rsync man page

rsync — a fast, versatile, remote (and local) file-copying tool


rsync {{path/to/file}} {{remote_host_name}}:{{remote_host_location}}

rsync {{remote_host_name}}:{{remote_file_location}} {{local_file_location}}

rsync -az {{path/to/file}} {{remote_host_name}}:{{remote_host_location}}

rsync -r {{remote_host_name}}:{{remote_folder_location}} {{local_folder_location}}

rsync -ru {{remote_host_name}}:{{remote_folder_location}} {{local_folder_location}}

rsync -e ssh --progress {{remote_host_name}}:{{remote_file}} {{local_file}}


Local:  rsync [OPTION...] SRC... [DEST]

Access via remote shell:
  Pull: rsync [OPTION...] [USER@]HOST:SRC... [DEST]
  Push: rsync [OPTION...] SRC... [USER@]HOST:DEST

Access via rsync daemon:
  Pull: rsync [OPTION...] [USER@]HOST::SRC... [DEST]
        rsync [OPTION...] rsync://[USER@]HOST[:PORT]/SRC... [DEST]
  Push: rsync [OPTION...] SRC... [USER@]HOST::DEST
        rsync [OPTION...] SRC... rsync://[USER@]HOST[:PORT]/DEST

Usages with just one SRC arg and no DEST arg will list the source files instead of copying.


Rsync is a fast and extraordinarily versatile file copying tool.  It can copy locally, to/from another host over any remote shell, or to/from a remote rsync daemon.  It offers a large number of options that control every aspect of its behavior and permit very flexible specification of the set of files to be copied.  It is famous for its delta-transfer algorithm, which reduces the amount of data sent over the network by sending only the differences between the source files and the existing files in the destination.  Rsync is widely used for backups and mirroring and as an improved copy command for everyday use.

Rsync finds files that need to be transferred using a "quick check" algorithm (by default) that looks for files that have changed in size or in last-modified time.  Any changes in the other preserved attributes (as requested by options) are made on the destination file directly when the quick check indicates that the file’s data does not need to be updated.

Some of the additional features of rsync are:


Rsync copies files either to or from a remote host, or locally on the current host (it does not support copying files between two remote hosts).

There are two different ways for rsync to contact a remote system: using a remote-shell program as the transport (such as ssh or rsh) or contacting an rsync daemon directly via TCP.  The remote-shell transport is used whenever the source or destination path contains a single colon (:) separator after a host specification.  Contacting an rsync daemon directly happens when the source or destination path contains a double colon (::) separator after a host specification, OR when an rsync:// URL is specified (see also the "Using Rsync-Daemon Features Via a Remote-Shell Connection" section for an exception to this latter rule).

As a special case, if a single source arg is specified without a destination, the files are listed in an output format similar to "ls -l".

As expected, if neither the source or destination path specify a remote host, the copy occurs locally (see also the --list-only option).

Rsync refers to the local side as the "client" and the remote side as the "server".  Don’t confuse "server" with an rsync daemon -- a daemon is always a server, but a server can be either a daemon or a remote-shell spawned process.


See the file README for installation instructions.

Once installed, you can use rsync to any machine that you can access via a remote shell (as well as some that you can access using the rsync daemon-mode protocol).  For remote transfers, a modern rsync uses ssh for its communications, but it may have been configured to use a different remote shell by default, such as rsh or remsh.

You can also specify any remote shell you like, either by using the -e command line option, or by setting the RSYNC_RSH environment variable.

Note that rsync must be installed on both the source and destination machines.


You use rsync in the same way you use rcp. You must specify a source and a destination, one of which may be remote.

Perhaps the best way to explain the syntax is with some examples:

rsync -t *.c foo:src/

This would transfer all files matching the pattern *.c from the current directory to the directory src on the machine foo. If any of the files already exist on the remote system then the rsync remote-update protocol is used to update the file by sending only the differences in the data.  Note that the expansion of wildcards on the commandline (*.c) into a list of files is handled by the shell before it runs rsync and not by rsync itself (exactly the same as all other posix-style programs).

rsync -avz foo:src/bar /data/tmp

This would recursively transfer all files from the directory src/bar on the machine foo into the /data/tmp/bar directory on the local machine. The files are transferred in "archive" mode, which ensures that symbolic links, devices, attributes, permissions, ownerships, etc. are preserved in the transfer.  Additionally, compression will be used to reduce the size of data portions of the transfer.

rsync -avz foo:src/bar/ /data/tmp

A trailing slash on the source changes this behavior to avoid creating an additional directory level at the destination.  You can think of a trailing / on a source as meaning "copy the contents of this directory" as opposed to "copy the directory by name", but in both cases the attributes of the containing directory are transferred to the containing directory on the destination.  In other words, each of the following commands copies the files in the same way, including their setting of the attributes of /dest/foo:

rsync -av /src/foo /dest
rsync -av /src/foo/ /dest/foo

Note also that host and module references don’t require a trailing slash to copy the contents of the default directory.  For example, both of these copy the remote directory’s contents into "/dest":

rsync -av host: /dest
rsync -av host::module /dest

You can also use rsync in local-only mode, where both the source and destination don’t have a ’:’ in the name. In this case it behaves like an improved copy command.

Finally, you can list all the (listable) modules available from a particular rsync daemon by leaving off the module name:


See the following section for more details.

Advanced Usage

The syntax for requesting multiple files from a remote host is done by specifying additional remote-host args in the same style as the first, or with the hostname omitted.  For instance, all these work:

rsync -av host:file1 :file2 host:file{3,4} /dest/
rsync -av host::modname/file{1,2} host::modname/file3 /dest/
rsync -av host::modname/file1 ::modname/file{3,4}

Older versions of rsync required using quoted spaces in the SRC, like these examples:

rsync -av host:'dir1/file1 dir2/file2' /dest
rsync host::'modname/dir1/file1 modname/dir2/file2' /dest

This word-splitting still works (by default) in the latest rsync, but is not as easy to use as the first method.

If you need to transfer a filename that contains whitespace, you can either specify the --protect-args (-s) option, or you’ll need to escape the whitespace in a way that the remote shell will understand.  For instance:

rsync -av host:'file\ name\ with\ spaces' /dest

Connecting to an Rsync Daemon

It is also possible to use rsync without a remote shell as the transport. In this case you will directly connect to a remote rsync daemon, typically using TCP port 873.  (This obviously requires the daemon to be running on the remote system, so refer to the Starting an Rsync Daemon to Accept Connections section below for information on that.)

Using rsync in this way is the same as using it with a remote shell except that:

An example that copies all the files in a remote module named "src":

    rsync -av host::src /dest

Some modules on the remote daemon may require authentication. If so, you will receive a password prompt when you connect. You can avoid the password prompt by setting the environment variable RSYNC_PASSWORD to the password you want to use or using the --password-file option. This may be useful when scripting rsync.

WARNING: On some systems environment variables are visible to all users. On those systems using --password-file is recommended.

You may establish the connection via a web proxy by setting the environment variable RSYNC_PROXY to a hostname:port pair pointing to your web proxy.  Note that your web proxy’s configuration must support proxy connections to port 873.

You may also establish a daemon connection using a program as a proxy by setting the environment variable RSYNC_CONNECT_PROG to the commands you wish to run in place of making a direct socket connection.  The string may contain the escape "%H" to represent the hostname specified in the rsync command (so use "%%" if you need a single "%" in your string).  For example:

  export RSYNC_CONNECT_PROG='ssh proxyhost nc %H 873'
  rsync -av targethost1::module/src/ /dest/
  rsync -av rsync:://targethost2/module/src/ /dest/ 

The command specified above uses ssh to run nc (netcat) on a proxyhost, which forwards all data to port 873 (the rsync daemon) on the targethost (%H).

Using Rsync-Daemon Features Via a Remote-Shell Connection

It is sometimes useful to use various features of an rsync daemon (such as named modules) without actually allowing any new socket connections into a system (other than what is already required to allow remote-shell access). Rsync supports connecting to a host using a remote shell and then spawning a single-use "daemon" server that expects to read its config file in the home dir of the remote user.  This can be useful if you want to encrypt a daemon-style transfer’s data, but since the daemon is started up fresh by the remote user, you may not be able to use features such as chroot or change the uid used by the daemon.  (For another way to encrypt a daemon transfer, consider using ssh to tunnel a local port to a remote machine and configure a normal rsync daemon on that remote host to only allow connections from "localhost".)

From the user’s perspective, a daemon transfer via a remote-shell connection uses nearly the same command-line syntax as a normal rsync-daemon transfer, with the only exception being that you must explicitly set the remote shell program on the command-line with the --rsh=COMMAND option.  (Setting the RSYNC_RSH in the environment will not turn on this functionality.)  For example:

    rsync -av --rsh=ssh host::module /dest

If you need to specify a different remote-shell user, keep in mind that the user@ prefix in front of the host is specifying the rsync-user value (for a module that requires user-based authentication).  This means that you must give the ’-l user’ option to ssh when specifying the remote-shell, as in this example that uses the short version of the --rsh option:

    rsync -av -e "ssh -l ssh-user" rsync-user@host::module /dest

The "ssh-user" will be used at the ssh level; the "rsync-user" will be used to log-in to the "module".

Starting an Rsync Daemon to Accept Connections

In order to connect to an rsync daemon, the remote system needs to have a daemon already running (or it needs to have configured something like inetd to spawn an rsync daemon for incoming connections on a particular port). For full information on how to start a daemon that will handling incoming socket connections, see the rsyncd.conf(5) man page -- that is the config file for the daemon, and it contains the full details for how to run the daemon (including stand-alone and inetd configurations).

If you’re using one of the remote-shell transports for the transfer, there is no need to manually start an rsync daemon.

Sorted Transfer Order

Rsync always sorts the specified filenames into its internal transfer list. This handles the merging together of the contents of identically named directories, makes it easy to remove duplicate filenames, and may confuse someone when the files are transferred in a different order than what was given on the command-line.

If you need a particular file to be transferred prior to another, either separate the files into different rsync calls, or consider using --delay-updates (which doesn’t affect the sorted transfer order, but does make the final file-updating phase happen much more rapidly).


Here are some examples of how I use rsync.

To backup my wife’s home directory, which consists of large MS Word files and mail folders, I use a cron job that runs

rsync -Cavz . arvidsjaur:backup

each night over a PPP connection to a duplicate directory on my machine "arvidsjaur".

To synchronize my samba source trees I use the following Makefile targets:

            rsync -avuzb --exclude '*~' samba:samba/ .
            rsync -Cavuzb . samba:samba/
    sync: get put

this allows me to sync with a CVS directory at the other end of the connection. I then do CVS operations on the remote machine, which saves a lot of time as the remote CVS protocol isn’t very efficient.

I mirror a directory between my "old" and "new" ftp sites with the command:

rsync -az -e ssh --delete ~ftp/pub/samba nimbus:"~ftp/pub/tridge"

This is launched from cron every few hours.

Options Summary

Here is a short summary of the options available in rsync. Please refer to the detailed description below for a complete description.  

 -v, --verbose               increase verbosity
     --info=FLAGS            fine-grained informational verbosity
     --debug=FLAGS           fine-grained debug verbosity
     --msgs2stderr           special output handling for debugging
 -q, --quiet                 suppress non-error messages
     --no-motd               suppress daemon-mode MOTD (see caveat)
 -c, --checksum              skip based on checksum, not mod-time & size
 -a, --archive               archive mode; equals -rlptgoD (no -H,-A,-X)
     --no-OPTION             turn off an implied OPTION (e.g. --no-D)
 -r, --recursive             recurse into directories
 -R, --relative              use relative path names
     --no-implied-dirs       don't send implied dirs with --relative
 -b, --backup                make backups (see --suffix & --backup-dir)
     --backup-dir=DIR        make backups into hierarchy based in DIR
     --suffix=SUFFIX         backup suffix (default ~ w/o --backup-dir)
 -u, --update                skip files that are newer on the receiver
     --inplace               update destination files in-place
     --append                append data onto shorter files
     --append-verify         --append w/old data in file checksum
 -d, --dirs                  transfer directories without recursing
 -l, --links                 copy symlinks as symlinks
 -L, --copy-links            transform symlink into referent file/dir
     --copy-unsafe-links     only "unsafe" symlinks are transformed
     --safe-links            ignore symlinks that point outside the tree
     --munge-links           munge symlinks to make them safer
 -k, --copy-dirlinks         transform symlink to dir into referent dir
 -K, --keep-dirlinks         treat symlinked dir on receiver as dir
 -H, --hard-links            preserve hard links
 -p, --perms                 preserve permissions
 -E, --executability         preserve executability
     --chmod=CHMOD           affect file and/or directory permissions
 -A, --acls                  preserve ACLs (implies -p)
 -X, --xattrs                preserve extended attributes
 -o, --owner                 preserve owner (super-user only)
 -g, --group                 preserve group
     --devices               preserve device files (super-user only)
     --copy-devices          copy device contents as regular file
     --specials              preserve special files
 -D                          same as --devices --specials
 -t, --times                 preserve modification times
 -O, --omit-dir-times        omit directories from --times
 -J, --omit-link-times       omit symlinks from --times
     --super                 receiver attempts super-user activities
     --fake-super            store/recover privileged attrs using xattrs
 -S, --sparse                handle sparse files efficiently
     --preallocate           allocate dest files before writing
 -n, --dry-run               perform a trial run with no changes made
 -W, --whole-file            copy files whole (w/o delta-xfer algorithm)
 -x, --one-file-system       don't cross filesystem boundaries
 -B, --block-size=SIZE       force a fixed checksum block-size
 -e, --rsh=COMMAND           specify the remote shell to use
     --rsync-path=PROGRAM    specify the rsync to run on remote machine
     --existing              skip creating new files on receiver
     --ignore-existing       skip updating files that exist on receiver
     --remove-source-files   sender removes synchronized files (non-dir)
     --del                   an alias for --delete-during
     --delete                delete extraneous files from dest dirs
     --delete-before         receiver deletes before xfer, not during
     --delete-during         receiver deletes during the transfer
     --delete-delay          find deletions during, delete after
     --delete-after          receiver deletes after transfer, not during
     --delete-excluded       also delete excluded files from dest dirs
     --ignore-missing-args   ignore missing source args without error
     --delete-missing-args   delete missing source args from destination
     --ignore-errors         delete even if there are I/O errors
     --force                 force deletion of dirs even if not empty
     --max-delete=NUM        don't delete more than NUM files
     --max-size=SIZE         don't transfer any file larger than SIZE
     --min-size=SIZE         don't transfer any file smaller than SIZE
     --partial               keep partially transferred files
     --partial-dir=DIR       put a partially transferred file into DIR
     --delay-updates         put all updated files into place at end
 -m, --prune-empty-dirs      prune empty directory chains from file-list
     --numeric-ids           don't map uid/gid values by user/group name
     --usermap=STRING        custom username mapping
     --groupmap=STRING       custom groupname mapping
     --chown=USER:GROUP      simple username/groupname mapping
     --timeout=SECONDS       set I/O timeout in seconds
     --contimeout=SECONDS    set daemon connection timeout in seconds
 -I, --ignore-times          don't skip files that match size and time
     --size-only             skip files that match in size
     --modify-window=NUM     compare mod-times with reduced accuracy
 -T, --temp-dir=DIR          create temporary files in directory DIR
 -y, --fuzzy                 find similar file for basis if no dest file
     --compare-dest=DIR      also compare received files relative to DIR
     --copy-dest=DIR         ... and include copies of unchanged files
     --link-dest=DIR         hardlink to files in DIR when unchanged
 -z, --compress              compress file data during the transfer
     --compress-level=NUM    explicitly set compression level
     --skip-compress=LIST    skip compressing files with suffix in LIST
 -C, --cvs-exclude           auto-ignore files in the same way CVS does
 -f, --filter=RULE           add a file-filtering RULE
 -F                          same as --filter='dir-merge /.rsync-filter'
                             repeated: --filter='- .rsync-filter'
     --exclude=PATTERN       exclude files matching PATTERN
     --exclude-from=FILE     read exclude patterns from FILE
     --include=PATTERN       don't exclude files matching PATTERN
     --include-from=FILE     read include patterns from FILE
     --files-from=FILE       read list of source-file names from FILE
 -0, --from0                 all *from/filter files are delimited by 0s
 -s, --protect-args          no space-splitting; wildcard chars only
     --address=ADDRESS       bind address for outgoing socket to daemon
     --port=PORT             specify double-colon alternate port number
     --sockopts=OPTIONS      specify custom TCP options
     --blocking-io           use blocking I/O for the remote shell
     --outbuf=N|L|B          set out buffering to None, Line, or Block
     --stats                 give some file-transfer stats
 -8, --8-bit-output          leave high-bit chars unescaped in output
 -h, --human-readable        output numbers in a human-readable format
     --progress              show progress during transfer
 -P                          same as --partial --progress
 -i, --itemize-changes       output a change-summary for all updates
 -M, --remote-option=OPTION  send OPTION to the remote side only
     --out-format=FORMAT     output updates using the specified FORMAT
     --log-file=FILE         log what we're doing to the specified FILE
     --log-file-format=FMT   log updates using the specified FMT
     --password-file=FILE    read daemon-access password from FILE
     --list-only             list the files instead of copying them
     --bwlimit=RATE          limit socket I/O bandwidth
     --write-batch=FILE      write a batched update to FILE
     --only-write-batch=FILE like --write-batch but w/o updating dest
     --read-batch=FILE       read a batched update from FILE
     --protocol=NUM          force an older protocol version to be used
     --iconv=CONVERT_SPEC    request charset conversion of filenames
     --checksum-seed=NUM     set block/file checksum seed (advanced)
 -4, --ipv4                  prefer IPv4
 -6, --ipv6                  prefer IPv6
     --version               print version number
(-h) --help                  show this help (see below for -h comment)

Rsync can also be run as a daemon, in which case the following options are accepted:

     --daemon                run as an rsync daemon
     --address=ADDRESS       bind to the specified address
     --bwlimit=RATE          limit socket I/O bandwidth
     --config=FILE           specify alternate rsyncd.conf file
 -M, --dparam=OVERRIDE       override global daemon config parameter
     --no-detach             do not detach from the parent
     --port=PORT             listen on alternate port number
     --log-file=FILE         override the "log file" setting
     --log-file-format=FMT   override the "log format" setting
     --sockopts=OPTIONS      specify custom TCP options
 -v, --verbose               increase verbosity
 -4, --ipv4                  prefer IPv4
 -6, --ipv6                  prefer IPv6
 -h, --help                  show this help (if used after --daemon)


Rsync accepts both long (double-dash + word) and short (single-dash + letter) options.  The full list of the available options are described below.  If an option can be specified in more than one way, the choices are comma-separated. Some options only have a long variant, not a short.  If the option takes a parameter, the parameter is only listed after the long variant, even though it must also be specified for the short.  When specifying a parameter, you can either use the form --option=param or replace the ’=’ with whitespace.  The parameter may need to be quoted in some manner for it to survive the shell’s command-line parsing.  Keep in mind that a leading tilde (~) in a filename is substituted by your shell, so --option=~/foo will not change the tilde into your home directory (remove the ’=’ for that).


Print a short help page describing the options available in rsync and exit.  For backward-compatibility with older versions of rsync, the help will also be output if you use the -h option without any other args.


print the rsync version number and exit.

-v, --verbose

This option increases the amount of information you are given during the transfer.  By default, rsync works silently. A single -v will give you information about what files are being transferred and a brief summary at the end. Two -v options will give you information on what files are being skipped and slightly more information at the end. More than two -v options should only be used if you are debugging rsync.

In a modern rsync, the -v option is equivalent to the setting of groups of --info and --debug options.  You can choose to use these newer options in addition to, or in place of using --verbose, as any fine-grained settings override the implied settings of -v.  Both --info and --debug have a way to ask for help that tells you exactly what flags are set for each increase in verbosity.

However, do keep in mind that a daemon’s "max verbosity" setting will limit how high of a level the various individual flags can be set on the daemon side. For instance, if the max is 2, then any info and/or debug flag that is set to a higher value than what would be set by -vv will be downgraded to the -vv level in the daemon’s logging.


This option lets you have fine-grained control over the information output you want to see.  An individual flag name may be followed by a level number, with 0 meaning to silence that output, 1 being the default output level, and higher numbers increasing the output of that flag (for those that support higher levels).  Use --info=help to see all the available flag names, what they output, and what flag names are added for each increase in the verbose level.  Some examples:

    rsync -a --info=progress2 src/ dest/
    rsync -avv --info=stats2,misc1,flist0 src/ dest/ 

Note that --info=name’s output is affected by the --out-format and --itemize-changes (-i) options.  See those options for more information on what is output and when.

This option was added to 3.1.0, so an older rsync on the server side might reject your attempts at fine-grained control (if one or more flags needed to be send to the server and the server was too old to understand them). See also the "max verbosity" caveat above when dealing with a daemon.


This option lets you have fine-grained control over the debug output you want to see.  An individual flag name may be followed by a level number, with 0 meaning to silence that output, 1 being the default output level, and higher numbers increasing the output of that flag (for those that support higher levels).  Use --debug=help to see all the available flag names, what they output, and what flag names are added for each increase in the verbose level.  Some examples:

    rsync -avvv --debug=none src/ dest/
    rsync -avA --del --debug=del2,acl src/ dest/ 

Note that some debug messages will only be output when --msgs2stderr is specified, especially those pertaining to I/O and buffer debugging.

This option was added to 3.1.0, so an older rsync on the server side might reject your attempts at fine-grained control (if one or more flags needed to be send to the server and the server was too old to understand them). See also the "max verbosity" caveat above when dealing with a daemon.


This option changes rsync to send all its output directly to stderr rather than to send messages to the client side via the protocol (which normally outputs info messages via stdout).  This is mainly intended for debugging in order to avoid changing the data sent via the protocol, since the extra protocol data can change what is being tested. The option does not affect the remote side of a transfer without using --remote-option -- e.g. -M--msgs2stderr. Also keep in mind that a daemon connection does not have a stderr channel to send messages back to the client side, so if you are doing any daemon-transfer debugging using this option, you should start up a daemon using --no-detach so that you can see the stderr output on the daemon side.

This option has the side-effect of making stderr output get line-buffered so that the merging of the output of 3 programs happens in a more readable manner.

-q, --quiet

This option decreases the amount of information you are given during the transfer, notably suppressing information messages from the remote server. This option is useful when invoking rsync from cron.


This option affects the information that is output by the client at the start of a daemon transfer.  This suppresses the message-of-the-day (MOTD) text, but it also affects the list of modules that the daemon sends in response to the "rsync host::" request (due to a limitation in the rsync protocol), so omit this option if you want to request the list of modules from the daemon.

-I, --ignore-times

Normally rsync will skip any files that are already the same size and have the same modification timestamp. This option turns off this "quick check" behavior, causing all files to be updated.


This modifies rsync’s "quick check" algorithm for finding files that need to be transferred, changing it from the default of transferring files with either a changed size or a changed last-modified time to just looking for files that have changed in size.  This is useful when starting to use rsync after using another mirroring system which may not preserve timestamps exactly.


When comparing two timestamps, rsync treats the timestamps as being equal if they differ by no more than the modify-window value.  This is normally 0 (for an exact match), but you may find it useful to set this to a larger value in some situations.  In particular, when transferring to or from an MS Windows FAT filesystem (which represents times with a 2-second resolution), --modify-window=1 is useful (allowing times to differ by up to 1 second).

-c, --checksum

This changes the way rsync checks if the files have been changed and are in need of a transfer.  Without this option, rsync uses a "quick check" that (by default) checks if each file’s size and time of last modification match between the sender and receiver.  This option changes this to compare a 128-bit checksum for each file that has a matching size.  Generating the checksums means that both sides will expend a lot of disk I/O reading all the data in the files in the transfer (and this is prior to any reading that will be done to transfer changed files), so this can slow things down significantly.

The sending side generates its checksums while it is doing the file-system scan that builds the list of the available files.  The receiver generates its checksums when it is scanning for changed files, and will checksum any file that has the same size as the corresponding sender’s file:  files with either a changed size or a changed checksum are selected for transfer.

Note that rsync always verifies that each transferred file was correctly reconstructed on the receiving side by checking a whole-file checksum that is generated as the file is transferred, but that automatic after-the-transfer verification has nothing to do with this option’s before-the-transfer "Does this file need to be updated?" check.

For protocol 30 and beyond (first supported in 3.0.0), the checksum used is MD5.  For older protocols, the checksum used is MD4.

-a, --archive

This is equivalent to -rlptgoD. It is a quick way of saying you want recursion and want to preserve almost everything (with -H being a notable omission). The only exception to the above equivalence is when --files-from is specified, in which case -r is not implied.

Note that -a does not preserve hardlinks, because finding multiply-linked files is expensive.  You must separately specify -H.


You may turn off one or more implied options by prefixing the option name with "no-".  Not all options may be prefixed with a "no-": only options that are implied by other options (e.g. --no-D, --no-perms) or have different defaults in various circumstances (e.g. --no-whole-file, --no-blocking-io, --no-dirs).  You may specify either the short or the long option name after the "no-" prefix (e.g. --no-R is the same as --no-relative).

For example: if you want to use -a (--archive) but don’t want -o (--owner), instead of converting -a into -rlptgD, you could specify -a --no-o (or -a --no-owner).

The order of the options is important:  if you specify --no-r -a, the -r option would end up being turned on, the opposite of -a --no-r. Note also that the side-effects of the --files-from option are NOT positional, as it affects the default state of several options and slightly changes the meaning of -a (see the --files-from option for more details).

-r, --recursive

This tells rsync to copy directories recursively.  See also --dirs (-d).

Beginning with rsync 3.0.0, the recursive algorithm used is now an incremental scan that uses much less memory than before and begins the transfer after the scanning of the first few directories have been completed.  This incremental scan only affects our recursion algorithm, and does not change a non-recursive transfer.  It is also only possible when both ends of the transfer are at least version 3.0.0.

Some options require rsync to know the full file list, so these options disable the incremental recursion mode.  These include: --delete-before, --delete-after, --prune-empty-dirs, and --delay-updates. Because of this, the default delete mode when you specify --delete is now --delete-during when both ends of the connection are at least 3.0.0 (use --del or --delete-during to request this improved deletion mode explicitly).  See also the --delete-delay option that is a better choice than using --delete-after.

Incremental recursion can be disabled using the --no-inc-recursive option or its shorter --no-i-r alias.

-R, --relative

Use relative paths. This means that the full path names specified on the command line are sent to the server rather than just the last parts of the filenames. This is particularly useful when you want to send several different directories at the same time. For example, if you used this command:

  rsync -av /foo/bar/baz.c remote:/tmp/

... this would create a file named baz.c in /tmp/ on the remote machine. If instead you used

  rsync -avR /foo/bar/baz.c remote:/tmp/

then a file named /tmp/foo/bar/baz.c would be created on the remote machine, preserving its full path.  These extra path elements are called "implied directories" (i.e. the "foo" and the "foo/bar" directories in the above example).

Beginning with rsync 3.0.0, rsync always sends these implied directories as real directories in the file list, even if a path element is really a symlink on the sending side.  This prevents some really unexpected behaviors when copying the full path of a file that you didn’t realize had a symlink in its path.  If you want to duplicate a server-side symlink, include both the symlink via its path, and referent directory via its real path.  If you’re dealing with an older rsync on the sending side, you may need to use the --no-implied-dirs option.

It is also possible to limit the amount of path information that is sent as implied directories for each path you specify.  With a modern rsync on the sending side (beginning with 2.6.7), you can insert a dot and a slash into the source path, like this:

  rsync -avR /foo/./bar/baz.c remote:/tmp/

That would create /tmp/bar/baz.c on the remote machine.  (Note that the dot must be followed by a slash, so "/foo/." would not be abbreviated.) For older rsync versions, you would need to use a chdir to limit the source path.  For example, when pushing files:

  (cd /foo; rsync -avR bar/baz.c remote:/tmp/)

(Note that the parens put the two commands into a sub-shell, so that the "cd" command doesn’t remain in effect for future commands.) If you’re pulling files from an older rsync, use this idiom (but only for a non-daemon transfer):

  rsync -avR --rsync-path="cd /foo; rsync" \
      remote:bar/baz.c /tmp/


This option affects the default behavior of the --relative option.  When it is specified, the attributes of the implied directories from the source names are not included in the transfer.  This means that the corresponding path elements on the destination system are left unchanged if they exist, and any missing implied directories are created with default attributes.  This even allows these implied path elements to have big differences, such as being a symlink to a directory on the receiving side.

For instance, if a command-line arg or a files-from entry told rsync to transfer the file "path/foo/file", the directories "path" and "path/foo" are implied when --relative is used.  If "path/foo" is a symlink to "bar" on the destination system, the receiving rsync would ordinarily delete "path/foo", recreate it as a directory, and receive the file into the new directory.  With --no-implied-dirs, the receiving rsync updates "path/foo/file" using the existing path elements, which means that the file ends up being created in "path/bar".  Another way to accomplish this link preservation is to use the --keep-dirlinks option (which will also affect symlinks to directories in the rest of the transfer).

When pulling files from an rsync older than 3.0.0, you may need to use this option if the sending side has a symlink in the path you request and you wish the implied directories to be transferred as normal directories.

-b, --backup

With this option, preexisting destination files are renamed as each file is transferred or deleted.  You can control where the backup file goes and what (if any) suffix gets appended using the --backup-dir and --suffix options.

Note that if you don’t specify --backup-dir, (1) the --omit-dir-times option will be implied, and (2) if --delete is also in effect (without --delete-excluded), rsync will add a "protect" filter-rule for the backup suffix to the end of all your existing excludes (e.g. -f "P *~").  This will prevent previously backed-up files from being deleted.  Note that if you are supplying your own filter rules, you may need to manually insert your own exclude/protect rule somewhere higher up in the list so that it has a high enough priority to be effective (e.g., if your rules specify a trailing inclusion/exclusion of ’*’, the auto-added rule would never be reached).


In combination with the --backup option, this tells rsync to store all backups in the specified directory on the receiving side.  This can be used for incremental backups.  You can additionally specify a backup suffix using the --suffix option (otherwise the files backed up in the specified directory will keep their original filenames).

Note that if you specify a relative path, the backup directory will be relative to the destination directory, so you probably want to specify either an absolute path or a path that starts with "../".  If an rsync daemon is the receiver, the backup dir cannot go outside the module’s path hierarchy, so take extra care not to delete it or copy into it.


This option allows you to override the default backup suffix used with the --backup (-b) option. The default suffix is a ~ if no --backup-dir was specified, otherwise it is an empty string.

-u, --update

This forces rsync to skip any files which exist on the destination and have a modified time that is newer than the source file.  (If an existing destination file has a modification time equal to the source file’s, it will be updated if the sizes are different.)

Note that this does not affect the copying of dirs, symlinks, or other special files.  Also, a difference of file format between the sender and receiver is always considered to be important enough for an update, no matter what date is on the objects.  In other words, if the source has a directory where the destination has a file, the transfer would occur regardless of the timestamps.

This option is a transfer rule, not an exclude, so it doesn’t affect the data that goes into the file-lists, and thus it doesn’t affect deletions. It just limits the files that the receiver requests to be transferred.


This option changes how rsync transfers a file when its data needs to be updated: instead of the default method of creating a new copy of the file and moving it into place when it is complete, rsync instead writes the updated data directly to the destination file.

This has several effects:

  • Hard links are not broken.  This means the new data will be visible through other hard links to the destination file.  Moreover, attempts to copy differing source files onto a multiply-linked destination file will result in a "tug of war" with the destination data changing back and forth.
  • In-use binaries cannot be updated (either the OS will prevent this from happening, or binaries that attempt to swap-in their data will misbehave or crash).
  • The file’s data will be in an inconsistent state during the transfer and will be left that way if the transfer is interrupted or if an update fails.
  • A file that rsync cannot write to cannot be updated. While a super user can update any file, a normal user needs to be granted write permission for the open of the file for writing to be successful.
  • The efficiency of rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm may be reduced if some data in the destination file is overwritten before it can be copied to a position later in the file.  This does not apply if you use --backup, since rsync is smart enough to use the backup file as the basis file for the transfer.

WARNING: you should not use this option to update files that are being accessed by others, so be careful when choosing to use this for a copy.

This option is useful for transferring large files with block-based changes or appended data, and also on systems that are disk bound, not network bound.  It can also help keep a copy-on-write filesystem snapshot from diverging the entire contents of a file that only has minor changes.

The option implies --partial (since an interrupted transfer does not delete the file), but conflicts with --partial-dir and --delay-updates. Prior to rsync 2.6.4 --inplace was also incompatible with --compare-dest and --link-dest.


This causes rsync to update a file by appending data onto the end of the file, which presumes that the data that already exists on the receiving side is identical with the start of the file on the sending side.  If a file needs to be transferred and its size on the receiver is the same or longer than the size on the sender, the file is skipped.  This does not interfere with the updating of a file’s non-content attributes (e.g. permissions, ownership, etc.) when the file does not need to be transferred, nor does it affect the updating of any non-regular files. Implies --inplace, but does not conflict with --sparse (since it is always extending a file’s length).

The use of --append can be dangerous if you aren’t 100% sure that the files that are longer have only grown by the appending of data onto the end.  You should thus use include/exclude/filter rules to ensure that such a transfer is only affecting files that you know to be growing via appended data.


This works just like the --append option, but the existing data on the receiving side is included in the full-file checksum verification step, which will cause a file to be resent if the final verification step fails (rsync uses a normal, non-appending --inplace transfer for the resend).

Note: prior to rsync 3.0.0, the --append option worked like --append-verify, so if you are interacting with an older rsync (or the transfer is using a protocol prior to 30), specifying either append option will initiate an --append-verify transfer.

-d, --dirs

Tell the sending side to include any directories that are encountered.  Unlike --recursive, a directory’s contents are not copied unless the directory name specified is "." or ends with a trailing slash (e.g. ".", "dir/.", "dir/", etc.).  Without this option or the --recursive option, rsync will skip all directories it encounters (and output a message to that effect for each one).  If you specify both --dirs and --recursive, --recursive takes precedence.

The --dirs option is implied by the --files-from option or the --list-only option (including an implied --list-only usage) if --recursive wasn’t specified (so that directories are seen in the listing).  Specify --no-dirs (or --no-d) if you want to turn this off.

There is also a backward-compatibility helper option, --old-dirs (or --old-d) that tells rsync to use a hack of "-r --exclude=’/*/*’" to get an older rsync to list a single directory without recursing.

-l, --links

When symlinks are encountered, recreate the symlink on the destination.

-L, --copy-links

When symlinks are encountered, the item that they point to (the referent) is copied, rather than the symlink.  In older versions of rsync, this option also had the side-effect of telling the receiving side to follow symlinks, such as symlinks to directories.  In a modern rsync such as this one, you’ll need to specify --keep-dirlinks (-K) to get this extra behavior.  The only exception is when sending files to an rsync that is too old to understand -K -- in that case, the -L option will still have the side-effect of -K on that older receiving rsync.


This tells rsync to copy the referent of symbolic links that point outside the copied tree.  Absolute symlinks are also treated like ordinary files, and so are any symlinks in the source path itself when --relative is used.  This option has no additional effect if --copy-links was also specified.


This tells rsync to ignore any symbolic links which point outside the copied tree. All absolute symlinks are also ignored. Using this option in conjunction with --relative may give unexpected results.


This option tells rsync to (1) modify all symlinks on the receiving side in a way that makes them unusable but recoverable (see below), or (2) to unmunge symlinks on the sending side that had been stored in a munged state.  This is useful if you don’t quite trust the source of the data to not try to slip in a symlink to a unexpected place.

The way rsync disables the use of symlinks is to prefix each one with the string "/rsyncd-munged/".  This prevents the links from being used as long as that directory does not exist.  When this option is enabled, rsync will refuse to run if that path is a directory or a symlink to a directory.

The option only affects the client side of the transfer, so if you need it to affect the server, specify it via --remote-option.  (Note that in a local transfer, the client side is the sender.)

This option has no affect on a daemon, since the daemon configures whether it wants munged symlinks via its "munge symlinks" parameter.  See also the "munge-symlinks" perl script in the support directory of the source code.

-k, --copy-dirlinks

This option causes the sending side to treat a symlink to a directory as though it were a real directory.  This is useful if you don’t want symlinks to non-directories to be affected, as they would be using --copy-links.

Without this option, if the sending side has replaced a directory with a symlink to a directory, the receiving side will delete anything that is in the way of the new symlink, including a directory hierarchy (as long as --force or --delete is in effect).

See also --keep-dirlinks for an analogous option for the receiving side.

--copy-dirlinks applies to all symlinks to directories in the source.  If you want to follow only a few specified symlinks, a trick you can use is to pass them as additional source args with a trailing slash, using --relative to make the paths match up right.  For example:

rsync -r --relative src/./ src/./follow-me/ dest/

This works because rsync calls lstat(2) on the source arg as given, and the trailing slash makes lstat(2) follow the symlink, giving rise to a directory in the file-list which overrides the symlink found during the scan of "src/./".

-K, --keep-dirlinks

This option causes the receiving side to treat a symlink to a directory as though it were a real directory, but only if it matches a real directory from the sender.  Without this option, the receiver’s symlink would be deleted and replaced with a real directory.

For example, suppose you transfer a directory "foo" that contains a file "file", but "foo" is a symlink to directory "bar" on the receiver.  Without --keep-dirlinks, the receiver deletes symlink "foo", recreates it as a directory, and receives the file into the new directory.  With --keep-dirlinks, the receiver keeps the symlink and "file" ends up in "bar".

One note of caution:  if you use --keep-dirlinks, you must trust all the symlinks in the copy!  If it is possible for an untrusted user to create their own symlink to any directory, the user could then (on a subsequent copy) replace the symlink with a real directory and affect the content of whatever directory the symlink references.  For backup copies, you are better off using something like a bind mount instead of a symlink to modify your receiving hierarchy.

See also --copy-dirlinks for an analogous option for the sending side.

-H, --hard-links

This tells rsync to look for hard-linked files in the source and link together the corresponding files on the destination. Without this option, hard-linked files in the source are treated as though they were separate files.

This option does NOT necessarily ensure that the pattern of hard links on the destination exactly matches that on the source.  Cases in which the destination may end up with extra hard links include the following:

  • If the destination contains extraneous hard-links (more linking than what is present in the source file list), the copying algorithm will not break them explicitly.  However, if one or more of the paths have content differences, the normal file-update process will break those extra links (unless you are using the --inplace option).
  • If you specify a --link-dest directory that contains hard links, the linking of the destination files against the --link-dest files can cause some paths in the destination to become linked together due to the --link-dest associations.

Note that rsync can only detect hard links between files that are inside the transfer set.  If rsync updates a file that has extra hard-link connections to files outside the transfer, that linkage will be broken.  If you are tempted to use the --inplace option to avoid this breakage, be very careful that you know how your files are being updated so that you are certain that no unintended changes happen due to lingering hard links (and see the --inplace option for more caveats).

If incremental recursion is active (see --recursive), rsync may transfer a missing hard-linked file before it finds that another link for that contents exists elsewhere in the hierarchy.  This does not affect the accuracy of the transfer (i.e. which files are hard-linked together), just its efficiency (i.e. copying the data for a new, early copy of a hard-linked file that could have been found later in the transfer in another member of the hard-linked set of files).  One way to avoid this inefficiency is to disable incremental recursion using the --no-inc-recursive option.

-p, --perms

This option causes the receiving rsync to set the destination permissions to be the same as the source permissions.  (See also the --chmod option for a way to modify what rsync considers to be the source permissions.)

When this option is off, permissions are set as follows:

  • Existing files (including updated files) retain their existing permissions, though the --executability option might change just the execute permission for the file.
  • New files get their "normal" permission bits set to the source file’s permissions masked with the receiving directory’s default permissions (either the receiving process’s umask, or the permissions specified via the destination directory’s default ACL), and their special permission bits disabled except in the case where a new directory inherits a setgid bit from its parent directory.

Thus, when --perms and --executability are both disabled, rsync’s behavior is the same as that of other file-copy utilities, such as cp(1) and tar(1).

In summary: to give destination files (both old and new) the source permissions, use --perms.  To give new files the destination-default permissions (while leaving existing files unchanged), make sure that the --perms option is off and use --chmod=ugo=rwX (which ensures that all non-masked bits get enabled).  If you’d care to make this latter behavior easier to type, you could define a popt alias for it, such as putting this line in the file ~/.popt (the following defines the -Z option, and includes --no-g to use the default group of the destination dir):

  rsync alias -Z --no-p --no-g --chmod=ugo=rwX

You could then use this new option in a command such as this one:

  rsync -avZ src/ dest/

(Caveat: make sure that -a does not follow -Z, or it will re-enable the two "--no-*" options mentioned above.)

The preservation of the destination’s setgid bit on newly-created directories when --perms is off was added in rsync 2.6.7.  Older rsync versions erroneously preserved the three special permission bits for newly-created files when --perms was off, while overriding the destination’s setgid bit setting on a newly-created directory.  Default ACL observance was added to the ACL patch for rsync 2.6.7, so older (or non-ACL-enabled) rsyncs use the umask even if default ACLs are present. (Keep in mind that it is the version of the receiving rsync that affects these behaviors.)

-E, --executability

This option causes rsync to preserve the executability (or non-executability) of regular files when --perms is not enabled.  A regular file is considered to be executable if at least one ’x’ is turned on in its permissions.  When an existing destination file’s executability differs from that of the corresponding source file, rsync modifies the destination file’s permissions as follows:

  • To make a file non-executable, rsync turns off all its ’x’ permissions.
  • To make a file executable, rsync turns on each ’x’ permission that has a corresponding ’r’ permission enabled.

If --perms is enabled, this option is ignored.

-A, --acls

This option causes rsync to update the destination ACLs to be the same as the source ACLs. The option also implies --perms.

The source and destination systems must have compatible ACL entries for this option to work properly.  See the --fake-super option for a way to backup and restore ACLs that are not compatible.

-X, --xattrs

This option causes rsync to update the destination extended attributes to be the same as the source ones.

For systems that support extended-attribute namespaces, a copy being done by a super-user copies all namespaces except system.*.  A normal user only copies the user.* namespace.  To be able to backup and restore non-user namespaces as a normal user, see the --fake-super option.

Note that this option does not copy rsyncs special xattr values (e.g. those used by --fake-super) unless you repeat the option (e.g. -XX).  This "copy all xattrs" mode cannot be used with --fake-super.


This option tells rsync to apply one or more comma-separated "chmod" modes to the permission of the files in the transfer.  The resulting value is treated as though it were the permissions that the sending side supplied for the file, which means that this option can seem to have no effect on existing files if --perms is not enabled.

In addition to the normal parsing rules specified in the chmod(1) manpage, you can specify an item that should only apply to a directory by prefixing it with a ’D’, or specify an item that should only apply to a file by prefixing it with a ’F’.  For example, the following will ensure that all directories get marked set-gid, that no files are other-writable, that both are user-writable and group-writable, and that both have consistent executability across all bits:


Using octal mode numbers is also allowed:


It is also legal to specify multiple --chmod options, as each additional option is just appended to the list of changes to make.

See the --perms and --executability options for how the resulting permission value can be applied to the files in the transfer.

-o, --owner

This option causes rsync to set the owner of the destination file to be the same as the source file, but only if the receiving rsync is being run as the super-user (see also the --super and --fake-super options). Without this option, the owner of new and/or transferred files are set to the invoking user on the receiving side.

The preservation of ownership will associate matching names by default, but may fall back to using the ID number in some circumstances (see also the --numeric-ids option for a full discussion).

-g, --group

This option causes rsync to set the group of the destination file to be the same as the source file.  If the receiving program is not running as the super-user (or if --no-super was specified), only groups that the invoking user on the receiving side is a member of will be preserved. Without this option, the group is set to the default group of the invoking user on the receiving side.

The preservation of group information will associate matching names by default, but may fall back to using the ID number in some circumstances (see also the --numeric-ids option for a full discussion).


This option causes rsync to transfer character and block device files to the remote system to recreate these devices. This option has no effect if the receiving rsync is not run as the super-user (see also the --super and --fake-super options).


This option causes rsync to transfer special files such as named sockets and fifos.


The -D option is equivalent to --devices --specials.

-t, --times

This tells rsync to transfer modification times along with the files and update them on the remote system.  Note that if this option is not used, the optimization that excludes files that have not been modified cannot be effective; in other words, a missing -t or -a will cause the next transfer to behave as if it used -I, causing all files to be updated (though rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm will make the update fairly efficient if the files haven’t actually changed, you’re much better off using -t).

-O, --omit-dir-times

This tells rsync to omit directories when it is preserving modification times (see --times).  If NFS is sharing the directories on the receiving side, it is a good idea to use -O. This option is inferred if you use --backup without --backup-dir.

This option also has the side-effect of avoiding early creation of directories in incremental recursion copies.  The default --inc-recursive copying normally does an early-create pass of all the sub-directories in a parent directory in order for it to be able to then set the modify time of the parent directory right away (without having to delay that until a bunch of recursive copying has finished).  This early-create idiom is not necessary if directory modify times are not being preserved, so it is skipped.  Since early-create directories don’t have accurate mode, mtime, or ownership, the use of this option can help when someone wants to avoid these partially-finished directories.

-J, --omit-link-times

This tells rsync to omit symlinks when it is preserving modification times (see --times).


This tells the receiving side to attempt super-user activities even if the receiving rsync wasn’t run by the super-user.  These activities include: preserving users via the --owner option, preserving all groups (not just the current user’s groups) via the --groups option, and copying devices via the --devices option.  This is useful for systems that allow such activities without being the super-user, and also for ensuring that you will get errors if the receiving side isn’t being run as the super-user.  To turn off super-user activities, the super-user can use --no-super.


When this option is enabled, rsync simulates super-user activities by saving/restoring the privileged attributes via special extended attributes that are attached to each file (as needed).  This includes the file’s owner and group (if it is not the default), the file’s device info (device & special files are created as empty text files), and any permission bits that we won’t allow to be set on the real file (e.g. the real file gets u-s,g-s,o-t for safety) or that would limit the owner’s access (since the real super-user can always access/change a file, the files we create can always be accessed/changed by the creating user). This option also handles ACLs (if --acls was specified) and non-user extended attributes (if --xattrs was specified).

This is a good way to backup data without using a super-user, and to store ACLs from incompatible systems.

The --fake-super option only affects the side where the option is used. To affect the remote side of a remote-shell connection, use the --remote-option (-M) option:

 rsync -av -M--fake-super /src/ host:/dest/

For a local copy, this option affects both the source and the destination. If you wish a local copy to enable this option just for the destination files, specify -M--fake-super.  If you wish a local copy to enable this option just for the source files, combine --fake-super with -M--super.

This option is overridden by both --super and --no-super.

See also the "fake super" setting in the daemon’s rsyncd.conf file.

-S, --sparse

Try to handle sparse files efficiently so they take up less space on the destination.  Conflicts with --inplace because it’s not possible to overwrite data in a sparse fashion.


This tells the receiver to allocate each destination file to its eventual size before writing data to the file.  Rsync will only use the real filesystem-level preallocation support provided by Linux’s fallocate(2) system call or Cygwin’s posix_fallocate(3), not the slow glibc implementation that writes a zero byte into each block.

Without this option, larger files may not be entirely contiguous on the filesystem, but with this option rsync will probably copy more slowly.  If the destination is not an extent-supporting filesystem (such as ext4, xfs, NTFS, etc.), this option may have no positive effect at all.

-n, --dry-run

This makes rsync perform a trial run that doesn’t make any changes (and produces mostly the same output as a real run).  It is most commonly used in combination with the -v, --verbose and/or -i, --itemize-changes options to see what an rsync command is going to do before one actually runs it.

The output of --itemize-changes is supposed to be exactly the same on a dry run and a subsequent real run (barring intentional trickery and system call failures); if it isn’t, that’s a bug.  Other output should be mostly unchanged, but may differ in some areas.  Notably, a dry run does not send the actual data for file transfers, so --progress has no effect, the "bytes sent", "bytes received", "literal data", and "matched data" statistics are too small, and the "speedup" value is equivalent to a run where no file transfers were needed.

-W, --whole-file

With this option rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm is not used and the whole file is sent as-is instead.  The transfer may be faster if this option is used when the bandwidth between the source and destination machines is higher than the bandwidth to disk (especially when the "disk" is actually a networked filesystem).  This is the default when both the source and destination are specified as local paths, but only if no batch-writing option is in effect.

-x, --one-file-system

This tells rsync to avoid crossing a filesystem boundary when recursing.  This does not limit the user’s ability to specify items to copy from multiple filesystems, just rsync’s recursion through the hierarchy of each directory that the user specified, and also the analogous recursion on the receiving side during deletion.  Also keep in mind that rsync treats a "bind" mount to the same device as being on the same filesystem.

If this option is repeated, rsync omits all mount-point directories from the copy.  Otherwise, it includes an empty directory at each mount-point it encounters (using the attributes of the mounted directory because those of the underlying mount-point directory are inaccessible).

If rsync has been told to collapse symlinks (via --copy-links or --copy-unsafe-links), a symlink to a directory on another device is treated like a mount-point.  Symlinks to non-directories are unaffected by this option.

--existing, --ignore-non-existing

This tells rsync to skip creating files (including directories) that do not exist yet on the destination.  If this option is combined with the --ignore-existing option, no files will be updated (which can be useful if all you want to do is delete extraneous files).

This option is a transfer rule, not an exclude, so it doesn’t affect the data that goes into the file-lists, and thus it doesn’t affect deletions. It just limits the files that the receiver requests to be transferred.


This tells rsync to skip updating files that already exist on the destination (this does not ignore existing directories, or nothing would get done).  See also --existing.

This option is a transfer rule, not an exclude, so it doesn’t affect the data that goes into the file-lists, and thus it doesn’t affect deletions. It just limits the files that the receiver requests to be transferred.

This option can be useful for those doing backups using the --link-dest option when they need to continue a backup run that got interrupted.  Since a --link-dest run is copied into a new directory hierarchy (when it is used properly), using --ignore existing will ensure that the already-handled files don’t get tweaked (which avoids a change in permissions on the hard-linked files).  This does mean that this option is only looking at the existing files in the destination hierarchy itself.


This tells rsync to remove from the sending side the files (meaning non-directories) that are a part of the transfer and have been successfully duplicated on the receiving side.

Note that you should only use this option on source files that are quiescent. If you are using this to move files that show up in a particular directory over to another host, make sure that the finished files get renamed into the source directory, not directly written into it, so that rsync can’t possibly transfer a file that is not yet fully written.  If you can’t first write the files into a different directory, you should use a naming idiom that lets rsync avoid transferring files that are not yet finished (e.g. name the file "" when it is written, rename it to "foo" when it is done, and then use the option --exclude='*.new' for the rsync transfer).

Starting with 3.1.0, rsync will skip the sender-side removal (and output an error) if the file’s size or modify time has not stayed unchanged.


This tells rsync to delete extraneous files from the receiving side (ones that aren’t on the sending side), but only for the directories that are being synchronized.  You must have asked rsync to send the whole directory (e.g. "dir" or "dir/") without using a wildcard for the directory’s contents (e.g. "dir/*") since the wildcard is expanded by the shell and rsync thus gets a request to transfer individual files, not the files’ parent directory.  Files that are excluded from the transfer are also excluded from being deleted unless you use the --delete-excluded option or mark the rules as only matching on the sending side (see the include/exclude modifiers in the Filter Rules section).

Prior to rsync 2.6.7, this option would have no effect unless --recursive was enabled.  Beginning with 2.6.7, deletions will also occur when --dirs (-d) is enabled, but only for directories whose contents are being copied.

This option can be dangerous if used incorrectly!  It is a very good idea to first try a run using the --dry-run option (-n) to see what files are going to be deleted.

If the sending side detects any I/O errors, then the deletion of any files at the destination will be automatically disabled. This is to prevent temporary filesystem failures (such as NFS errors) on the sending side from causing a massive deletion of files on the destination.  You can override this with the --ignore-errors option.

The --delete option may be combined with one of the --delete-WHEN options without conflict, as well as --delete-excluded.  However, if none of the --delete-WHEN options are specified, rsync will choose the --delete-during algorithm when talking to rsync 3.0.0 or newer, and the --delete-before algorithm when talking to an older rsync.  See also --delete-delay and --delete-after.


Request that the file-deletions on the receiving side be done before the transfer starts. See --delete (which is implied) for more details on file-deletion.

Deleting before the transfer is helpful if the filesystem is tight for space and removing extraneous files would help to make the transfer possible. However, it does introduce a delay before the start of the transfer, and this delay might cause the transfer to timeout (if --timeout was specified).  It also forces rsync to use the old, non-incremental recursion algorithm that requires rsync to scan all the files in the transfer into memory at once (see --recursive).

--delete-during, --del

Request that the file-deletions on the receiving side be done incrementally as the transfer happens.  The per-directory delete scan is done right before each directory is checked for updates, so it behaves like a more efficient --delete-before, including doing the deletions prior to any per-directory filter files being updated.  This option was first added in rsync version 2.6.4. See --delete (which is implied) for more details on file-deletion.


Request that the file-deletions on the receiving side be computed during the transfer (like --delete-during), and then removed after the transfer completes.  This is useful when combined with --delay-updates and/or --fuzzy, and is more efficient than using --delete-after (but can behave differently, since --delete-after computes the deletions in a separate pass after all updates are done). If the number of removed files overflows an internal buffer, a temporary file will be created on the receiving side to hold the names (it is removed while open, so you shouldn’t see it during the transfer).  If the creation of the temporary file fails, rsync will try to fall back to using --delete-after (which it cannot do if --recursive is doing an incremental scan). See --delete (which is implied) for more details on file-deletion.


Request that the file-deletions on the receiving side be done after the transfer has completed.  This is useful if you are sending new per-directory merge files as a part of the transfer and you want their exclusions to take effect for the delete phase of the current transfer.  It also forces rsync to use the old, non-incremental recursion algorithm that requires rsync to scan all the files in the transfer into memory at once (see --recursive). See --delete (which is implied) for more details on file-deletion.


In addition to deleting the files on the receiving side that are not on the sending side, this tells rsync to also delete any files on the receiving side that are excluded (see --exclude). See the Filter Rules section for a way to make individual exclusions behave this way on the receiver, and for a way to protect files from --delete-excluded. See --delete (which is implied) for more details on file-deletion.


When rsync is first processing the explicitly requested source files (e.g. command-line arguments or --files-from entries), it is normally an error if the file cannot be found.  This option suppresses that error, and does not try to transfer the file.  This does not affect subsequent vanished-file errors if a file was initially found to be present and later is no longer there.


This option takes the behavior of (the implied) --ignore-missing-args option a step farther:  each missing arg will become a deletion request of the corresponding destination file on the receiving side (should it exist).  If the destination file is a non-empty directory, it will only be successfully deleted if --force or --delete are in effect.  Other than that, this option is independent of any other type of delete processing.

The missing source files are represented by special file-list entries which display as a "*missing" entry in the --list-only output.


Tells --delete to go ahead and delete files even when there are I/O errors.


This option tells rsync to delete a non-empty directory when it is to be replaced by a non-directory.  This is only relevant if deletions are not active (see --delete for details).

Note for older rsync versions: --force used to still be required when using --delete-after, and it used to be non-functional unless the --recursive option was also enabled.


This tells rsync not to delete more than NUM files or directories.  If that limit is exceeded, all further deletions are skipped through the end of the transfer.  At the end, rsync outputs a warning (including a count of the skipped deletions) and exits with an error code of 25 (unless some more important error condition also occurred).

Beginning with version 3.0.0, you may specify --max-delete=0 to be warned about any extraneous files in the destination without removing any of them. Older clients interpreted this as "unlimited", so if you don’t know what version the client is, you can use the less obvious --max-delete=-1 as a backward-compatible way to specify that no deletions be allowed (though really old versions didn’t warn when the limit was exceeded).


This tells rsync to avoid transferring any file that is larger than the specified SIZE. The SIZE value can be suffixed with a string to indicate a size multiplier, and may be a fractional value (e.g. "--max-size=1.5m").

This option is a transfer rule, not an exclude, so it doesn’t affect the data that goes into the file-lists, and thus it doesn’t affect deletions. It just limits the files that the receiver requests to be transferred.

The suffixes are as follows: "K" (or "KiB") is a kibibyte (1024), "M" (or "MiB") is a mebibyte (1024*1024), and "G" (or "GiB") is a gibibyte (1024*1024*1024). If you want the multiplier to be 1000 instead of 1024, use "KB", "MB", or "GB".  (Note: lower-case is also accepted for all values.) Finally, if the suffix ends in either "+1" or "-1", the value will be offset by one byte in the indicated direction.

Examples: --max-size=1.5mb-1 is 1499999 bytes, and --max-size=2g+1 is 2147483649 bytes.

Note that rsync versions prior to 3.1.0 did not allow --max-size=0.


This tells rsync to avoid transferring any file that is smaller than the specified SIZE, which can help in not transferring small, junk files. See the --max-size option for a description of SIZE and other information.

Note that rsync versions prior to 3.1.0 did not allow --min-size=0.

-B, --block-size=BLOCKSIZE

This forces the block size used in rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm to a fixed value.  It is normally selected based on the size of each file being updated.  See the technical report for details.

-e, --rsh=COMMAND

This option allows you to choose an alternative remote shell program to use for communication between the local and remote copies of rsync. Typically, rsync is configured to use ssh by default, but you may prefer to use rsh on a local network.

If this option is used with [user@]host::module/path, then the remote shell COMMAND will be used to run an rsync daemon on the remote host, and all data will be transmitted through that remote shell connection, rather than through a direct socket connection to a running rsync daemon on the remote host.  See the section "Using Rsync-Daemon Features Via a Remote-Shell Connection" above.

Command-line arguments are permitted in COMMAND provided that COMMAND is presented to rsync as a single argument.  You must use spaces (not tabs or other whitespace) to separate the command and args from each other, and you can use single- and/or double-quotes to preserve spaces in an argument (but not backslashes).  Note that doubling a single-quote inside a single-quoted string gives you a single-quote; likewise for double-quotes (though you need to pay attention to which quotes your shell is parsing and which quotes rsync is parsing).  Some examples:

   -e 'ssh -p 2234'
   -e 'ssh -o "ProxyCommand nohup ssh firewall nc -w1 %h %p"'

(Note that ssh users can alternately customize site-specific connect options in their .ssh/config file.)

You can also choose the remote shell program using the RSYNC_RSH environment variable, which accepts the same range of values as -e.

See also the --blocking-io option which is affected by this option.


Use this to specify what program is to be run on the remote machine to start-up rsync.  Often used when rsync is not in the default remote-shell’s path (e.g. --rsync-path=/usr/local/bin/rsync). Note that PROGRAM is run with the help of a shell, so it can be any program, script, or command sequence you’d care to run, so long as it does not corrupt the standard-in & standard-out that rsync is using to communicate.

One tricky example is to set a different default directory on the remote machine for use with the --relative option.  For instance:

   rsync -avR --rsync-path="cd /a/b && rsync" host:c/d /e/

-M, --remote-option=OPTION

This option is used for more advanced situations where you want certain effects to be limited to one side of the transfer only.  For instance, if you want to pass --log-file=FILE and --fake-super to the remote system, specify it like this:

   rsync -av -M --log-file=foo -M--fake-super src/ dest/

If you want to have an option affect only the local side of a transfer when it normally affects both sides, send its negation to the remote side.  Like this:

   rsync -av -x -M--no-x src/ dest/

Be cautious using this, as it is possible to toggle an option that will cause rsync to have a different idea about what data to expect next over the socket, and that will make it fail in a cryptic fashion.

Note that it is best to use a separate --remote-option for each option you want to pass.  This makes your useage compatible with the --protect-args option.  If that option is off, any spaces in your remote options will be split by the remote shell unless you take steps to protect them.

When performing a local transfer, the "local" side is the sender and the "remote" side is the receiver.

Note some versions of the popt option-parsing library have a bug in them that prevents you from using an adjacent arg with an equal in it next to a short option letter (e.g. -M--log-file=/tmp/foo.  If this bug affects your version of popt, you can use the version of popt that is included with rsync.

-C, --cvs-exclude

This is a useful shorthand for excluding a broad range of files that you often don’t want to transfer between systems. It uses a similar algorithm to CVS to determine if a file should be ignored.

The exclude list is initialized to exclude the following items (these initial items are marked as perishable -- see the Filter Rules section):

RCS SCCS CVS CVS.adm RCSLOG cvslog.* tags TAGS .make.state .nse_depinfo *~ #* .#* ,* _$* *$ *.old *.bak *.BAK *.orig *.rej .del-* *.a *.olb *.o *.obj *.so *.exe *.Z *.elc *.ln core .svn/ .git/ .hg/ .bzr/

then, files listed in a $HOME/.cvsignore are added to the list and any files listed in the CVSIGNORE environment variable (all cvsignore names are delimited by whitespace).

Finally, any file is ignored if it is in the same directory as a .cvsignore file and matches one of the patterns listed therein.  Unlike rsync’s filter/exclude files, these patterns are split on whitespace. See the cvs(1) manual for more information.

If you’re combining -C with your own --filter rules, you should note that these CVS excludes are appended at the end of your own rules, regardless of where the -C was placed on the command-line.  This makes them a lower priority than any rules you specified explicitly.  If you want to control where these CVS excludes get inserted into your filter rules, you should omit the -C as a command-line option and use a combination of --filter=:C and --filter=-C (either on your command-line or by putting the ":C" and "-C" rules into a filter file with your other rules). The first option turns on the per-directory scanning for the .cvsignore file.  The second option does a one-time import of the CVS excludes mentioned above.

-f, --filter=RULE

This option allows you to add rules to selectively exclude certain files from the list of files to be transferred. This is most useful in combination with a recursive transfer.

You may use as many --filter options on the command line as you like to build up the list of files to exclude.  If the filter contains whitespace, be sure to quote it so that the shell gives the rule to rsync as a single argument.  The text below also mentions that you can use an underscore to replace the space that separates a rule from its arg.

See the Filter Rules section for detailed information on this option.


The -F option is a shorthand for adding two --filter rules to your command.  The first time it is used is a shorthand for this rule:

  --filter='dir-merge /.rsync-filter'

This tells rsync to look for per-directory .rsync-filter files that have been sprinkled through the hierarchy and use their rules to filter the files in the transfer.  If -F is repeated, it is a shorthand for this rule:

  --filter='exclude .rsync-filter'

This filters out the .rsync-filter files themselves from the transfer.

See the Filter Rules section for detailed information on how these options work.


This option is a simplified form of the --filter option that defaults to an exclude rule and does not allow the full rule-parsing syntax of normal filter rules.

See the Filter Rules section for detailed information on this option.


This option is related to the --exclude option, but it specifies a FILE that contains exclude patterns (one per line). Blank lines in the file and lines starting with ’;’ or ’#’ are ignored. If FILE is -, the list will be read from standard input.


This option is a simplified form of the --filter option that defaults to an include rule and does not allow the full rule-parsing syntax of normal filter rules.

See the Filter Rules section for detailed information on this option.


This option is related to the --include option, but it specifies a FILE that contains include patterns (one per line). Blank lines in the file and lines starting with ’;’ or ’#’ are ignored. If FILE is -, the list will be read from standard input.


Using this option allows you to specify the exact list of files to transfer (as read from the specified FILE or - for standard input).  It also tweaks the default behavior of rsync to make transferring just the specified files and directories easier:

  • The --relative (-R) option is implied, which preserves the path information that is specified for each item in the file (use --no-relative or --no-R if you want to turn that off).
  • The --dirs (-d) option is implied, which will create directories specified in the list on the destination rather than noisily skipping them (use --no-dirs or --no-d if you want to turn that off).
  • The --archive (-a) option’s behavior does not imply --recursive (-r), so specify it explicitly, if you want it.
  • These side-effects change the default state of rsync, so the position of the --files-from option on the command-line has no bearing on how other options are parsed (e.g. -a works the same before or after --files-from, as does --no-R and all other options).

The filenames that are read from the FILE are all relative to the source dir -- any leading slashes are removed and no ".." references are allowed to go higher than the source dir.  For example, take this command:

  rsync -a --files-from=/tmp/foo /usr remote:/backup

If /tmp/foo contains the string "bin" (or even "/bin"), the /usr/bin directory will be created as /backup/bin on the remote host.  If it contains "bin/" (note the trailing slash), the immediate contents of the directory would also be sent (without needing to be explicitly mentioned in the file -- this began in version 2.6.4).  In both cases, if the -r option was enabled, that dir’s entire hierarchy would also be transferred (keep in mind that -r needs to be specified explicitly with --files-from, since it is not implied by -a). Also note that the effect of the (enabled by default) --relative option is to duplicate only the path info that is read from the file -- it does not force the duplication of the source-spec path (/usr in this case).

In addition, the --files-from file can be read from the remote host instead of the local host if you specify a "host:" in front of the file (the host must match one end of the transfer).  As a short-cut, you can specify just a prefix of ":" to mean "use the remote end of the transfer".  For example:

  rsync -a --files-from=:/path/file-list src:/ /tmp/copy

This would copy all the files specified in the /path/file-list file that was located on the remote "src" host.

If the --iconv and --protect-args options are specified and the --files-from filenames are being sent from one host to another, the filenames will be translated from the sending host’s charset to the receiving host’s charset.

NOTE: sorting the list of files in the --files-from input helps rsync to be more efficient, as it will avoid re-visiting the path elements that are shared between adjacent entries.  If the input is not sorted, some path elements (implied directories) may end up being scanned multiple times, and rsync will eventually unduplicate them after they get turned into file-list elements.

-0, --from0

This tells rsync that the rules/filenames it reads from a file are terminated by a null (’\0’) character, not a NL, CR, or CR+LF. This affects --exclude-from, --include-from, --files-from, and any merged files specified in a --filter rule. It does not affect --cvs-exclude (since all names read from a .cvsignore file are split on whitespace).

-s, --protect-args

This option sends all filenames and most options to the remote rsync without allowing the remote shell to interpret them.  This means that spaces are not split in names, and any non-wildcard special characters are not translated (such as ~, $, ;, &, etc.).  Wildcards are expanded on the remote host by rsync (instead of the shell doing it).

If you use this option with --iconv, the args related to the remote side will also be translated from the local to the remote character-set.  The translation happens before wild-cards are expanded.  See also the --files-from option.

You may also control this option via the RSYNC_PROTECT_ARGS environment variable.  If this variable has a non-zero value, this option will be enabled by default, otherwise it will be disabled by default.  Either state is overridden by a manually specified positive or negative version of this option (note that --no-s and --no-protect-args are the negative versions). Since this option was first introduced in 3.0.0, you’ll need to make sure it’s disabled if you ever need to interact with a remote rsync that is older than that.

Rsync can also be configured (at build time) to have this option enabled by default (with is overridden by both the environment and the command-line). This option will eventually become a new default setting at some as-yet-undetermined point in the future.

-T, --temp-dir=DIR

This option instructs rsync to use DIR as a scratch directory when creating temporary copies of the files transferred on the receiving side.  The default behavior is to create each temporary file in the same directory as the associated destination file. Beginning with rsync 3.1.1, the temp-file names inside the specified DIR will not be prefixed with an extra dot (though they will still have a random suffix added).

This option is most often used when the receiving disk partition does not have enough free space to hold a copy of the largest file in the transfer. In this case (i.e. when the scratch directory is on a different disk partition), rsync will not be able to rename each received temporary file over the top of the associated destination file, but instead must copy it into place.  Rsync does this by copying the file over the top of the destination file, which means that the destination file will contain truncated data during this copy.  If this were not done this way (even if the destination file were first removed, the data locally copied to a temporary file in the destination directory, and then renamed into place) it would be possible for the old file to continue taking up disk space (if someone had it open), and thus there might not be enough room to fit the new version on the disk at the same time.

If you are using this option for reasons other than a shortage of disk space, you may wish to combine it with the --delay-updates option, which will ensure that all copied files get put into subdirectories in the destination hierarchy, awaiting the end of the transfer.  If you don’t have enough room to duplicate all the arriving files on the destination partition, another way to tell rsync that you aren’t overly concerned about disk space is to use the --partial-dir option with a relative path; because this tells rsync that it is OK to stash off a copy of a single file in a subdir in the destination hierarchy, rsync will use the partial-dir as a staging area to bring over the copied file, and then rename it into place from there. (Specifying a --partial-dir with an absolute path does not have this side-effect.)

-y, --fuzzy

This option tells rsync that it should look for a basis file for any destination file that is missing.  The current algorithm looks in the same directory as the destination file for either a file that has an identical size and modified-time, or a similarly-named file.  If found, rsync uses the fuzzy basis file to try to speed up the transfer.

If the option is repeated, the fuzzy scan will also be done in any matching alternate destination directories that are specified via --compare-dest, --copy-dest, or --link-dest.

Note that the use of the --delete option might get rid of any potential fuzzy-match files, so either use --delete-after or specify some filename exclusions if you need to prevent this.


This option instructs rsync to use DIR on the destination machine as an additional hierarchy to compare destination files against doing transfers (if the files are missing in the destination directory).  If a file is found in DIR that is identical to the sender’s file, the file will NOT be transferred to the destination directory.  This is useful for creating a sparse backup of just files that have changed from an earlier backup. This option is typically used to copy into an empty (or newly created) directory.

Beginning in version 2.6.4, multiple --compare-dest directories may be provided, which will cause rsync to search the list in the order specified for an exact match. If a match is found that differs only in attributes, a local copy is made and the attributes updated. If a match is not found, a basis file from one of the DIRs will be selected to try to speed up the transfer.

If DIR is a relative path, it is relative to the destination directory. See also --copy-dest and --link-dest.

NOTE: beginning with version 3.1.0, rsync will remove a file from a non-empty destination hierarchy if an exact match is found in one of the compare-dest hierarchies (making the end result more closely match a fresh copy).


This option behaves like --compare-dest, but rsync will also copy unchanged files found in DIR to the destination directory using a local copy. This is useful for doing transfers to a new destination while leaving existing files intact, and then doing a flash-cutover when all files have been successfully transferred.

Multiple --copy-dest directories may be provided, which will cause rsync to search the list in the order specified for an unchanged file. If a match is not found, a basis file from one of the DIRs will be selected to try to speed up the transfer.

If DIR is a relative path, it is relative to the destination directory. See also --compare-dest and --link-dest.


This option behaves like --copy-dest, but unchanged files are hard linked from DIR to the destination directory. The files must be identical in all preserved attributes (e.g. permissions, possibly ownership) in order for the files to be linked together. An example:

 rsync -av --link-dest=$PWD/prior_dir host:src_dir/ new_dir/

If file’s aren’t linking, double-check their attributes.  Also check if some attributes are getting forced outside of rsync’s control, such a mount option that squishes root to a single user, or mounts a removable drive with generic ownership (such as OS X’s "Ignore ownership on this volume" option).

Beginning in version 2.6.4, multiple --link-dest directories may be provided, which will cause rsync to search the list in the order specified for an exact match. If a match is found that differs only in attributes, a local copy is made and the attributes updated. If a match is not found, a basis file from one of the DIRs will be selected to try to speed up the transfer.

This option works best when copying into an empty destination hierarchy, as existing files may get their attributes tweaked, and that can affect alternate destination files via hard-links.  Also, itemizing of changes can get a bit muddled.  Note that prior to version 3.1.0, an alternate-directory exact match would never be found (nor linked into the destination) when a destination file already exists.

Note that if you combine this option with --ignore-times, rsync will not link any files together because it only links identical files together as a substitute for transferring the file, never as an additional check after the file is updated.

If DIR is a relative path, it is relative to the destination directory. See also --compare-dest and --copy-dest.

Note that rsync versions prior to 2.6.1 had a bug that could prevent --link-dest from working properly for a non-super-user when -o was specified (or implied by -a).  You can work-around this bug by avoiding the -o option when sending to an old rsync.

-z, --compress

With this option, rsync compresses the file data as it is sent to the destination machine, which reduces the amount of data being transmitted -- something that is useful over a slow connection.

Note that this option typically achieves better compression ratios than can be achieved by using a compressing remote shell or a compressing transport because it takes advantage of the implicit information in the matching data blocks that are not explicitly sent over the connection.  This matching-data compression comes at a cost of CPU, though, and can be disabled by repeating the -z option, but only if both sides are at least version 3.1.1.

Note that if your version of rsync was compiled with an external zlib (instead of the zlib that comes packaged with rsync) then it will not support the old-style compression, only the new-style (repeated-option) compression.  In the future this new-style compression will likely become the default.

The client rsync requests new-style compression on the server via the --new-compress option, so if you see that option rejected it means that the server is not new enough to support -zz.  Rsync also accepts the --old-compress option for a future time when new-style compression becomes the default.

See the --skip-compress option for the default list of file suffixes that will not be compressed.


Explicitly set the compression level to use (see --compress) instead of letting it default.  If NUM is non-zero, the --compress option is implied.


Override the list of file suffixes that will not be compressed.  The LIST should be one or more file suffixes (without the dot) separated by slashes (/).

You may specify an empty string to indicate that no file should be skipped.

Simple character-class matching is supported: each must consist of a list of letters inside the square brackets (e.g. no special classes, such as "[:alpha:]", are supported, and ’-’ has no special meaning).

The characters asterisk (*) and question-mark (?) have no special meaning.

Here’s an example that specifies 6 suffixes to skip (since 1 of the 5 rules matches 2 suffixes):


The default list of suffixes that will not be compressed is this (in this version of rsync):

7z ace avi bz2 deb gpg gz iso jpeg jpg lz lzma lzo mov mp3 mp4 ogg png rar rpm rzip tbz tgz tlz txz xz z zip

This list will be replaced by your --skip-compress list in all but one situation: a copy from a daemon rsync will add your skipped suffixes to its list of non-compressing files (and its list may be configured to a different default).


With this option rsync will transfer numeric group and user IDs rather than using user and group names and mapping them at both ends.

By default rsync will use the username and groupname to determine what ownership to give files. The special uid 0 and the special group 0 are never mapped via user/group names even if the --numeric-ids option is not specified.

If a user or group has no name on the source system or it has no match on the destination system, then the numeric ID from the source system is used instead.  See also the comments on the "use chroot" setting in the rsyncd.conf manpage for information on how the chroot setting affects rsync’s ability to look up the names of the users and groups and what you can do about it.

--usermap=STRING, --groupmap=STRING

These options allow you to specify users and groups that should be mapped to other values by the receiving side.  The STRING is one or more FROM:TO pairs of values separated by commas.  Any matching FROM value from the sender is replaced with a TO value from the receiver.  You may specify usernames or user IDs for the FROM and TO values, and the FROM value may also be a wild-card string, which will be matched against the sender’s names (wild-cards do NOT match against ID numbers, though see below for why a ’*’ matches everything).  You may instead specify a range of ID numbers via an inclusive range: LOW-HIGH.  For example:

  --usermap=0-99:nobody,wayne:admin,*:normal --groupmap=usr:1,1:usr

The first match in the list is the one that is used.  You should specify all your user mappings using a single --usermap option, and/or all your group mappings using a single --groupmap option.

Note that the sender’s name for the 0 user and group are not transmitted to the receiver, so you should either match these values using a 0, or use the names in effect on the receiving side (typically "root").  All other FROM names match those in use on the sending side.  All TO names match those in use on the receiving side.

Any IDs that do not have a name on the sending side are treated as having an empty name for the purpose of matching.  This allows them to be matched via a "*" or using an empty name.  For instance:

  --usermap=:nobody --groupmap=*:nobody

When the --numeric-ids option is used, the sender does not send any names, so all the IDs are treated as having an empty name.  This means that you will need to specify numeric FROM values if you want to map these nameless IDs to different values.

For the --usermap option to have any effect, the -o (--owner) option must be used (or implied), and the receiver will need to be running as a super-user (see also the --fake-super option).  For the --groupmap option to have any effect, the -g (--groups) option must be used (or implied), and the receiver will need to have permissions to set that group.


This option forces all files to be owned by USER with group GROUP.  This is a simpler interface than using --usermap and --groupmap directly, but it is implemented using those options internally, so you cannot mix them.  If either the USER or GROUP is empty, no mapping for the omitted user/group will occur.  If GROUP is empty, the trailing colon may be omitted, but if USER is empty, a leading colon must be supplied.

If you specify "--chown=foo:bar, this is exactly the same as specifying "--usermap=*:foo --groupmap=*:bar", only easier.


This option allows you to set a maximum I/O timeout in seconds. If no data is transferred for the specified time then rsync will exit. The default is 0, which means no timeout.


This option allows you to set the amount of time that rsync will wait for its connection to an rsync daemon to succeed. If the timeout is reached, rsync exits with an error.


By default rsync will bind to the wildcard address when connecting to an rsync daemon.  The --address option allows you to specify a specific IP address (or hostname) to bind to.  See also this option in the --daemon mode section.


This specifies an alternate TCP port number to use rather than the default of 873.  This is only needed if you are using the double-colon (::) syntax to connect with an rsync daemon (since the URL syntax has a way to specify the port as a part of the URL).  See also this option in the --daemon mode section.


This option can provide endless fun for people who like to tune their systems to the utmost degree. You can set all sorts of socket options which may make transfers faster (or slower!). Read the man page for the  setsockopt() system call for details on some of the options you may be able to set. By default no special socket options are set. This only affects direct socket connections to a remote rsync daemon.  This option also exists in the --daemon mode section.


This tells rsync to use blocking I/O when launching a remote shell transport.  If the remote shell is either rsh or remsh, rsync defaults to using blocking I/O, otherwise it defaults to using non-blocking I/O.  (Note that ssh prefers non-blocking I/O.)


This sets the output buffering mode.  The mode can be None (aka Unbuffered), Line, or Block (aka Full).  You may specify as little as a single letter for the mode, and use upper or lower case.

The main use of this option is to change Full buffering to Line buffering when rsync’s output is going to a file or pipe.

-i, --itemize-changes

Requests a simple itemized list of the changes that are being made to each file, including attribute changes. This is exactly the same as specifying --out-format='%i %n%L'. If you repeat the option, unchanged files will also be output, but only if the receiving rsync is at least version 2.6.7 (you can use -vv with older versions of rsync, but that also turns on the output of other verbose messages).

The "%i" escape has a cryptic output that is 11 letters long.  The general format is like the string YXcstpoguax, where Y is replaced by the type of update being done, X is replaced by the file-type, and the other letters represent attributes that may be output if they are being modified.

The update types that replace the Y are as follows:

  • A < means that a file is being transferred to the remote host (sent).
  • A > means that a file is being transferred to the local host (received).
  • A c means that a local change/creation is occurring for the item (such as the creation of a directory or the changing of a symlink, etc.).
  • A h means that the item is a hard link to another item (requires --hard-links).
  • A . means that the item is not being updated (though it might have attributes that are being modified).
  • A * means that the rest of the itemized-output area contains a message (e.g. "deleting").

The file-types that replace the X are: f for a file, a d for a directory, an L for a symlink, a D for a device, and a S for a special file (e.g. named sockets and fifos).

The other letters in the string above are the actual letters that will be output if the associated attribute for the item is being updated or a "." for no change.  Three exceptions to this are: (1) a newly created item replaces each letter with a "+", (2) an identical item replaces the dots with spaces, and (3) an unknown attribute replaces each letter with a "?" (this can happen when talking to an older rsync).

The attribute that is associated with each letter is as follows:

  • A c means either that a regular file has a different checksum (requires --checksum) or that a symlink, device, or special file has a changed value. Note that if you are sending files to an rsync prior to 3.0.1, this change flag will be present only for checksum-differing regular files.
  • A s means the size of a regular file is different and will be updated by the file transfer.
  • A t means the modification time is different and is being updated to the sender’s value (requires --times).  An alternate value of T means that the modification time will be set to the transfer time, which happens when a file/symlink/device is updated without --times and when a symlink is changed and the receiver can’t set its time. (Note: when using an rsync 3.0.0 client, you might see the s flag combined with t instead of the proper T flag for this time-setting failure.)
  • A p means the permissions are different and are being updated to the sender’s value (requires --perms).
  • An o means the owner is different and is being updated to the sender’s value (requires --owner and super-user privileges).
  • A g means the group is different and is being updated to the sender’s value (requires --group and the authority to set the group).
  • The u slot is reserved for future use.
  • The a means that the ACL information changed.
  • The x means that the extended attribute information changed.

One other output is possible:  when deleting files, the "%i" will output the string "*deleting" for each item that is being removed (assuming that you are talking to a recent enough rsync that it logs deletions instead of outputting them as a verbose message).


This allows you to specify exactly what the rsync client outputs to the user on a per-update basis.  The format is a text string containing embedded single-character escape sequences prefixed with a percent (%) character.   A default format of "%n%L" is assumed if either --info=name or -v is specified (this tells you just the name of the file and, if the item is a link, where it points).  For a full list of the possible escape characters, see the "log format" setting in the rsyncd.conf manpage.

Specifying the --out-format option implies the --info=name option, which will mention each file, dir, etc. that gets updated in a significant way (a transferred file, a recreated symlink/device, or a touched directory).  In addition, if the itemize-changes escape (%i) is included in the string (e.g. if the --itemize-changes option was used), the logging of names increases to mention any item that is changed in any way (as long as the receiving side is at least 2.6.4).  See the --itemize-changes option for a description of the output of "%i".

Rsync will output the out-format string prior to a file’s transfer unless one of the transfer-statistic escapes is requested, in which case the logging is done at the end of the file’s transfer.  When this late logging is in effect and --progress is also specified, rsync will also output the name of the file being transferred prior to its progress information (followed, of course, by the out-format output).


This option causes rsync to log what it is doing to a file.  This is similar to the logging that a daemon does, but can be requested for the client side and/or the server side of a non-daemon transfer.  If specified as a client option, transfer logging will be enabled with a default format of "%i %n%L".  See the --log-file-format option if you wish to override this.

Here’s a example command that requests the remote side to log what is happening:

  rsync -av --remote-option=--log-file=/tmp/rlog src/ dest/

This is very useful if you need to debug why a connection is closing unexpectedly.


This allows you to specify exactly what per-update logging is put into the file specified by the --log-file option (which must also be specified for this option to have any effect).  If you specify an empty string, updated files will not be mentioned in the log file. For a list of the possible escape characters, see the "log format" setting in the rsyncd.conf manpage.

The default FORMAT used if --log-file is specified and this option is not is ’%i %n%L’.


This tells rsync to print a verbose set of statistics on the file transfer, allowing you to tell how effective rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm is for your data.  This option is equivalent to --info=stats2 if combined with 0 or 1 -v options, or --info=stats3 if combined with 2 or more -v options.

The current statistics are as follows:

  • Number of files is the count of all "files" (in the generic sense), which includes directories, symlinks, etc.  The total count will be followed by a list of counts by filetype (if the total is non-zero). For example: "(reg: 5, dir: 3, link: 2, dev: 1, special: 1)" lists the totals for regular files, directories, symlinks, devices, and special files.  If any of value is 0, it is completely omitted from the list.
  • Number of created files is the count of how many "files" (generic sense) were created (as opposed to updated).  The total count will be followed by a list of counts by filetype (if the total is non-zero).
  • Number of deleted files is the count of how many "files" (generic sense) were created (as opposed to updated).  The total count will be followed by a list of counts by filetype (if the total is non-zero). Note that this line is only output if deletions are in effect, and only if protocol 31 is being used (the default for rsync 3.1.x).
  • Number of regular files transferred is the count of normal files that were updated via rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm, which does not include dirs, symlinks, etc.  Note that rsync 3.1.0 added the word "regular" into this heading.
  • Total file size is the total sum of all file sizes in the transfer. This does not count any size for directories or special files, but does include the size of symlinks.
  • Total transferred file size is the total sum of all files sizes for just the transferred files.
  • Literal data is how much unmatched file-update data we had to send to the receiver for it to recreate the updated files.
  • Matched data is how much data the receiver got locally when recreating the updated files.
  • File list size is how big the file-list data was when the sender sent it to the receiver.  This is smaller than the in-memory size for the file list due to some compressing of duplicated data when rsync sends the list.
  • File list generation time is the number of seconds that the sender spent creating the file list.  This requires a modern rsync on the sending side for this to be present.
  • File list transfer time is the number of seconds that the sender spent sending the file list to the receiver.
  • Total bytes sent is the count of all the bytes that rsync sent from the client side to the server side.
  • Total bytes received is the count of all non-message bytes that rsync received by the client side from the server side.  "Non-message" bytes means that we don’t count the bytes for a verbose message that the server sent to us, which makes the stats more consistent.
-8, --8-bit-output

This tells rsync to leave all high-bit characters unescaped in the output instead of trying to test them to see if they’re valid in the current locale and escaping the invalid ones.  All control characters (but never tabs) are always escaped, regardless of this option’s setting.

The escape idiom that started in 2.6.7 is to output a literal backslash (\) and a hash (#), followed by exactly 3 octal digits.  For example, a newline would output as "\#012".  A literal backslash that is in a filename is not escaped unless it is followed by a hash and 3 digits (0-9).

-h, --human-readable

Output numbers in a more human-readable format. There are 3 possible levels:  (1) output numbers with a separator between each set of 3 digits (either a comma or a period, depending on if the decimal point is represented by a period or a comma); (2) output numbers in units of 1000 (with a character suffix for larger units -- see below); (3) output numbers in units of 1024.

The default is human-readable level 1.  Each -h option increases the level by one.  You can take the level down to 0 (to output numbers as pure digits) by specifing the --no-human-readable (--no-h) option.

The unit letters that are appended in levels 2 and 3 are: K (kilo), M (mega), G (giga), or T (tera).  For example, a 1234567-byte file would output as 1.23M in level-2 (assuming that a period is your local decimal point).

Backward compatibility note:  versions of rsync prior to 3.1.0 do not support human-readable level 1, and they default to level 0.  Thus, specifying one or two -h options will behave in a comparable manner in old and new versions as long as you didn’t specify a --no-h option prior to one or more -h options.  See the --list-only option for one difference.


By default, rsync will delete any partially transferred file if the transfer is interrupted. In some circumstances it is more desirable to keep partially transferred files. Using the --partial option tells rsync to keep the partial file which should make a subsequent transfer of the rest of the file much faster.


A better way to keep partial files than the --partial option is to specify a DIR that will be used to hold the partial data (instead of writing it out to the destination file). On the next transfer, rsync will use a file found in this dir as data to speed up the resumption of the transfer and then delete it after it has served its purpose.

Note that if --whole-file is specified (or implied), any partial-dir file that is found for a file that is being updated will simply be removed (since rsync is sending files without using rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm).

Rsync will create the DIR if it is missing (just the last dir -- not the whole path).  This makes it easy to use a relative path (such as "--partial-dir=.rsync-partial") to have rsync create the partial-directory in the destination file’s directory when needed, and then remove it again when the partial file is deleted.

If the partial-dir value is not an absolute path, rsync will add an exclude rule at the end of all your existing excludes.  This will prevent the sending of any partial-dir files that may exist on the sending side, and will also prevent the untimely deletion of partial-dir items on the receiving side.  An example: the above --partial-dir option would add the equivalent of "-f '-p .rsync-partial/'" at the end of any other filter rules.

If you are supplying your own exclude rules, you may need to add your own exclude/hide/protect rule for the partial-dir because (1) the auto-added rule may be ineffective at the end of your other rules, or (2) you may wish to override rsync’s exclude choice.  For instance, if you want to make rsync clean-up any left-over partial-dirs that may be lying around, you should specify --delete-after and add a "risk" filter rule, e.g. -f 'R .rsync-partial/'.  (Avoid using --delete-before or --delete-during unless you don’t need rsync to use any of the left-over partial-dir data during the current run.)

IMPORTANT: the --partial-dir should not be writable by other users or it is a security risk.  E.g. AVOID "/tmp".

You can also set the partial-dir value the RSYNC_PARTIAL_DIR environment variable.  Setting this in the environment does not force --partial to be enabled, but rather it affects where partial files go when --partial is specified.  For instance, instead of using --partial-dir=.rsync-tmp along with --progress, you could set RSYNC_PARTIAL_DIR=.rsync-tmp in your environment and then just use the -P option to turn on the use of the .rsync-tmp dir for partial transfers.  The only times that the --partial option does not look for this environment value are (1) when --inplace was specified (since --inplace conflicts with --partial-dir), and (2) when --delay-updates was specified (see below).

For the purposes of the daemon-config’s "refuse options" setting, --partial-dir does not imply --partial.  This is so that a refusal of the --partial option can be used to disallow the overwriting of destination files with a partial transfer, while still allowing the safer idiom provided by --partial-dir.


This option puts the temporary file from each updated file into a holding directory until the end of the transfer, at which time all the files are renamed into place in rapid succession.  This attempts to make the updating of the files a little more atomic.  By default the files are placed into a directory named ".~tmp~" in each file’s destination directory, but if you’ve specified the --partial-dir option, that directory will be used instead.  See the comments in the --partial-dir section for a discussion of how this ".~tmp~" dir will be excluded from the transfer, and what you can do if you want rsync to cleanup old ".~tmp~" dirs that might be lying around. Conflicts with --inplace and --append.

This option uses more memory on the receiving side (one bit per file transferred) and also requires enough free disk space on the receiving side to hold an additional copy of all the updated files.  Note also that you should not use an absolute path to --partial-dir unless (1) there is no chance of any of the files in the transfer having the same name (since all the updated files will be put into a single directory if the path is absolute) and (2) there are no mount points in the hierarchy (since the delayed updates will fail if they can’t be renamed into place).

See also the "atomic-rsync" perl script in the "support" subdir for an update algorithm that is even more atomic (it uses --link-dest and a parallel hierarchy of files).

-m, --prune-empty-dirs

This option tells the receiving rsync to get rid of empty directories from the file-list, including nested directories that have no non-directory children.  This is useful for avoiding the creation of a bunch of useless directories when the sending rsync is recursively scanning a hierarchy of files using include/exclude/filter rules.

Note that the use of transfer rules, such as the --min-size option, does not affect what goes into the file list, and thus does not leave directories empty, even if none of the files in a directory match the transfer rule.

Because the file-list is actually being pruned, this option also affects what directories get deleted when a delete is active.  However, keep in mind that excluded files and directories can prevent existing items from being deleted due to an exclude both hiding source files and protecting destination files.  See the perishable filter-rule option for how to avoid this.

You can prevent the pruning of certain empty directories from the file-list by using a global "protect" filter.  For instance, this option would ensure that the directory "emptydir" was kept in the file-list:

--filter ’protect emptydir/’

Here’s an example that copies all .pdf files in a hierarchy, only creating the necessary destination directories to hold the .pdf files, and ensures that any superfluous files and directories in the destination are removed (note the hide filter of non-directories being used instead of an exclude):

rsync -avm --del --include=’*.pdf’ -f ’hide,! */’ src/ dest

If you didn’t want to remove superfluous destination files, the more time-honored options of "--include='*/' --exclude='*'" would work fine in place of the hide-filter (if that is more natural to you).


This option tells rsync to print information showing the progress of the transfer. This gives a bored user something to watch. With a modern rsync this is the same as specifying --info=flist2,name,progress, but any user-supplied settings for those info flags takes precedence (e.g. "--info=flist0 --progress").

While rsync is transferring a regular file, it updates a progress line that looks like this:

      782448  63%  110.64kB/s    0:00:04

In this example, the receiver has reconstructed 782448 bytes or 63% of the sender’s file, which is being reconstructed at a rate of 110.64 kilobytes per second, and the transfer will finish in 4 seconds if the current rate is maintained until the end.

These statistics can be misleading if rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm is in use.  For example, if the sender’s file consists of the basis file followed by additional data, the reported rate will probably drop dramatically when the receiver gets to the literal data, and the transfer will probably take much longer to finish than the receiver estimated as it was finishing the matched part of the file.

When the file transfer finishes, rsync replaces the progress line with a summary line that looks like this:

      1,238,099 100%  146.38kB/s    0:00:08  (xfr#5, to-chk=169/396)

In this example, the file was 1,238,099 bytes long in total, the average rate of transfer for the whole file was 146.38 kilobytes per second over the 8 seconds that it took to complete, it was the 5th transfer of a regular file during the current rsync session, and there are 169 more files for the receiver to check (to see if they are up-to-date or not) remaining out of the 396 total files in the file-list.

In an incremental recursion scan, rsync won’t know the total number of files in the file-list until it reaches the ends of the scan, but since it starts to transfer files during the scan, it will display a line with the text "ir-chk" (for incremental recursion check) instead of "to-chk" until the point that it knows the full size of the list, at which point it will switch to using "to-chk".  Thus, seeing "ir-chk" lets you know that the total count of files in the file list is still going to increase (and each time it does, the count of files left to check  will increase by the number of the files added to the list).


The -P option is equivalent to --partial --progress.  Its purpose is to make it much easier to specify these two options for a long transfer that may be interrupted.

There is also a --info=progress2 option that outputs statistics based on the whole transfer, rather than individual files.  Use this flag without outputting a filename (e.g. avoid -v or specify --info=name0) if you want to see how the transfer is doing without scrolling the screen with a lot of names.  (You don’t need to specify the --progress option in order to use --info=progress2.)


This option allows you to provide a password for accessing an rsync daemon via a file or via standard input if FILE is -.  The file should contain just the password on the first line (all other lines are ignored).  Rsync will exit with an error if FILE is world readable or if a root-run rsync command finds a non-root-owned file.

This option does not supply a password to a remote shell transport such as ssh; to learn how to do that, consult the remote shell’s documentation. When accessing an rsync daemon using a remote shell as the transport, this option only comes into effect after the remote shell finishes its authentication (i.e. if you have also specified a password in the daemon’s config file).


This option will cause the source files to be listed instead of transferred.  This option is inferred if there is a single source arg and no destination specified, so its main uses are: (1) to turn a copy command that includes a destination arg into a file-listing command, or (2) to be able to specify more than one source arg (note: be sure to include the destination). Caution: keep in mind that a source arg with a wild-card is expanded by the shell into multiple args, so it is never safe to try to list such an arg without using this option.  For example:

    rsync -av --list-only foo* dest/

Starting with rsync 3.1.0, the sizes output by --list-only are affected by the --human-readable option.  By default they will contain digit separators, but higher levels of readability will output the sizes with unit suffixes.  Note also that the column width for the size output has increased from 11 to 14 characters for all human-readable levels.  Use --no-h if you want just digits in the sizes, and the old column width of 11 characters.

Compatibility note:  when requesting a remote listing of files from an rsync that is version 2.6.3 or older, you may encounter an error if you ask for a non-recursive listing.  This is because a file listing implies the --dirs option w/o --recursive, and older rsyncs don’t have that option.  To avoid this problem, either specify the --no-dirs option (if you don’t need to expand a directory’s content), or turn on recursion and exclude the content of subdirectories: -r --exclude='/*/*'.


This option allows you to specify the maximum transfer rate for the data sent over the socket, specified in units per second.  The RATE value can be suffixed with a string to indicate a size multiplier, and may be a fractional value (e.g.  "--bwlimit=1.5m").  If no suffix is specified, the value will be assumed to be in units of 1024 bytes (as if "K" or "KiB" had been appended).  See the --max-size option for a description of all the available suffixes. A value of zero specifies no limit.

For backward-compatibility reasons, the rate limit will be rounded to the nearest KiB unit, so no rate smaller than 1024 bytes per second is possible.

Rsync writes data over the socket in blocks, and this option both limits the size of the blocks that rsync writes, and tries to keep the average transfer rate at the requested limit.  Some "burstiness" may be seen where rsync writes out a block of data and then sleeps to bring the average rate into compliance.

Due to the internal buffering of data, the --progress option may not be an accurate reflection on how fast the data is being sent.  This is because some files can show up as being rapidly sent when the data is quickly buffered, while other can show up as very slow when the flushing of the output buffer occurs.  This may be fixed in a future version.


Record a file that can later be applied to another identical destination with --read-batch. See the "Batch Mode" section for details, and also the --only-write-batch option.


Works like --write-batch, except that no updates are made on the destination system when creating the batch. This lets you transport the changes to the destination system via some other means and then apply the changes via --read-batch.

Note that you can feel free to write the batch directly to some portable media: if this media fills to capacity before the end of the transfer, you can just apply that partial transfer to the destination and repeat the whole process to get the rest of the changes (as long as you don’t mind a partially updated destination system while the multi-update cycle is happening).

Also note that you only save bandwidth when pushing changes to a remote system because this allows the batched data to be diverted from the sender into the batch file without having to flow over the wire to the receiver (when pulling, the sender is remote, and thus can’t write the batch).


Apply all of the changes stored in FILE, a file previously generated by --write-batch. If FILE is -, the batch data will be read from standard input. See the "Batch Mode" section for details.


Force an older protocol version to be used.  This is useful for creating a batch file that is compatible with an older version of rsync.  For instance, if rsync 2.6.4 is being used with the --write-batch option, but rsync 2.6.3 is what will be used to run the --read-batch option, you should use "--protocol=28" when creating the batch file to force the older protocol version to be used in the batch file (assuming you can’t upgrade the rsync on the reading system).


Rsync can convert filenames between character sets using this option.  Using a CONVERT_SPEC of "." tells rsync to look up the default character-set via the locale setting.  Alternately, you can fully specify what conversion to do by giving a local and a remote charset separated by a comma in the order --iconv=LOCAL,REMOTE, e.g. --iconv=utf8,iso88591.  This order ensures that the option will stay the same whether you’re pushing or pulling files. Finally, you can specify either --no-iconv or a CONVERT_SPEC of "-" to turn off any conversion. The default setting of this option is site-specific, and can also be affected via the RSYNC_ICONV environment variable.

For a list of what charset names your local iconv library supports, you can run "iconv --list".

If you specify the --protect-args option (-s), rsync will translate the filenames you specify on the command-line that are being sent to the remote host.  See also the --files-from option.

Note that rsync does not do any conversion of names in filter files (including include/exclude files).  It is up to you to ensure that you’re specifying matching rules that can match on both sides of the transfer. For instance, you can specify extra include/exclude rules if there are filename differences on the two sides that need to be accounted for.

When you pass an --iconv option to an rsync daemon that allows it, the daemon uses the charset specified in its "charset" configuration parameter regardless of the remote charset you actually pass.  Thus, you may feel free to specify just the local charset for a daemon transfer (e.g. --iconv=utf8).

-4, --ipv4 or -6, --ipv6

Tells rsync to prefer IPv4/IPv6 when creating sockets.  This only affects sockets that rsync has direct control over, such as the outgoing socket when directly contacting an rsync daemon.  See also these options in the --daemon mode section.

If rsync was complied without support for IPv6, the --ipv6 option will have no effect.  The --version output will tell you if this is the case.


Set the checksum seed to the integer NUM.  This 4 byte checksum seed is included in each block and MD4 file checksum calculation (the more modern MD5 file checksums don’t use a seed).  By default the checksum seed is generated by the server and defaults to the current  time() .  This option is used to set a specific checksum seed, which is useful for applications that want repeatable block checksums, or in the case where the user wants a more random checksum seed.  Setting NUM to 0 causes rsync to use the default of  time() for checksum seed.

Daemon Options

The options allowed when starting an rsync daemon are as follows:


This tells rsync that it is to run as a daemon.  The daemon you start running may be accessed using an rsync client using the host::module or rsync://host/module/ syntax.

If standard input is a socket then rsync will assume that it is being run via inetd, otherwise it will detach from the current terminal and become a background daemon.  The daemon will read the config file (rsyncd.conf) on each connect made by a client and respond to requests accordingly.  See the rsyncd.conf(5) man page for more details.


By default rsync will bind to the wildcard address when run as a daemon with the --daemon option.  The --address option allows you to specify a specific IP address (or hostname) to bind to.  This makes virtual hosting possible in conjunction with the --config option. See also the "address" global option in the rsyncd.conf manpage.


This option allows you to specify the maximum transfer rate for the data the daemon sends over the socket.  The client can still specify a smaller --bwlimit value, but no larger value will be allowed. See the client version of this option (above) for some extra details.


This specifies an alternate config file than the default.  This is only relevant when --daemon is specified. The default is /etc/rsyncd.conf unless the daemon is running over a remote shell program and the remote user is not the super-user; in that case the default is rsyncd.conf in the current directory (typically $HOME).

-M, --dparam=OVERRIDE

This option can be used to set a daemon-config parameter when starting up rsync in daemon mode.  It is equivalent to adding the parameter at the end of the global settings prior to the first module’s definition.  The parameter names can be specified without spaces, if you so desire.  For instance:

    rsync --daemon -M pidfile=/path/ 

When running as a daemon, this option instructs rsync to not detach itself and become a background process.  This option is required when running as a service on Cygwin, and may also be useful when rsync is supervised by a program such as daemontools or AIX’s System Resource Controller. --no-detach is also recommended when rsync is run under a debugger.  This option has no effect if rsync is run from inetd or sshd.


This specifies an alternate TCP port number for the daemon to listen on rather than the default of 873.  See also the "port" global option in the rsyncd.conf manpage.


This option tells the rsync daemon to use the given log-file name instead of using the "log file" setting in the config file.


This option tells the rsync daemon to use the given FORMAT string instead of using the "log format" setting in the config file.  It also enables "transfer logging" unless the string is empty, in which case transfer logging is turned off.


This overrides the socket options setting in the rsyncd.conf file and has the same syntax.

-v, --verbose

This option increases the amount of information the daemon logs during its startup phase.  After the client connects, the daemon’s verbosity level will be controlled by the options that the client used and the "max verbosity" setting in the module’s config section.

-4, --ipv4 or -6, --ipv6

Tells rsync to prefer IPv4/IPv6 when creating the incoming sockets that the rsync daemon will use to listen for connections.  One of these options may be required in older versions of Linux to work around an IPv6 bug in the kernel (if you see an "address already in use" error when nothing else is using the port, try specifying --ipv6 or --ipv4 when starting the daemon).

If rsync was complied without support for IPv6, the --ipv6 option will have no effect.  The --version output will tell you if this is the case.

-h, --help

When specified after --daemon, print a short help page describing the options available for starting an rsync daemon.

Filter Rules

The filter rules allow for flexible selection of which files to transfer (include) and which files to skip (exclude).  The rules either directly specify include/exclude patterns or they specify a way to acquire more include/exclude patterns (e.g. to read them from a file).

As the list of files/directories to transfer is built, rsync checks each name to be transferred against the list of include/exclude patterns in turn, and the first matching pattern is acted on:  if it is an exclude pattern, then that file is skipped; if it is an include pattern then that filename is not skipped; if no matching pattern is found, then the filename is not skipped.

Rsync builds an ordered list of filter rules as specified on the command-line.  Filter rules have the following syntax:


You have your choice of using either short or long RULE names, as described below.  If you use a short-named rule, the ’,’ separating the RULE from the MODIFIERS is optional.  The PATTERN or FILENAME that follows (when present) must come after either a single space or an underscore (_). Here are the available rule prefixes:

exclude, - specifies an exclude pattern.
include, + specifies an include pattern.
merge, . specifies a merge-file to read for more rules.
dir-merge, : specifies a per-directory merge-file.
hide, H specifies a pattern for hiding files from the transfer.
show, S files that match the pattern are not hidden.
protect, P specifies a pattern for protecting files from deletion.
risk, R files that match the pattern are not protected.
clear, ! clears the current include/exclude list (takes no arg)

When rules are being read from a file, empty lines are ignored, as are comment lines that start with a "#".

Note that the --include/--exclude command-line options do not allow the full range of rule parsing as described above -- they only allow the specification of include/exclude patterns plus a "!" token to clear the list (and the normal comment parsing when rules are read from a file). If a pattern does not begin with "- " (dash, space) or "+ " (plus, space), then the rule will be interpreted as if "+ " (for an include option) or "- " (for an exclude option) were prefixed to the string.  A --filter option, on the other hand, must always contain either a short or long rule name at the start of the rule.

Note also that the --filter, --include, and --exclude options take one rule/pattern each. To add multiple ones, you can repeat the options on the command-line, use the merge-file syntax of the --filter option, or the --include-from/--exclude-from options.

Include/Exclude Pattern Rules

You can include and exclude files by specifying patterns using the "+", "-", etc. filter rules (as introduced in the Filter Rules section above). The include/exclude rules each specify a pattern that is matched against the names of the files that are going to be transferred.  These patterns can take several forms:

Note that, when using the --recursive (-r) option (which is implied by -a), every subcomponent of every path is visited from the top down, so include/exclude patterns get applied recursively to each subcomponent’s full name (e.g. to include "/foo/bar/baz" the subcomponents "/foo" and "/foo/bar" must not be excluded). The exclude patterns actually short-circuit the directory traversal stage when rsync finds the files to send.  If a pattern excludes a particular parent directory, it can render a deeper include pattern ineffectual because rsync did not descend through that excluded section of the hierarchy.  This is particularly important when using a trailing ’*’ rule. For instance, this won’t work:

+ /some/path/this-file-will-not-be-found
+ /file-is-included
- *

This fails because the parent directory "some" is excluded by the ’*’ rule, so rsync never visits any of the files in the "some" or "some/path" directories.  One solution is to ask for all directories in the hierarchy to be included by using a single rule: "+ */" (put it somewhere before the "- *" rule), and perhaps use the --prune-empty-dirs option.  Another solution is to add specific include rules for all the parent dirs that need to be visited.  For instance, this set of rules works fine:

+ /some/
+ /some/path/
+ /some/path/this-file-is-found
+ /file-also-included
- *

Here are some examples of exclude/include matching:

The following modifiers are accepted after a "+" or "-":

Merge-File Filter Rules

You can merge whole files into your filter rules by specifying either a merge (.) or a dir-merge (:) filter rule (as introduced in the Filter Rules section above).

There are two kinds of merged files -- single-instance (’.’) and per-directory (’:’).  A single-instance merge file is read one time, and its rules are incorporated into the filter list in the place of the "." rule.  For per-directory merge files, rsync will scan every directory that it traverses for the named file, merging its contents when the file exists into the current list of inherited rules.  These per-directory rule files must be created on the sending side because it is the sending side that is being scanned for the available files to transfer.  These rule files may also need to be transferred to the receiving side if you want them to affect what files don’t get deleted (see Per-Directory Rules and Delete below).

Some examples:

merge /etc/rsync/default.rules
. /etc/rsync/default.rules
dir-merge .per-dir-filter
dir-merge,n- .non-inherited-per-dir-excludes
:n- .non-inherited-per-dir-excludes

The following modifiers are accepted after a merge or dir-merge rule:

Per-directory rules are inherited in all subdirectories of the directory where the merge-file was found unless the ’n’ modifier was used.  Each subdirectory’s rules are prefixed to the inherited per-directory rules from its parents, which gives the newest rules a higher priority than the inherited rules.  The entire set of dir-merge rules are grouped together in the spot where the merge-file was specified, so it is possible to override dir-merge rules via a rule that got specified earlier in the list of global rules.  When the list-clearing rule ("!") is read from a per-directory file, it only clears the inherited rules for the current merge file.

Another way to prevent a single rule from a dir-merge file from being inherited is to anchor it with a leading slash.  Anchored rules in a per-directory merge-file are relative to the merge-file’s directory, so a pattern "/foo" would only match the file "foo" in the directory where the dir-merge filter file was found.

Here’s an example filter file which you’d specify via --filter=". file":

merge /home/user/.global-filter
- *.gz
dir-merge .rules
+ *.[ch]
- *.o

This will merge the contents of the /home/user/.global-filter file at the start of the list and also turns the ".rules" filename into a per-directory filter file.  All rules read in prior to the start of the directory scan follow the global anchoring rules (i.e. a leading slash matches at the root of the transfer).

If a per-directory merge-file is specified with a path that is a parent directory of the first transfer directory, rsync will scan all the parent dirs from that starting point to the transfer directory for the indicated per-directory file.  For instance, here is a common filter (see -F):

--filter=': /.rsync-filter'

That rule tells rsync to scan for the file .rsync-filter in all directories from the root down through the parent directory of the transfer prior to the start of the normal directory scan of the file in the directories that are sent as a part of the transfer.  (Note: for an rsync daemon, the root is always the same as the module’s "path".)

Some examples of this pre-scanning for per-directory files:

rsync -avF /src/path/ /dest/dir
rsync -av --filter=': ../../.rsync-filter' /src/path/ /dest/dir
rsync -av --filter=': .rsync-filter' /src/path/ /dest/dir

The first two commands above will look for ".rsync-filter" in "/" and "/src" before the normal scan begins looking for the file in "/src/path" and its subdirectories.  The last command avoids the parent-dir scan and only looks for the ".rsync-filter" files in each directory that is a part of the transfer.

If you want to include the contents of a ".cvsignore" in your patterns, you should use the rule ":C", which creates a dir-merge of the .cvsignore file, but parsed in a CVS-compatible manner.  You can use this to affect where the --cvs-exclude (-C) option’s inclusion of the per-directory .cvsignore file gets placed into your rules by putting the ":C" wherever you like in your filter rules.  Without this, rsync would add the dir-merge rule for the .cvsignore file at the end of all your other rules (giving it a lower priority than your command-line rules).  For example:

cat <<EOT | rsync -avC --filter='. -' a/ b
+ foo.o
- *.old
rsync -avC --include=foo.o -f :C --exclude='*.old' a/ b

Both of the above rsync commands are identical.  Each one will merge all the per-directory .cvsignore rules in the middle of the list rather than at the end.  This allows their dir-specific rules to supersede the rules that follow the :C instead of being subservient to all your rules.  To affect the other CVS exclude rules (i.e. the default list of exclusions, the contents of $HOME/.cvsignore, and the value of $CVSIGNORE) you should omit the -C command-line option and instead insert a "-C" rule into your filter rules; e.g. "--filter=-C".

List-Clearing Filter Rule

You can clear the current include/exclude list by using the "!" filter rule (as introduced in the Filter Rules section above).  The "current" list is either the global list of rules (if the rule is encountered while parsing the filter options) or a set of per-directory rules (which are inherited in their own sub-list, so a subdirectory can use this to clear out the parent’s rules).

Anchoring Include/Exclude Patterns

As mentioned earlier, global include/exclude patterns are anchored at the "root of the transfer" (as opposed to per-directory patterns, which are anchored at the merge-file’s directory).  If you think of the transfer as a subtree of names that are being sent from sender to receiver, the transfer-root is where the tree starts to be duplicated in the destination directory.  This root governs where patterns that start with a / match.

Because the matching is relative to the transfer-root, changing the trailing slash on a source path or changing your use of the --relative option affects the path you need to use in your matching (in addition to changing how much of the file tree is duplicated on the destination host).  The following examples demonstrate this.

Let’s say that we want to match two source files, one with an absolute path of "/home/me/foo/bar", and one with a path of "/home/you/bar/baz". Here is how the various command choices differ for a 2-source transfer:

Example cmd: rsync -a /home/me /home/you /dest
+/- pattern: /me/foo/bar
+/- pattern: /you/bar/baz
Target file: /dest/me/foo/bar
Target file: /dest/you/bar/baz
Example cmd: rsync -a /home/me/ /home/you/ /dest
+/- pattern: /foo/bar               (note missing "me")
+/- pattern: /bar/baz               (note missing "you")
Target file: /dest/foo/bar
Target file: /dest/bar/baz
Example cmd: rsync -a --relative /home/me/ /home/you /dest
+/- pattern: /home/me/foo/bar       (note full path)
+/- pattern: /home/you/bar/baz      (ditto)
Target file: /dest/home/me/foo/bar
Target file: /dest/home/you/bar/baz
Example cmd: cd /home; rsync -a --relative me/foo you/ /dest
+/- pattern: /me/foo/bar      (starts at specified path)
+/- pattern: /you/bar/baz     (ditto)
Target file: /dest/me/foo/bar
Target file: /dest/you/bar/baz

The easiest way to see what name you should filter is to just look at the output when using --verbose and put a / in front of the name (use the --dry-run option if you’re not yet ready to copy any files).

Per-Directory Rules and Delete

Without a delete option, per-directory rules are only relevant on the sending side, so you can feel free to exclude the merge files themselves without affecting the transfer.  To make this easy, the ’e’ modifier adds this exclude for you, as seen in these two equivalent commands:

rsync -av --filter=': .excl' --exclude=.excl host:src/dir /dest
rsync -av --filter=':e .excl' host:src/dir /dest

However, if you want to do a delete on the receiving side AND you want some files to be excluded from being deleted, you’ll need to be sure that the receiving side knows what files to exclude.  The easiest way is to include the per-directory merge files in the transfer and use --delete-after, because this ensures that the receiving side gets all the same exclude rules as the sending side before it tries to delete anything:

rsync -avF --delete-after host:src/dir /dest

However, if the merge files are not a part of the transfer, you’ll need to either specify some global exclude rules (i.e. specified on the command line), or you’ll need to maintain your own per-directory merge files on the receiving side.  An example of the first is this (assume that the remote .rules files exclude themselves):

rsync -av --filter=’: .rules’ --filter=’. /my/extra.rules’
   --delete host:src/dir /dest

In the above example the extra.rules file can affect both sides of the transfer, but (on the sending side) the rules are subservient to the rules merged from the .rules files because they were specified after the per-directory merge rule.

In one final example, the remote side is excluding the .rsync-filter files from the transfer, but we want to use our own .rsync-filter files to control what gets deleted on the receiving side.  To do this we must specifically exclude the per-directory merge files (so that they don’t get deleted) and then put rules into the local files to control what else should not get deleted.  Like one of these commands:

    rsync -av --filter=':e /.rsync-filter' --delete \ 
        host:src/dir /dest
    rsync -avFF --delete host:src/dir /dest

Batch Mode

Batch mode can be used to apply the same set of updates to many identical systems. Suppose one has a tree which is replicated on a number of hosts.  Now suppose some changes have been made to this source tree and those changes need to be propagated to the other hosts. In order to do this using batch mode, rsync is run with the write-batch option to apply the changes made to the source tree to one of the destination trees.  The write-batch option causes the rsync client to store in a "batch file" all the information needed to repeat this operation against other, identical destination trees.

Generating the batch file once saves having to perform the file status, checksum, and data block generation more than once when updating multiple destination trees. Multicast transport protocols can be used to transfer the batch update files in parallel to many hosts at once, instead of sending the same data to every host individually.

To apply the recorded changes to another destination tree, run rsync with the read-batch option, specifying the name of the same batch file, and the destination tree.  Rsync updates the destination tree using the information stored in the batch file.

For your convenience, a script file is also created when the write-batch option is used:  it will be named the same as the batch file with ".sh" appended.  This script file contains a command-line suitable for updating a destination tree using the associated batch file. It can be executed using a Bourne (or Bourne-like) shell, optionally passing in an alternate destination tree pathname which is then used instead of the original destination path.  This is useful when the destination tree path on the current host differs from the one used to create the batch file.


$ rsync --write-batch=foo -a host:/source/dir/ /adest/dir/
$ scp foo* remote:
$ ssh remote ./ /bdest/dir/
$ rsync --write-batch=foo -a /source/dir/ /adest/dir/
$ ssh remote rsync --read-batch=- -a /bdest/dir/ <foo

In these examples, rsync is used to update /adest/dir/ from /source/dir/ and the information to repeat this operation is stored in "foo" and "".  The host "remote" is then updated with the batched data going into the directory /bdest/dir.  The differences between the two examples reveals some of the flexibility you have in how you deal with batches:


The read-batch option expects the destination tree that it is updating to be identical to the destination tree that was used to create the batch update fileset.  When a difference between the destination trees is encountered the update might be discarded with a warning (if the file appears to be up-to-date already) or the file-update may be attempted and then, if the file fails to verify, the update discarded with an error.  This means that it should be safe to re-run a read-batch operation if the command got interrupted.  If you wish to force the batched-update to always be attempted regardless of the file’s size and date, use the -I option (when reading the batch). If an error occurs, the destination tree will probably be in a partially updated state. In that case, rsync can be used in its regular (non-batch) mode of operation to fix up the destination tree.

The rsync version used on all destinations must be at least as new as the one used to generate the batch file.  Rsync will die with an error if the protocol version in the batch file is too new for the batch-reading rsync to handle.  See also the --protocol option for a way to have the creating rsync generate a batch file that an older rsync can understand. (Note that batch files changed format in version 2.6.3, so mixing versions older than that with newer versions will not work.)

When reading a batch file, rsync will force the value of certain options to match the data in the batch file if you didn’t set them to the same as the batch-writing command.  Other options can (and should) be changed. For instance --write-batch changes to --read-batch, --files-from is dropped, and the --filter/--include/--exclude options are not needed unless one of the --delete options is specified.

The code that creates the file transforms any filter/include/exclude options into a single list that is appended as a "here" document to the shell script file.  An advanced user can use this to modify the exclude list if a change in what gets deleted by --delete is desired.  A normal user can ignore this detail and just use the shell script as an easy way to run the appropriate --read-batch command for the batched data.

The original batch mode in rsync was based on "rsync+", but the latest version uses a new implementation.


rsync occasionally produces error messages that may seem a little cryptic. The one that seems to cause the most confusion is "protocol version mismatch -- is your shell clean?".

This message is usually caused by your startup scripts or remote shell facility producing unwanted garbage on the stream that rsync is using for its transport. The way to diagnose this problem is to run your remote shell like this:

ssh remotehost /bin/true > out.dat

then look at out.dat. If everything is working correctly then out.dat should be a zero length file. If you are getting the above error from rsync then you will probably find that out.dat contains some text or data. Look at the contents and try to work out what is producing it. The most common cause is incorrectly configured shell startup scripts (such as .cshrc or .profile) that contain output statements for non-interactive logins.

If you are having trouble debugging filter patterns, then try specifying the -vv option.  At this level of verbosity rsync will show why each individual file is included or excluded.

Exit Values




Syntax or usage error


Protocol incompatibility


Errors selecting input/output files, dirs


Requested action not supported: an attempt was made to manipulate 64-bit files on a platform that cannot support them; or an option was specified that is supported by the client and not by the server.


Error starting client-server protocol


Daemon unable to append to log-file


Error in socket I/O


Error in file I/O


Error in rsync protocol data stream


Errors with program diagnostics


Error in IPC code


Received SIGUSR1 or SIGINT


Some error returned by  waitpid()


Error allocating core memory buffers


Partial transfer due to error


Partial transfer due to vanished source files


The --max-delete limit stopped deletions


Timeout in data send/receive


Timeout waiting for daemon connection

Environment Variables


The CVSIGNORE environment variable supplements any ignore patterns in .cvsignore files. See the --cvs-exclude option for more details.


Specify a default --iconv setting using this environment variable. (First supported in 3.0.0.)


Specify a non-zero numeric value if you want the --protect-args option to be enabled by default, or a zero value to make sure that it is disabled by default. (First supported in 3.1.0.)


The RSYNC_RSH environment variable allows you to override the default shell used as the transport for rsync.  Command line options are permitted after the command name, just as in the -e option.


The RSYNC_PROXY environment variable allows you to redirect your rsync client to use a web proxy when connecting to a rsync daemon. You should set RSYNC_PROXY to a hostname:port pair.


Setting RSYNC_PASSWORD to the required password allows you to run authenticated rsync connections to an rsync daemon without user intervention. Note that this does not supply a password to a remote shell transport such as ssh; to learn how to do that, consult the remote shell’s documentation.


The USER or LOGNAME environment variables are used to determine the default username sent to an rsync daemon. If neither is set, the username defaults to "nobody".


The HOME environment variable is used to find the user’s default .cvsignore file.


/etc/rsyncd.conf or rsyncd.conf

See Also



times are transferred as *nix time_t values

When transferring to FAT filesystems rsync may re-sync unmodified files. See the comments on the --modify-window option.

file permissions, devices, etc. are transferred as native numerical values

see also the comments on the --delete option

Please report bugs! See the web site at


This man page is current for version 3.1.2 of rsync.

Internal Options

The options --server and --sender are used internally by rsync, and should never be typed by a user under normal circumstances.  Some awareness of these options may be needed in certain scenarios, such as when setting up a login that can only run an rsync command.  For instance, the support directory of the rsync distribution has an example script named rrsync (for restricted rsync) that can be used with a restricted ssh login.


rsync is distributed under the GNU General Public License.  See the file COPYING for details.

A WEB site is available at  The site includes an FAQ-O-Matic which may cover questions unanswered by this manual page.

The primary ftp site for rsync is

We would be delighted to hear from you if you like this program. Please contact the mailing-list at

This program uses the excellent zlib compression library written by Jean-loup Gailly and Mark Adler.


Special thanks go out to: John Van Essen, Matt McCutchen, Wesley W. Terpstra, David Dykstra, Jos Backus, Sebastian Krahmer, Martin Pool, and our gone-but-not-forgotten compadre, J.W. Schultz.

Thanks also to Richard Brent, Brendan Mackay, Bill Waite, Stephen Rothwell and David Bell.  I’ve probably missed some people, my apologies if I have.


rsync was originally written by Andrew Tridgell and Paul Mackerras. Many people have later contributed to it.  It is currently maintained by Wayne Davison.

Mailing lists for support and development are available at

Referenced By

cowpoke(1), dirvish(8), dirvish.conf(5), ecryptfs-migrate-home(8), egencache(1), fakeroot-tcp(1), git-annex(1), guestfish(1), guestfs(3), jigdo-file(1), librsync(3), lsyncd(1), make.conf(5), mylvmbackup(1), pmlogger_check(1), prsync(1), rbldnsd(8), rdiff-backup(1), rsnapshot(1), rssh(1), rsyncd.conf(5), rsync_selinux(8), snapraid(1).

21 Dec 2015