Copy Directory Linux - 4 Easy Commands

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copy directory linux

Thinking about how to copy a directory on Linux? Whether you want to secure crucial data or distribute files, copying directories is a fundamental skill for administrators.

In this guide, I’ll cover some essential commands to perform this operation. Let’s go!

How To Copy a Directory on Linux

1. Press CTRL+ALT+T to open the terminal.

2. Type “cp -R path/to/source/directory /path/to/destination/directory“. In my case, I’ll copy folder1 from “~/Desktop/test” to “~Documents/folder2”.

copying a directory from source to destination using cp command on Linux

3. For verification, check the content of the destination directory.

Opening the destination directory for verification on Linux system

How To Copy Multiple Directories on Linux

Let’s explore the following commands to copy multiple directories on Linux:

1. Using the cp Command

In Linux-based operating systems, the cp command is used to copy multiple files and directories. It creates identical copies.

Additionally, you can add the -R or -r option for recursive copying. This option forces the cp command to copy the directories and their entire content, including the subdirectories.

To use this command:

1. First, move to your source directory with cd:

Moving to source directory using cd command

2. Then, execute the ls command to list the content of the working directory:

listing content of source directory using ls command

3. Type the “cd -R dir1 dir2 /path/to/destination/directory” command in your terminal. In my case, I’ll create a copy of “folder1”, “folder2”, and “folder3” of the current directory in “~/Desktop/test”.

copying multiple directories on Linux using cp command

4. Check the destination directory for verification.

Verifying existence of multiple directories in destination folder

2. Using the tar Command

tar is a versatile utility for archiving and copying multiple directories. More specifically, you can utilize it to create a compressed archive of the required directories. Then, extract the content to the desired location.

To do so, add the following options in the tar command (as per requirements):

  • -c creates a new archive.
  • -z compress or decompress the archive with gzip.
  • -v displays the verbose output, showing the files being archived.
  • -f specifies the archive file name.
  • -x extract files from an archive.
  • -C changes to the given directory before extracting files.

Now, to copy multiple directories using tar:

1. First, create a compressed package of multiple directories with “tar -czvf filename.tar.gz dir1 dir2” command.

creating a compressed archive of multiple directories using tar on Linux

2. Now, extract the compressed package using the “tar -xzvf filename.tar.gz -C /path/to/destination/directory” command.

extracting the content to desired destination using tar command on Linux

3. Using the rsync Command

rsync is another well-known utility for directory synchronization. You can use it with the -a option to enable the archive mode. This consequently preserves the permission and attributes of the specified directories.

To use it, type “rsync -a dir1 dir2 dir3 /path/to/destination/directory” in the terminal.

Copying multiple directories using rsync command on Linux

How To Copy Directories to Remote Hosts

To copy directories to a remote host, you can use:


1. First, install the SSH server on the remote host with “sudo apt-get install openssh-server“.

2. Start SSH service using “sudo systemctl start ssh“.

3. Enable it with “sudo systemctl enable ssh“.

4. Type “sudo systemctl status ssh” to verify if SSH is active and running.

5. Type “sudo ufw allow 22” to make sure that the Firewall on the remote hosts permits incoming connections on port 22.

Now, you’re ready to copy directories to remote hosts.

Using the rsync Command

Type: “rsync -ar dir1 dir2 user@ip_address:/path/to/destination directory“.

copying multiple directories to remote host using rsync command on Linux

Here, I’ll copy “folder1”, “folder2”, and “folder3” to the “~/Desktop/test” directory of a remote server located at “” with the “author” username.

Using the scp Command

scp is another command that can copy files and directories between local and remote hosts.

Simply type: “scp -r dir1 dir2 user@ip_address:/path/to/destination/directory“.

copying multiple directories to remote host using scp command on Linux

You may also be interested in:

So, now you’re familiar with copy directory Linux commands. Most importantly, all of them work perfectly on most of the Linux distributions.

Don’t hesitate to share your favorite method in the comments below!

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