How to Use Rsync Command in Linux: 16 Practical Examples

Rsync (Remote Sync) is the most commonly used command for copying and synchronizing files and directories remotely as well as locally in Linux/Unix systems.

With the help of the rsync command, you can copy and synchronize your data remotely and locally across directories, disks, and networks, perform data backups, and mirror between two Linux machines.

This article explains 16 basic and advanced uses of the rsync command to transfer your files remotely and locally in Linux-based machines. You don’t need to be a root user to run the rsync command.

Advantages of Rsync Command

It offers several advantages, including:

  • Efficient File Transfer – rsync uses a delta transfer algorithm, which means it only transfers the differences between source and destination files, which significantly reduces the amount of data transferred, making it efficient for syncing large files or directories.
  • Remote File Synchronization – rsync supports both local and remote file transfers over SSH, which allows synchronization between local and remote systems or mirroring directories across multiple machines.
  • Incremental Backups – rsync is well-suited for incremental backups, as it create and update backups efficiently by transferring only new or modified files.
  • Preserves File Permissions – rsync can preserve various file attributes, such as permissions, ownership, timestamps, and symbolic links, which ensures that the copied files retain their original characteristics on the destination.
  • Bandwidth Control – rsync allows you to limit the bandwidth usage during file transfers, as it uses compression and decompression method while sending and receiving data on both ends.
  • Faster – rsync can be faster than scp (Secure Copy) for transferring files, especially when syncing large directories or when dealing with files that have already been partially transferred or exist on the destination.

Rsync Command Syntax

The rsync command follows the following syntax:

# rsync [OPTIONS] SOURCE DESTINATION

Here’s an explanation of the different components and options used with rsync commands:

  • -v – Verbose output, displaying detailed information about the transfer.
  • -r – copies data recursively (but doesn’t preserve timestamps and permission while transferring data.
  • -a – archive mode, which allows copying files recursively and it also preserves symbolic links, file permissions, user & group ownerships, and timestamps.
  • -z – Compress files during transfer to reduce network usage.
  • -h – human-readable, output numbers in a human-readable format.
  • -P – Show progress during the transfer.
  • SOURCE – Specifies the source file(s) or directory to be transferred, which can be a local or a remote location.
  • DESTINATION – Specifies the destination path where the files or directories will be copied. Similar to the source, it can be a local path or a remote location.

Install Rsync in Linux System

We can install the rsync package with the help of the following package manager as per your Linux distribution.

$ sudo apt install rsync         [On Debian, Ubuntu and Mint]
$ sudo yum install rsync         [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky/AlmaLinux]
$ sudo emerge -a sys-apps/rsync  [On Gentoo Linux]
$ sudo apk add rsync            [On Alpine Linux]
$ sudo pacman -S rsync           [On Arch Linux]
$ sudo zypper install rsync      [On OpenSUSE]    

1. Copy/Sync File Locally

To copy or sync a file locally, you can use the following command that will sync a single file on a local machine from one location to another location.

Here in this example, a file name backup.tar needs to be copied or synced to /tmp/backups/ folder.

[root@tecmint]# rsync -zvh backup.tar.gz /tmp/backups/

created directory /tmp/backups
backup.tar.gz

sent 224.54K bytes  received 70 bytes  449.21K bytes/sec
total size is 224.40K  speedup is 1.00

In the above example, you can see that if the destination is not already existed rsync will create a directory automatically for the destination.

Rsync Local Files
Rsync Local Files

2. Copy/Sync Directory Locally

The following command will transfer or sync all the files from one directory to a different directory in the same machine.

Here in this example, /root/rpmpkgs contains some rpm package files and you want that directory to be copied inside /tmp/backups/ folder.

[root@tecmint]# rsync -avzh /root/rpmpkgs /tmp/backups/

sending incremental file list
rpmpkgs/
rpmpkgs/httpd-2.4.37-40.module_el8.5.0+852+0aafc63b.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/mod_ssl-2.4.37-40.module_el8.5.0+852+0aafc63b.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/nagios-4.4.6-4.el8.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/nagios-plugins-2.3.3-5.el8.x86_64.rpm

sent 3.47M bytes  received 96 bytes  2.32M bytes/sec
total size is 3.74M  speedup is 1.08
Rsync Local Directory
Rsync Local Directory

3. Copy a Directory from Local to Remote Server

To copy a directory from a local server to a remote server, you can use the following command, which will sync a directory from a local to a remote machine.

For example, if there is a folder in your local computer “rpmpkgs” that contains some RPM packages and if you want that local directory’s content sends to a remote server, you can use the following command.

# rsync -avzh /root/rpmpkgs [email protected]:/root/

The authenticity of host '192.168.0.141 (192.168.0.141)' can't be established.
ED25519 key fingerprint is SHA256:bH2tiWQn4S5o6qmZhmtXcBROV5TU5H4t2C42QDEMx1c.
This key is not known by any other names
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no/[fingerprint])? yes
Warning: Permanently added '192.168.0.141' (ED25519) to the list of known hosts.
[email protected]'s password: 
sending incremental file list
rpmpkgs/
rpmpkgs/httpd-2.4.37-40.module_el8.5.0+852+0aafc63b.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/mod_ssl-2.4.37-40.module_el8.5.0+852+0aafc63b.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/nagios-4.4.6-4.el8.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/nagios-plugins-2.3.3-5.el8.x86_64.rpm

sent 3.74M bytes  received 96 bytes  439.88K bytes/sec
total size is 3.74M  speedup is 1.00
Rsync Directory Remote System
Rsync Directory Remote System

4. Copy a Directory from Remote to Local Server

This command will help you sync a remote directory to a local directory. Here in this example, a directory /root/rpmpkgs which is on a remote server is being copied into your local computer in /tmp/myrpms.

# rsync -avzh [email protected]:/root/rpmpkgs /tmp/myrpms

[email protected]'s password: 
receiving incremental file list
created directory /tmp/myrpms
rpmpkgs/
rpmpkgs/httpd-2.4.37-40.module_el8.5.0+852+0aafc63b.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/mod_ssl-2.4.37-40.module_el8.5.0+852+0aafc63b.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/nagios-4.4.6-4.el8.x86_64.rpm
rpmpkgs/nagios-plugins-2.3.3-5.el8.x86_64.rpm

sent 104 bytes  received 3.49M bytes  997.68K bytes/sec
total size is 3.74M  speedup is 1.07
Rsync Remote Directory to Local
Rsync Remote Directory to Local

5. Rsync Over SSH

With rsync, we can use SSH (Secure Shell) for data transfer, using SSH protocol while transferring our data you can be ensured that your data is being transferred in a secured connection with encryption so that nobody can read your data while it is being transferred over the wire on the internet.

Also when we use rsync we need to provide the user/root password to accomplish that particular task, so using the SSH option will send your logins in an encrypted manner so that your password will be safe.

To use rsync over SSH, you can use the -e option to specify the remote shell command, which is typically ssh as shown.

# rsync [OPTIONS] -e ssh /path/to/source user@remote:/path/to/destination

6. Copy a File from a Remote Server to a Local Server with SSH

To synchronize a file from a remote server to a local server, you can specify a protocol with rsync using the “-e” option with the protocol name you want to use.

Here in this example, We will be using the “ssh” with the “-e” option and perform data transfer.

# rsync -avzhe ssh [email protected]:/root/anaconda-ks.cfg /tmp

[email protected]'s password: 
receiving incremental file list
anaconda-ks.cfg

sent 43 bytes  received 1.10K bytes  325.43 bytes/sec
total size is 1.90K  speedup is 1.67
Rsync Copy Remote File to Local
Rsync Copy Remote File to Local

7. Copy a File from a Local Server to a Remote Server with SSH

To synchronize a file from a local server to a remote server using SSH, you can leverage the following command as shown.

# rsync -avzhe ssh backup.tar.gz [email protected]:/backups/

[email protected]'s password: 
sending incremental file list
created directory /backups
backup.tar.gz

sent 224.59K bytes  received 66 bytes  64.19K bytes/sec
total size is 224.40K  speedup is 1.00
Rsync Copy Local File to Remote
Rsync Copy Local File to Remote

8. Show Progress While Transferring Data with Rsync

To show the progress while transferring the data from one machine to a different machine, we can use the ‘--progress' option, which displays the files and the time remaining to complete the transfer.

# rsync -avzhe ssh --progress /root/rpmpkgs [email protected]:/root/rpmpkgs

[email protected]'s password: 
sending incremental file list
rpmpkgs/
rpmpkgs/httpd-2.4.37-40.module_el8.5.0+852+0aafc63b.x86_64.rpm
          1.47M 100%   31.80MB/s    0:00:00 (xfr#1, to-chk=3/5)
rpmpkgs/mod_ssl-2.4.37-40.module_el8.5.0+852+0aafc63b.x86_64.rpm
        138.01K 100%    2.69MB/s    0:00:00 (xfr#2, to-chk=2/5)
rpmpkgs/nagios-4.4.6-4.el8.x86_64.rpm
          2.01M 100%   18.45MB/s    0:00:00 (xfr#3, to-chk=1/5)
rpmpkgs/nagios-plugins-2.3.3-5.el8.x86_64.rpm
        120.48K 100%    1.04MB/s    0:00:00 (xfr#4, to-chk=0/5)

sent 3.74M bytes  received 96 bytes  1.50M bytes/sec
total size is 3.74M  speedup is 1.00
Rsync Progress While Copying Files
Rsync Progress While Copying Files

9. Include Files with Particular Extension with Rsync

To include specific files or patterns during a rsync operation, you can use the --include option with an extension that matches all files.

# rsync -avz --include='*.txt' /path/to/source/ user@remote:/path/to/destination/

In the provided example, rsync will include only files with the .txt extension from the /path/to/source/ directory during the transfer.

10. Exclude Files with Particular Extension with Rsync

Similarly, to exclude a specific extension during a rsync operation, you can use the --exclude option with a wildcard pattern.

# rsync -avz --exclude='*.ext' /path/to/source/ user@remote:/path/to/destination/

In the provided example, rsync will exclude files with the specified extension (*.ext) during the transfer, while including all other files and directories.

11. Include and Exclude Files with Rsync

To include and exclude specific files or patterns during a rsync operation, you can use both the --include and --exclude options with appropriate wildcard patterns.

These two options allow us to include and exclude files by specifying parameters these option helps us to specify those files or directories which you want to include in your sync and exclude files and folders with which you don’t want to be transferred.

Here in this example, the rsync command will include those files and directories only which starts with ‘R’ and exclude all other files and directories.

# rsync -avze ssh --include 'R*' --exclude '*' [email protected]:/var/lib/rpm/ /root/rpm
Rsync Include and Exclude Files
Rsync Include and Exclude Files

12. Use of –delete Option with Rsync

If a file or directory does not exist at the source, but already exists at the destination, you might want to delete that existing file/directory at the target while syncing.

We can use the ‘--delete‘ option to delete files that are not there in the source directory.

The source and target are in sync. Now create a new file test.txt at the target.

[root@tecmint:~]# cd /root/rpm/
[root@tecmint:~/rpm]# touch test.txt
[root@tecmint:~/rpm]# rsync -avz --delete [email protected]:/var/lib/rpm/ /root/rpm/

[email protected]'s password: 
receiving incremental file list
deleting test.txt
./
.dbenv.lock
.rpm.lock
Basenames
Conflictname
Dirnames
Enhancename
Filetriggername
Group
Installtid
Name
Obsoletename
Packages
Providename
Sha1header
Sigmd5
Suggestname
Supplementname
Transfiletriggername
Triggername
__db.001
__db.002
__db.003

sent 445 bytes  received 18,543,954 bytes  2,472,586.53 bytes/sec
total size is 71,151,616  speedup is 3.84

Target has the new file called test.txt when synchronizing with the source with the ‘–delete‘ option, it removed the file test.txt.

Rsync Delete Option
Rsync Delete Option

13. Set File Transfer Limit with Rsync

You can specify the Max file size to be transferred or synced. You can do it with the “--max-size” option. Here in this example, the Max file size is 200k, so this command will transfer only those files which are equal to or smaller than 200k.

# rsync -avzhe ssh --max-size='200k' /var/lib/rpm/ [email protected]:/root/tmprpm

[email protected]'s password: 
sending incremental file list
created directory /root/tmprpm
./
.dbenv.lock
.rpm.lock
Conflictname
Enhancename
Filetriggername
Group
Installtid
Name
Obsoletename
Recommendname
Requirename
Sha1header
Sigmd5
Suggestname
Supplementname
Transfiletriggername
Triggername
__db.002

sent 129.52K bytes  received 396 bytes  28.87K bytes/sec
total size is 71.15M  speedup is 547.66
Rsync Set Max File Transfer Size
Rsync Set Max File Transfer Size

14. Automatically Delete Source Files After Transfer

Now, suppose you have the main web server and a data backup server, you created a daily backup and synced it with your backup server, but now you don’t want to keep that local copy of the backup in your web server.

So, will you wait for the transfer to complete and then delete that local backup file manually? Of Course NO. This automatic deletion can be done using the ‘--remove-source-files‘ option.

# rsync --remove-source-files -zvh backup.tar.gz [email protected]:/tmp/backups/

[email protected]'s password: 
backup.tar.gz

sent 795 bytes  received 2.33K bytes  894.29 bytes/sec
total size is 267.30K  speedup is 85.40

[root@tecmint:~]# ls -l backup.tar.gz

ls: cannot access 'backup.tar.gz': No such file or directory
Rsync Delete Source File After Transfer
Rsync Delete Source File After Transfer

15. Do a Dry Run with Rsync

If you are a newbie using rsync and don’t know what exactly your command going to do. Rsync could really mess up the things in your destination folder and then doing an undo can be a tedious job.

Use of this option will not make any changes to the files and shows the output of the command, if the output shows exactly the same as you want to do then you can remove the ‘--dry-run‘ option from your command and run on the terminal.

# rsync --dry-run --remove-source-files -zvh backup.tar.gz [email protected]:/tmp/backups/

[email protected]'s password: 
backup.tar.gz

sent 50 bytes  received 19 bytes  19.71 bytes/sec
total size is 267.30K  speedup is 3,873.97 (DRY RUN)
Rsync Dry Run
Rsync Dry Run

16. Rsync Set Bandwidth Limit and Transfer File

You can set the bandwidth limit while transferring data from one machine to another machine with the help of ‘--bwlimit‘ option. This option helps us to limit I/O bandwidth.

# rsync --bwlimit=100 -avzhe ssh  /var/lib/rpm/  [email protected]:/root/tmprpm/
[email protected]'s password:
sending incremental file list
sent 324 bytes  received 12 bytes  61.09 bytes/sec
total size is 38.08M  speedup is 113347.05

Also, by default rsync syncs changed blocks and bytes only, if you explicitly want to sync the whole file then you use the ‘-W‘ option with it.

# rsync -zvhW backup.tar /tmp/backups/backup.tar
backup.tar
sent 14.71M bytes  received 31 bytes  3.27M bytes/sec
total size is 16.18M  speedup is 1.10
Conclusion

That concludes our overview of rsync and its capabilities. For further exploration of its extensive options and functionalities, I encourage you to refer to the comprehensive manual pages (man pages) available.

Tarunika Shrivastava
I am a linux server admin and love to play with Linux and all other distributions of it. I am working as System Engineer with a Web Hosting Company.

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169 thoughts on “How to Use Rsync Command in Linux: 16 Practical Examples”

  1. Thank you for the post.

    May I ask you if you may know how to setup a directory sync between two servers while using daemon running under /etc/xinetd.d/rsync.

    I target not to use just a command like in your examples, but to have xinetd running rsync in the background.. Samba.org examples of rsyncd.conf are not clear how to setup the path and the destination servers.

    Also in /etc/xinetd.d/rsync configuration there is no reference thus it is not clear if rsyncd.conf can be relevant and used at all. So how to make only two specific servers setup this way where one will be a source and another a destination, meaning that the content will be actively changing on one server, while another will get its folder just synced with the first one.

    Reply
    • @Mark,

      Sorry, no idea never thought of running rsync under xinted, will certainly try and give solution if it works successfully

      Reply
  2. Hi, I want to copy the files from one location to another over WAN. both locations are in two geographical locations. Is it possible to achieve it through RSYNC ??

    Reply
    • @Dash,

      Of course yes, rsync will work with any network even both machines are on different network and far from each other, rsync works well.

      Reply
        • @Dash,

          Rsync is used to sync files between two servers or transfer files from local to remote and vice-versa, it’s not meant for mounting. Could you explain me more about your questions? so that I can help you more better way..

          Reply
  3. Thanks You very helpful commands for beginners like me but I am looking for copying files using rsync command from one server to another server directly which I did not get. If anybody have please share .

    Reply
  4. Under RHEL 5.0, there is no argument called “–remove-source-files” instead there is a option called “–remove-sent-files”
    For example: If you are trying to copy the file to a local or remote system, you would use the following command.

    $ rsync –remove-sent-files -avzh /tmp/aziz.tar root@localhost:/tmp/backup1/

    Note: While specifying the destination directory, if the directory is not proceeding with ‘/’ it will create a file called /tmp/backup1. We need to ensure the directory ends with ‘/’ if we want to create the destination directory while runnning rsync.

    Hope it helps

    Reply
  5. Thanks for this tutorial. I am a beginner in the server world and i find this quite useful.

    I have some questions and if you can answer that would be great.

    I need to transfer data from one remote server to another.
    rsync -av [email protected]:/var/www/something [email protected]:/var/www/something

    is this going to work?
    also is there any option to run rsync command and then log out from my console (leaving rsync in progress). I need to transfer around 150GB and it would be great if i dont have to leave my terminal on.

    Kind regards

    Reply
    • @Kirba,
      I never tried that way and I am not sure it will work or not, I think you should give a try and see how it works and to keep the session active better run via cron..

      Reply
    • Hi, tmux is a great tool for this (as well as screen), for detaching from a running process/terminal and reattaching later. also nohup command may be useful but not as versatile for this purpose, as it demonizes your process and writes to a log file

      Reply

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