cp man page

cp — copy files and directories


cp path/to/file.ext path/to/copy.ext

cp path/to/file.ext path/to/target/parent/folder

cp -r path/to/folder path/to/copy

cp -r path/to/folder path/to/target/parent/folder

cp -vr path/to/folder path/to/copy

cp -r path/to/source/folder/* path/to/target/folder

cp -i *.txt path/to/source/




Copy SOURCE to DEST, or multiple SOURCE(s) to DIRECTORY.

Mandatory arguments to long options are mandatory for short options too.

-a, --archive

same as -dR --preserve=all


don't copy the file data, just the attributes


make a backup of each existing destination file


like --backup but does not accept an argument


copy contents of special files when recursive


same as --no-dereference --preserve=links

-f, --force

if an existing destination file cannot be opened, remove it and try again (this option is ignored when the -n option is also used)

-i, --interactive

prompt before overwrite (overrides a previous -n option)


follow command-line symbolic links in SOURCE

-l, --link

hard link files instead of copying

-L, --dereference

always follow symbolic links in SOURCE

-n, --no-clobber

do not overwrite an existing file (overrides a previous -i option)

-P, --no-dereference

never follow symbolic links in SOURCE


same as --preserve=mode,ownership,timestamps


preserve the specified attributes (default: mode,ownership,timestamps), if possible additional attributes: context, links, xattr, all


deprecated, same as --preserve=context


don't preserve the specified attributes


use full source file name under DIRECTORY

-R, -r, --recursive

copy directories recursively


control clone/CoW copies. See below


remove each existing destination file before attempting to open it (contrast with --force)


control creation of sparse files. See below


remove any trailing slashes from each SOURCE argument

-s, --symbolic-link

make symbolic links instead of copying

-S, --suffix=SUFFIX

override the usual backup suffix

-t, --target-directory=DIRECTORY

copy all SOURCE arguments into DIRECTORY

-T, --no-target-directory

treat DEST as a normal file

-u, --update

copy only when the SOURCE file is newer than the destination file or when the destination file is missing

-v, --verbose

explain what is being done

-x, --one-file-system

stay on this file system


set SELinux security context of destination file to default type


like -Z, or if CTX is specified then set the SELinux or SMACK security context to CTX


display this help and exit


output version information and exit

By default, sparse SOURCE files are detected by a crude heuristic and the corresponding DEST file is made sparse as well.  That is the behavior selected by --sparse=auto.  Specify --sparse=always to create a sparse DEST file whenever the SOURCE file contains a long enough sequence of zero bytes. Use --sparse=never to inhibit creation of sparse files.

When --reflink[=always] is specified, perform a lightweight copy, where the data blocks are copied only when modified.  If this is not possible the copy fails, or if --reflink=auto is specified, fall back to a standard copy.

The backup suffix is '~', unless set with --suffix or SIMPLE_BACKUP_SUFFIX. The version control method may be selected via the --backup option or through the VERSION_CONTROL environment variable.  Here are the values:

none, off

never make backups (even if --backup is given)

numbered, t

make numbered backups

existing, nil

numbered if numbered backups exist, simple otherwise

simple, never

always make simple backups

As a special case, cp makes a backup of SOURCE when the force and backup options are given and SOURCE and DEST are the same name for an existing, regular file.


Written by Torbjorn Granlund, David MacKenzie, and Jim Meyering.

Reporting Bugs

GNU coreutils online help: <https://www.gnu.org/software/coreutils/>
Report cp translation bugs to <https://translationproject.org/team/>

See Also

Full documentation at: <https://www.gnu.org/software/coreutils/cp>
or available locally via: info '(coreutils) cp invocation'

Referenced By

acl(5), cpdup(1), cpuset(7), dccp(1), enca(1), gdbm(3), gio(1), guestfs-recipes(1), icmd(1), memcp(1), mksh(1), mkswap(8), mmv(1), obnam(1), ptrash(1), rbldnsd(8), rcp(1), rsnapshot(1), rsync(1), spax(1), symlink(7), virt-sysprep(1).

December 2017 GNU coreutils 8.29 User Commands