rsync is used to sync data from one location to another and is used mainly for sync-copying data from/to remote systems. Rsync is faster than scp since it compares and copies only the changes betwreen source and destination and copies only the changes or difference. If for whatever reason rsync gets interrupted in the middle, running the command again will pick it up from where it was left. In this post we see rsync usage with examples

rsync is similar to scp in terms of syntax. One has to just specify the source and destination with optional arguments.

  • rsync two directories locally
  • rsync two directories from local to remote
  • Backup with rsync
  • Exclude specific files or directories from being rsync’d
  • rsync options – full list
  • rsync two directories locally

    rsync -avr /SOURCE /DESTINATIOn
    # -a for preserve the metadata such as permissions, time, symbolic links etc.
    # -v display verbose output
    # -r copy recursively all sub-directories and its contents

    rsync basic example
    rsync basic example

    As seen in the above example, after running rsync command all files have been copied recursively to the destination.

    rsync will create the destination directory if it does not already exist. In the below example, we will try the same command without the destination directory.

    rsync when destination directory does not exist
    rsync when destination directory does not exist

    The above screenshot shows that rsync has created the destination directory ‘DEST’ itself and copied all the contents of ‘SOURCE’ recursively in the destination.

    Note: rsync does not create the entire remote path if it does not exist. It only creates the destination directory if it does not exist. If the path does not exist for the destination directory, it will throw the below error.

    rsync does not create path of destination directory
    rsync does not create path of destination directory

    The presence or absence of trailing slash [/] for the path makes a lot of difference. When the trailing slash is present, rsync copies the contents of the directory instead of the directory itself and vice versa.

    In the below example, we remove the trailing slash and run the same command.

    rsync without the trailing slash [/]
    rsync without the trailing slash [/]

    The above screenshot shows that, instead of contents of ‘SOURCE’ the directory ‘SOURCE’ itself is copied to the destination directory ‘DEST’ since the trailing slash / is absent.

    rsync two directories from local to remote

    rsync to a remote system can be done by just adding the destination server’s name to the command.

    rsync -a /tmp/SOURCE username@remotehost:/tmp/DEST 

    Backup with rsync

    rsync does an incremental copy by default. This can be used to run an incremental backup.

    rsync -avrz /var/www/html 
    rsync -arvz /var/www/html admin@backup-server:/backup/web_server/
    # -z compress the files

    Exclude specific files or directories from being rsync’d

    rsync -arvz --exclude 'tmp*' /var/www/html admin@backup-server:/backup/web_server/
    rsync -arvz --exclude 'tmp/jan*' /var/www/html admin@backup-server:/backup/web_server/
    rsync -arvz -e ssh --exclude 'tmp/jan*' /var/www/html admin@backup-server:/backup/web_server/
    #make rsync to use ssh, this way in case you have public keys exchanged, rsync works password less.

    Below is an example to rsync the directory ‘SOURCE’ to destination ‘DEST’ in the same location.

    The SOURCE directory has files and sub-directory, as in the below screenshot.

    Directory structure before rsync
    Directory structure before rsync

    In the below screenshot we rsync contents of SOURCE to DEST but exclude the directory ‘subdir’

    exclude a directory from rsync
    exclude a directory from rsync

    Note that ‘subdir’ has been excluded from rsync.

    In the below screenshot we rsync contents of SOURCE to DEST but exclude the files of pattern ‘j*’

    exclude files from rysync
    exclude files from rysync

    We see that all files starting with ‘j’ has been excluded.

    rsync options

    [expand title=”rsync options – Full list”]

     -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 manpage 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         set backup suffix (default ~ w/o --backup-dir)
     -u, --update                skip files that are newer on the receiver
         --inplace               update destination files in-place (SEE MAN PAGE)
         --append                append data onto shorter files
         --append-verify         like --append, but with 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 source tree
         --munge-links           munge symlinks to make them safer (but unusable)
     -k, --copy-dirlinks         transform symlink to a 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 the file's executability
         --chmod=CHMOD           affect file and/or directory permissions
     -A, --acls                  preserve ACLs (implies --perms)
     -X, --xattrs                preserve extended attributes
     -o, --owner                 preserve owner (super-user only)
     -g, --group                 preserve group
         --devices               preserve device files (super-user only)
         --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 them
     -n, --dry-run               perform a trial run with no changes made
     -W, --whole-file            copy files whole (without 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 the remote machine
         --existing              skip creating new files on receiver
         --ignore-existing       skip updating files that already exist on receiver
         --remove-source-files   sender removes synchronized files (non-dirs)
         --del                   an alias for --delete-during
         --delete                delete extraneous files from destination dirs
         --delete-before         receiver deletes before transfer, 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 destination 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 directories 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 transfer's end
     -m, --prune-empty-dirs      prune empty directory chains from the 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 in size and mod-time
     -M, --remote-option=OPTION  send OPTION to the remote side only
         --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 destination 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 a suffix in LIST
     -C, --cvs-exclude           auto-ignore files 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; only wildcard special-chars
         --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
         --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
         --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
         --outbuf=N|L|B          set output buffering to None, Line, or Block
         --write-batch=FILE      write a batched update to FILE
         --only-write-batch=FILE like --write-batch but w/o updating destination
         --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)
         --noatime               do not alter atime when opening source files
     -4, --ipv4                  prefer IPv4
     -6, --ipv6                  prefer IPv6
         --version               print version number
    (-h) --help                  show this help (-h is --help only if used alone)