How to Use Rsync for Local and Remote Data Transfer and Synchronization
5 min read
Rsync is a fast and versatile command line utility that synchronizes files and folders between two locations over a remote shell, or from/to a remote Rsync daemon. It provides fast incremental file transfer by transferring only the differences between the source and the destination.
In this tutorial, we will show you how to use
rsync through practical examples and detailed explanations of the most common
rsync utility is pre-installed on most Linux distributions and macOS. You can check if it is installed on your system by typing:
rsync version 3.1.2 protocol version 31
If you don't have
rsync installed on your system, you can easily install it using your distribution's package manager.
Install Rsync on Ubuntu and Debian
sudo apt install rsync
Install Rsync on CentOS and Fedora
sudo yum install rsync
Rsync Command Syntax
Before going into how to use the
rsync command, let's start by reviewing the basic syntax.
rsync utility expressions take the following form:
Local to Local: rsync [OPTION]... [SRC]... DEST Local to Remote: rsync [OPTION]... [SRC]... [USER@]HOST:DEST Remote to Local: rsync [OPTION]... [USER@]HOST:SRC... [DEST]
OPTION- The rsync options.
SRC- Source directory.
DEST- Destination directory.
USER- Remote username.
HOST- Remote hostname ot IP Address.
rsync provides a number of options that control every aspect of its behavior. The most widely used options are:
--archive, archive mode, equivalent to
-rlptgoD. This option tells
rsyncto syncs directories recursively, transfer special and block devices, preserve symbolic links, modification times, group, ownership, and permissions.
--compress. This option will force
rsyncto compresses the data as it is sent to the destination machine. Use this option only if the connection to the remote machine is slow.
-P, equivalent to
--partial --progress. When this option is used
rsyncwill show a progress bar during transfer and to keep the partially transferred files. It is useful when transferring large files over slow or unstable network connections.
--delete. When using this option
rsyncwill delete extraneous files from the destination location. It is useful for mirroring.
--quiet. Use this option if you want to suppress non-error messages.
-e. This option allows you to choose a different remote shell. By default,
rsyncis configured to use ssh.
Basic Rsync Usage
To copy a single file from one to another local location you would run the following command:
rsync -a /opt/filename.zip /tmp/
The user running the command must have read permissions on the destination location and write permissions on the destination.
Omitting the filename from the destination location copies the file with the current name. If you want to save the file under a different name, specify the new name on the destination part:
rsync -a /opt/filename.zip /tmp/newfilename.zip
In the example below we are creating a local backup of our website files:
rsync -a /var/www/domain.com/public_html/ /var/www/domain.com/public_html_backup/
If the destination directory doesn't exist
rsync will create it.
It is worth mentioning that
rsync gives different treatment to the source directories with a trailing slash
/. If you add a trailing slash on the source directory it will copy only the contents of the directory to the destination directory. When the trailing slash is omitted
rsync will copy the source directory inside the destination directory.
How To Use Rsync to Sync Data from/to a remote Machine
rsync for remote transfer, it must be installed on both the source and the destination machine. The new versions of
rsync are configured to use SSH as default remote shell.
In the following example, we are transferring a directory from a local to a remote machine:
rsync -a /opt/media/ remote_user@remote_host_or_ip:/opt/media/
If you want to transfer data from a remote to a local machine then you need to use the remote location as a source:
rsync -a remote_user@remote_host_or_ip:/opt/media/ /opt/media/
If SSH on the remote host is listening on a port other than the default 22 then you can specify the port using the
rsync -a -e "ssh -p 2322" /opt/media/ remote_user@remote_host_or_ip:/opt/media/
When transferring large amounts of data it is recommended to run the
rsync command inside a screen session or use the
rsync -a -P remote_user@remote_host_or_ip:/opt/media/ /opt/media/
Exclude Files and Directories
When excluding files or directories you need to use their relative paths to the source location.
There are two options to exclude files and directories. The first option is to use the
--exclude argument and specify the files and directories you want to exclude on the command line.
In the following example, we are excluding the
tmp directories which are located inside the
rsync -a --exclude=node_modules --exclude=tmp /src_directory/ /dst_directory/
The second option is to use the
--exclude-from argument and specify the files and directories you want to exclude in a file.
rsync -a --exclude-from='/exclude-file.txt' /src_directory/ /dst_directory/
In this tutorial, you learned how to use Rsync to copy and synchronize files and directories. There's lots more to learn about Rsync at Rsync User's Manual page.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.