How to use Rsync to transfer files over SSH - ICSS


When it comes to transferring files between networked systems, Linux and Unix users have a variety of options. Knowing how to use Rsync to transfer files over SSH is necessary for Cyber Security Professionals, and here are the guide for you to know.

SSH and FTP are the most widely used data transfer protocols. While FTP is widely used, it is always preferable to use SSH because it is the most secure method of file sharing.

There are other SSH file transfer utilities, such as scp and sftp, but none of them provide all of the functions that rsync has. rsync can be used for a variety of tasks, including data mirroring, incremental backups, and file transferring between systems.

How to use Rsync to transfer files over SSH


Both the destination and source computers must have the rsync program installed. If it isn't already installed, use your distribution's package manager to do so:

Ubuntu and Debian:

$ sudo apt install rsync

CentOS and Fedora:

$ sudo yum install rsync

  • Access to the remote computer using SSH.
  • Both the rsync command's user and the remote SSH user must have read and write rights.

Knowing about How to use Rsync to transfer files over SSH

How to transfer a file using rsync

You can use rsync to move files and directories from and to remote servers using SSH.

The following is the standard syntax for using rsync to transfer files:

Local to Remote host: rsync [OPTION]... -e ssh [SRC]... [[email protected]]HOST:DEST

Remote to Local host: rsync [OPTION]... -e ssh [[email protected]]HOST:SRC... [DEST]

The source directory is SRC, and the destination directory is DEST. HOST is the remote SSH host or IP address, and USER is the remote SSH username.

You can skip the -e ssh argument because recent versions of rsync are configured to utilise SSH as the default remote shell.

To transfer a single file /opt/ from a local system to the /var/www/ directory on a remote machine with IP, for example, type:

$ rsync -a /opt/ [email protected]:/var/www/

The -a option syncs folders in a recursive manner, transfers special and block devices, and keeps symbolic links, modification times, group, ownership, and privileges intact.

You will be requested to input the user password if you haven't set up a password less SSH login to the remote machine.

The file will be rewritten if it already exists on the remote server. Specify a new name for the file if you want to store it under a different name:

$ rsync -a /opt/ [email protected]:/var/www/

Use the remote location as the source and the local location as the destination to transfer data from a remote to a local machine:

$ rsync -a [email protected]:/var/www/ /opt/

Using rsync over SSH to move directories is the same as transferring files.

It's vital to understand that rsync treats source folders with a trailing slash / differently. When there is a trailing slash in the source directory, rsync will only replicate the contents of the source directory to the destination directory. The source directory will be copied into the destination directory if the terminating slash is omitted.

To move the local /opt/website/images/ directory to a remote machine's /var/www/images/ directory, for example, type:

$ rsync -a /home/linuxize/images/ [email protected]:/var/www/images/

If you want to synchronise the local and remote directories, use the —delete option. When you use this option, be aware that it will delete files from the destination directory if they do not exist in the source directory.

$ rsync -a --delete/home/linuxize/images/[email protected]:/var/www/images/

If SSH on the remote host is listening on a port other than 22, use the -e option to specify the port. If SSH is listening on port 3322, for example, you would type:

$ rsync -a -e "ssh -p 3322" /home/linuxize/images/[email protected]:/var/www/images/

When transferring huge amounts of data, it's best to run the rsync command in a screen session or use the -P option, which tells rsync to show a progress bar and keep the files that haven't completed the transfer:

$ rsync -a -P /home/linuxize/images/ [email protected]:/var/www/images/


Now you know how to copy and synchronise files and directories using rsync over SSH. This is how to use Rsync to transfer files over SSH. Do visit our CEH page to know more about our Course Curriculum in Ethical Hacking.

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