How to Transfer Files in Linux with SCP and Rsync

In this tutorial we will explain how to use SCP (Secure Copy) and Rsync, two commands that can be used to transfer files between two machines.

For example, we can copy a file or directory from local to remote or from remote to local systems.

When using scp to transfer files, everything is encrypted so sensitive details are not exposed.

In this tutorial, we give examples of how to use scp and rsync commands to transfer files.

SCP (Secure Copy)

scp copies files between hosts on a network.

It uses ssh(1) for data transfer, and uses the same authentication and provides the same security as ssh(1).

The scp command relies on ssh for data transfer, therefore it requires an ssh key or password to authenticate on the remote systems.

You can read more on how to set up ssh keys.

The general syntax and usage of scp is:

scp [OPTION] [user@]local:]file1 [user@]remote:]file2

scp provides a number of options which are explained in more detail.

Transfer Files from Local to Remote with SCP

To copy or transfer a file from a local machine to a remote machine, run the following command:

scp image.png remote_username@


  • image.png is the name of the file we want to transfer from local to remote,
  • remote_username is the user on the remote server,
  • is the server IP address,
  • /remote/directory is the path to the directory we want to copy the file to.

Note: If you don’t specify a remote directory, the file will be copied to the remote user home directory.

When you press enter, you will be prompted to enter the remote user password and the transfer will start.

Omitting the filename from the destination location copies the file with the original name. If you want to save the file under a different name you need to specify a new name:

For example:

scp image1.png remote_username@

Transfer Files from Remote to Local with SCP

To transfer a file from a remote machine to your local machine, run the following command:

scp remote_username@ /local/directory

Transfer a Directory Recursively from Local to Remote

To transfer a directory and all it’s contents from a local machine to a remote host, use the following command:

scp -rp sourcedirectory user@dest:/path

NB: This creates the sourcedirectory inside /path thus the files will be in /path/sourcedirectory


Like scprsync is used to copy files either to or from a remote host, or locally on the current host.

rsync is generally used to transfer large files.

Transfer a File from Local to Remote with Rsync

To copy a file from your local machine to a remote host with rsynch, run the following command

rsync -ave ssh mydirectory remote_user@


In this tutorial, you learned how to use the scp and rsync command to copy files and directories between two machines.