How to Use rsync to Securely Copy Files from One System to Another
Synchronize files and directories with rsync
The rsync command is another way to securely copy ﬁles from one system to another. The tool uses an algorithm that minimizes the amount of data copied by synchronizing only the portions of ﬁles that have changed. It differs from scp in that if two ﬁles or directories are similar between two servers, rsync copies the differences between the ﬁle systems on the two servers, while scp would need to copy everything.
One of the advantages of rsync is that it can copy ﬁles between a local system and a remote system securely and efﬁciently. While the initial synchronization of a directory takes about the same time as copying it, any subsequent synchronization only requires the differences to be copied over the network, speeding updates, possibly substantially.
One of the most important options of rsync is the -n option to perform a dry run. A dry run is a simulation of what happens when the command gets executed. The dry run shows the changes rsync would perform when the command is run without the dry run option. You should perform a dry run before performing an rsync operation to ensure no important ﬁles get overwritten or deleted.
The two most common options when synchronizing ﬁles and directories with rsync are the -v and -a options. The -v or –verbose option provides more detailed output as the synchronization runs. This is useful for troubleshooting and to help see progress. The -a or –archive option enables “archive mode”. This is a quick way to enable recursive copying and turn on a large number of useful options to preserve most characteristics of the ﬁles. Archive mode is the same as specifying the following options:
Options Enabled with rsync -a (Archive Mode)
|-r, –recursive||synchronize recursively the whole directory tree|
|-l, –links||synchronize symbolic links|
|-p, –perms||preserve permissions|
|-t, –times||preserve time stamps|
|-g, –group||preserve group ownership|
|-o, –owner||preserve the owner of the files|
|-D, –devices||synchronize device file|
Archive mode does not preserve hard links, because this can add signiﬁcant time to the synchronization. If you want to preserve hard links too, add the -H option.
- -A to preserve ACLs
- -X to preserve SELinux contexts
You can use rsync to synchronize the contents of a local ﬁle or directory with a ﬁle or directory on a remote machine, using either machine as the source. You can also synchronize the contents of two local ﬁles or directories. For example, to synchronize contents of the /var/log directory to the /tmp directory:
[[email protected] ~]$ su Password: password [[email protected] ~]# rsync -av /var/log /tmp receiving incremental file list log/ log/README log/boot.log ...output omitted... log/tuned/tuned.log sent 11,592,423 bytes received 779 bytes 23,186,404.00 bytes/sec total size is 11,586,755 speedup is 1.00 [[email protected] ~]$ ls /tmp log ssh-RLjDdarkKiW1 [[email protected] ~]$
A trailing slash at the end of the source directory synchronizes the content of a directory without newly creating the subdirectory in the target directory. In this example, the log directory is not created in the /tmp directory. Only the content of the /var/log/ directory is synchronized into the /tmp directory.
[[email protected] ~]# rsync -av /var/log/ /tmp sending incremental file list ./ README boot.log ...output omitted... tuned/tuned.log sent 11,592,389 bytes received 778 bytes 23,186,334.00 bytes/sec total size is 11,586,755 speedup is 1.00 [[email protected] ~]# ls /tmp anaconda dnf.rpm.log-20190318 private audit dnf.rpm.log-20190324 qemu-ga boot.log dnf.rpm.log-20190331 README ...output omitted...
Just like the scp and sftp commands, for rsync you specify remote locations using the [[email protected]]host:/path format. The remote location can be either the source system or destination system, but one of the two machines has to be local.
In order to preserve ﬁle ownership, you need to be root on the destination system. If the destination is remote, authenticate as root. If the destination is local, you must run rsync as root. In this example, synchronize the local /var/log directory to the /tmp directory on the remotehost system:
[[email protected] ~]# rsync -av /var/log remotehost:/tmp [email protected]'s password: password receiving incremental file list log/ log/README log/boot. ...output omitted... sent 9,783 bytes received 290,576 bytes 85,816.86 bytes/sec total size is 11,585,690 speedup is 38.57
In the same way, the /var/log remote directory on remotehost can be synchronized to the / tmp local directory on host:
[[email protected] ~]# rsync -av remotehost:/var/log /tmp [email protected]'s password: password receiving incremental file list log/boot.log log/dnf.librepo.log log/dnf.log ...output omitted... sent 9,783 bytes received 290,576 bytes 85,816.86 bytes/sec total size is 11,585,690 speedup is 38.57