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CP(1) User Commands CP(1)


cp - copy files and directories




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

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

same as -dR --preserve=all
don't copy the file data, just the attributes
make a backup of each existing destination file
like --backup but does not accept an argument
copy contents of special files when recursive
same as --no-dereference --preserve=links
explain how a file is copied. Implies -v
if an existing destination file cannot be opened, remove it and try again (this option is ignored when the -n option is also used)
prompt before overwrite (overrides a previous -n option)
follow command-line symbolic links in SOURCE
hard link files instead of copying
always follow symbolic links in SOURCE
do not overwrite an existing file and do not fail (overrides a -u or previous -i option). See also --update; equivalent to --update=none.
never follow symbolic links in SOURCE
same as --preserve=mode,ownership,timestamps
preserve the specified attributes
don't preserve the specified attributes
use full source file name under DIRECTORY
copy directories recursively
control clone/CoW copies. See below
remove each existing destination file before attempting to open it (contrast with --force)
control creation of sparse files. See below
remove any trailing slashes from each SOURCE argument
make symbolic links instead of copying
override the usual backup suffix
copy all SOURCE arguments into DIRECTORY
treat DEST as a normal file
control which existing files are updated; UPDATE={all,none,older(default)}. See below
equivalent to --update[=older]
explain what is being done
stay on this file system
set SELinux security context of destination file to default type
like -Z, or if CTX is specified then set the SELinux or SMACK security context to CTX
display this help and exit
output version information and exit

ATTR_LIST is a comma-separated list of attributes. Attributes are 'mode' for permissions (including any ACL and xattr permissions), 'ownership' for user and group, 'timestamps' for file timestamps, 'links' for hard links, 'context' for security context, 'xattr' for extended attributes, and 'all' for all attributes.

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

UPDATE controls which existing files in the destination are replaced. 'all' is the default operation when an --update option is not specified, and results in all existing files in the destination being replaced. 'none' is similar to the --no-clobber option, in that no files in the destination are replaced, but also skipped files do not induce a failure. 'older' is the default operation when --update is specified, and results in files being replaced if they're older than the corresponding source file.

When --reflink[=always] is specified, perform a lightweight copy, where the data blocks are copied only when modified. If this is not possible the copy fails, or if --reflink=auto is specified, fall back to a standard copy. Use --reflink=never to ensure a standard copy is performed.

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

never make backups (even if --backup is given)
make numbered backups
numbered if numbered backups exist, simple otherwise
always make simple backups

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


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


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Copyright © 2023 Free Software Foundation, Inc. License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later <>.
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it. There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.



Full documentation <>
or available locally via: info '(coreutils) cp invocation'

March 2024 GNU coreutils 9.4