untar’d into new domain areas on server02 ;)

    muchas gracias … cordially, chuck scott

    ps – transfer included 2,898 files, 174 folders and 25.572 gigs of data … FTP did not work as the server02 did not have FTP configured for root user

  8. Hi,
    I want to copy emails from old server to the new server, I tried to use scp command it prompt me for password but when I put the password for my server it refused and I lost connection. Which password should I use?

  9. scp -P port -r user@server1:/var/www/html/ user@server2:/var/www/html/

    my server 2 has also a different port so how could i defined port for server 2

  10. Please describe detailed about sftp. what should i do after this. Let’s say I want to get files ie /tmp/gds1 from server1 to server2
    I did : sftp username@server1 it prompts like
    sftp >
    what should i do from here to get file?

    please advise , it’s urgent . Also is their any tutorial clases online for this.

    Thank you

  11. I am looking to automate the transfer of back up files from an FTP account on one Linux server to another Linux Server. I don’t have admin access to either of the servers. I have tried CrossFTP with little success.

    Is it possible to script this to automate the transfer without requiring a Windows machine to act as the controller?

    Many thanks.

  12. If you are serious about wanting an exact copy, you probably also want to use the -p switch to scp, if you’re using that. I’ve found that scp reads from devices, and I’ve had problems with cpio, so I personally always use tar, like this:

    cd /origin; find . -xdev -depth -not -path ./lost+found -print0 \
    | tar --create --atime-preserve=system --null --files-from=- --format=posix \
    --no-recursion --sparse | ssh targethost 'cd /target; tar --extract \
    --overwrite --preserve-permissions --sparse'

    I keep this incantation around in a file with various other means of copying files around. This one is for copying over SSH; the other ones are for copying to a compressed archive, for copying within the same computer, and for copying over an unencrypted TCP socket when SSH is too slow.

  13. scp -r user@server1:/var/www/html/ user@server2:/var/www/html/
    This command is asking for password.

    1. hi..
      it will ask for the pasword.If ur current is server1 then you will have to provide the password of server2.

  14. Hi,
    I want to copy a file from one windows pc to multiple linux server at a time(same location/path). Is it possible? Current i am using Winscp for copying files. But i need to copy same file to different server individually. It is taking time. Kindly give a feedback.

  15. I have two files in remote server at same path….
    How to transfer remote server files from local server,

    Same as two files at different path ,
    pls clarify us

  16. I have 2 unix boxes. 1 is source and 2nd is destination. I am using a windows machine. My 2 unix boxes can not connect to each other due to security issues. Currently I copy from 1 unix box to windows and then transfer it from windows to 2nd unix box. How can I automate this process? Can I have such script to run on windows?

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