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linux : rsync vs scp

zakiarsyad profile image Zaki Arrozi Arsyad Updated on ・3 min read

rsync is a command for move and synchronizing files. This command help us to manage files or directories effectively when backing up data on a regular basis. rsync compares any differences and only transfer those differences.

scp is used for copy files and directories in secure way. Basically, It is a plain linear copy. scp reads the source file and writes it to the destination.

rsync

Basic usage :

$ rsync OPTION SOURCE DESTINATION
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We need to check if we have rsync, because some machines might not have this command.

  • Not passing the OPTION

    It will sync between two directories, but only files in the main directory, not include files in the subdirectories.

# Sync all files in original directory to duplicate directory
$ rsync SOURCE/* DESTINATION/
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  • -r or -recursive

    Sync all files in all the main directory and subdirectories

# Sync all files in original directory and its subdirectories
$ rsync -r SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • -a or -archive

    This option allow us to copy almost everything, including file permissions, user & group ownership and timestamps.

  • -v or -verbose

    It gives us a summary about the data transferred.

  • -h or --human-readable format

    We will get the result in human readable format.

  • -z or -compress

    Compress file data during the transfer

  • -e

    To specify the type of protocol we use. We can choose using ssh or rsh

# Sync using ssh protocol
$ rsync -avhze ssh SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --progress

    To show the progress while transferring the data

# Show the progress during transfer
$ rsync -avhze ssh --progress SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --update

    To updated more recently on the local filesystem. Files that don't exist are copied. Files that already exist, but have a newer timestamp are also copied.

# Update only if there is a newer version
$ rsync -avhze ssh --progress --update SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --remove-source-files

    To remove files that successfully transferred.

# Sync using ssh protocol
$ rsync -avhze ssh --remove-source-files SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --delete

    Delete files that have been deleted in the original directory

# Update duplicate directory if there are files deleted in original directory
$ rsync -avhze ssh --delete SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --include

    This option will include files that we specify in the parameter

# Include files that matched with include paramaeter
$ rsync -avhze ssh --include 'KEYWORD' SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --exclude

    This option will exclude files that we specify in the parameter

# Exclude files that matched with exclude paramaeter
$ rsync -avhze ssh --exclude 'KEYWORD' SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --chown

    Change file permission in the destination directory

# Copied files permisson are changed form user to group
$ rsync -avhe ssh --chown=USER:GROUP SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --dry-run

    This option perform a trial run and will not make any changes, but gives us the same result as a real run. If the results are as expected, then we can remove the --dry-run

# Perfom dry run
$ rsync --dry-run -avhze ssh --delete SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --max-size

    Set the maximum files to transfer. This option will only transfer files that are equal or smaller than the max size.

# Set max size 200k
$ rsync -avhze ssh --max-size='200k' SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • --bwlimit

    We can set the bandwidth limit when we sync data from a machine to another machine.

# Set bandwidth rate 5000KBytes per second
$ rsync -avhze ssh --bwlimit=5000 SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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scp

Basic usage :

$ scp OPTION SOURCE DESTINATION
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  • Copy a single file
# Copy a single file
$ scp SOURCE_FILE.txt DESTINATION/
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  • Copy multiple files
# Copy a multiple file
$ scp FILE1.txt FILE2.txt FILE3.txt DESTINATION/
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  • Copy .pem file
# Copy aws key to vm 
$ scp -i file.pem file.pem DESTINATION/
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  • -r to copy a directory recursively
# Copy all files in a directory
$ scp -r SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • -P to specify the port

    By default, scp will use port 22, but we can use another port for security reason

# Use port 2249
$ scp -P 2249 SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • -v for verbose

    To show detailed information of the scp process

# Use port 2249
$ scp -v SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • -l limit the bandwidth usage
# Set the bandwidth limit
$ scp -l 400 SOURCE/ DESTINATION/
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  • -q for quite mode

    Run the command in quite mode, and only display critical errors

  • -p for preserves modification times, access times, and modes from the original file

  • -u to delete source files after the transfer is successful


Both of the commands are similar, lets choose what we use based on our case

Discussion (1)

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bam92 profile image
Abel Lifaefi Mbula

The two commands are not similar at all, except that they all do copy from A to B. scp is limited:

  • not so many options compared to rsync
  • not optimized
  • can't resume if copy fails
  • etc.

The only thing that scp has over rsync is that it's secure by default. But if you're concerned about security (I think everyone should be), you can use rsync --rsh=ssh to secure rsync.

You can learn more here