Linux Copy File Command for Files and Directories – cp Command Examples

Linux copy files command: cp is generally used for organizing the data on the Linux operating system, It copies the files and directories.

We shall take a deeper look at Linux cp command-utility in the section

In order to copy files and directories, you must have read permissions on the source file(s) and write permissions on the destination directory

How do I copy files under Linux operating systems?

How do I make a 2nd copy of a file on a Linux bash shell?

How can I copies files and directories on a Linux

Linux Copy File command Syntax

cp sourcefile destinationfile
cp sourcefile DESTDIR
cp sourcefile1 sourcefile2 DESTDIR

How to Copy a Directory if the destination does not exist?

To achieve this we can make use of the following cp command options -R or -r: Copy directories recursively.

Linux cp command Syntax with -R option:


If the destination doesn’t exist, it will be created.

It can also be used to Copy the contents Recursively

Lets see the demonstration as follows:

[vamshi@linuxcent ]$ cp -R dir1/ dir1-copy
[vamshi@linuxcent ]$ ls -l 
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 vamshi vamshi 6 Apr 11 06:35 dir1
drwxrwxr-x. 2 vamshi vamshi 6 Apr 11 06:37 dir1-Recursive

Using the verbose Option -v to print the copy activity information onto the output screen.

Let’s use the -v flag to print the verbose information onto the screen.

How to Preserve the Source file and Directory permission?

Linux Copy command Syntax with -p option:

-p option preserves the mode, ownership and timestamps from the source to the destination

cp -p file1 file1-copy

Lets us see the Demonstration as Below

[vamshi@node02 cp-command]$ cp -Rp dir1/ dir1-copy
[vamshi@node02 cp-command]$ ls -ld dir1*
drwxrwxr-x. 2 vamshi vamshi 6 Apr 11 06:35 dir1
drwxrwxr-x. 2 vamshi vamshi 6 Apr 11 06:35 dir1-copy
drwxrwxr-x. 2 vamshi vamshi 6 Apr 11 06:37 dir1-Recursive

From the out we can conclude the the Linux copy command with -p Option preserves the original timestamps information and copies it to the destination

Linux cp command with Force copy -f Option, It forcefully overwrites the destination content
Sample Syntax:

cp -f file1 file1-copy

How to Copy Multiple files at once ?

Asterisk / wildcard (*) character is used to copy files multiple files with same pattern.

[vamshi@linuxcent ]$ cp -varpf file* DEST/
‘file10.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file10.txt’
‘file1.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file1.txt’
‘file2.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file2.txt’
‘file3.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file3.txt’
‘file4.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file4.txt’
‘file5.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file5.txt’
‘file6.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file6.txt’
‘file7.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file7.txt’
‘file8.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file8.txt’
‘file9.txt’ -> ‘DEST/file9.txt’

The options -p or -d enables preserving the links and can be used in conjunction with -R option to copy contents Recursively from the source directory.

How to Copy Files and Folders on Linux Using the cp Command recursively to Destination Directory

How to preserve the links with cp command?

Using the Options -p preserves the links and -r Option copies the content recussively same as -R Option and -v prints the verbose information

[vamshi@node02 Linux-blog]$ cp -varpf Redhat-Distro/ /tmp/DEST
‘Redhat-Distro/’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST’
‘Redhat-Distro/Fedora’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/Fedora’
‘Redhat-Distro/Fedora/fedora.txt’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/Fedora/fedora.txt’
‘Redhat-Distro/Centos’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/Centos’
‘Redhat-Distro/Centos/centos.txt’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/Centos/centos.txt’
‘Redhat-Distro/Centos/CentOS-versions’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/Centos/CentOS-versions’
‘Redhat-Distro/Centos/CentOS-versions/centos7.txt’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/Centos/CentOS-versions/centos7.txt’
‘Redhat-Distro/Centos/CentOS-versions/centos6.1.txt’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/Centos/CentOS-versions/centos6.1.txt’
‘Redhat-Distro/Centos/README-CentOS’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/Centos/README-CentOS’
‘Redhat-Distro/README-Redhat-Distro’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/README-Redhat-Distro’
‘Redhat-Distro/RHEL-Versions’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/RHEL-Versions’
‘Redhat-Distro/RHEL-Versions/redhat5.txt’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/RHEL-Versions/redhat5.txt’
‘Redhat-Distro/RHEL-Versions/redhat8.txt’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/RHEL-Versions/redhat8.txt’
‘Redhat-Distro/redhat.txt’ -> ‘/tmp/DEST/redhat.txt’

How to make a symbolic link with Linux cp command to files ?

As we know that ln command us useful to create symboic links, But the Linux copy command Syntax can do that to files with -s Option which creates Symbolic links:


Linux copy command Syntax with Softlink with Demonstration:

[vamshi@linuxcent ~]$ ls -l total 0
-rw-rw-r--. 1 vamshi vamshi 0 Apr 11 06:39 file1.txt

lrwxrwxrwx. 1 vamshi vamshi 9 Apr 11 06:39 file2.txt -> file1.txt

Linux cp command with interactive prompt using -i option

Sample Syntax:

cp -i file1 file1-copy

Also you can make it a best practice to setup alias alias for cp command.
The best practice is enable options -av

export cp="cp -av"

How can i copy the hidden files ?

To Copy the hidden files we can use cp command with -a option,lets us see in a practical example.

$ cp -av source/ destination/
‘source/.config1’ -> ‘destination/source/.config1’
‘source/.config2’ -> ‘destination/source/.config2’
‘source/.config3’ -> ‘destination/source/.config3’

Generally the hidden files in Linux are prefixed with a dot . So we can also use the wildcard character *, and copy them, below is another pracctical example

[vamshi@linuxcent cp-command]$ cp -av source/.conf* destination/
‘source/.config1’ -> ‘destination/.config1’
‘source/.config2’ -> ‘destination/.config2’
‘source/.config3’ -> ‘destination/.config3’

How to Copy a File from One Location to Another With a Different Name on Linux Using the cp Command

Assuming we have a couple of users on our linux server called Alice and Bob

[alice@linuxcent ~]$ sudo cp -avrpf /home/alice/djangoproject1/ /home/bob/
‘djangoproject1/’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1’
‘djangoproject1/’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1/’
‘djangoproject1/’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1/’
‘djangoproject1/’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1/’
‘djangoproject1/’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1/’
‘djangoproject1/’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1/’
‘djangoproject1/__pycache__’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1/__pycache__’
‘djangoproject1/__pycache__/__init__.cpython-36.pyc’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1/__pycache__/__init__.cpython-36.pyc’
‘djangoproject1/__pycache__/settings.cpython-36.pyc’ -> ‘/home/bob/djangoproject1/__pycache__/settings.cpython-36.pyc’

How to backup files using cp command?

The linux cp command offer the option --backup to backup the data files, below is the command.

cp --backup source destination

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