How the cp Command Works on Linux
The CPcpcommand is used to copy files and documents on Linux and other Unix-like systems like MacOS. Let's look at how it works.
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The cp command (not to be confused with cd), allows us to copy files or directories. As such it is very commonly used on Linux and Unix-like systems like MacOS.
The syntax for cp is shown below, where
[OPTIONS] are optional settings we can change,
SOURCE is one or more files/directories we want to copy, and
LOCATION is where we want to copy them to:
cp [OPTIONS] SOURCE LOCATION
At its most basic, we can use cp to copy a file or directory to a new location. For example, the following command will copy a file called
my-file-1.txt to a directory called test:
cp my-file-1.txt ./test
In the above example, we don't give a file name, so the original file name is used. If we add a file name, we can copy the file with a new name. The following example will copy the file, and save it as new-file.txt in the test directory:
cp my-file-1.txt ./test/new-file.txt
If the file already exists, it will be overwritten. If you want to avoid that, just add the -n option, which will prevent any duplicate files from being overwritten:
cp -n my-file-1.txt ./test
If you'd instead like to confirm when a file is going to be overwritten, use the -i option. This will trigger a prompt asking if you want to overwrite it:
cp -i my-file-1.txt ./test
On Linux only, you can also use the -u option, which will only overwrite files if the file is older than the file you want to overwrite it with. This will not work on MacOS.
cp -u my-file-1.txt ./test
Finally, if you want a response whenever a cp command is complete, use -v to get a verbose message which will tell you exactly what's happened:
cp -v my-file-1.txt ./test # my-file-1.txt -> ./test/my-file-1.txt
If you want to maintain all the permissions that existed on the file you are copying when you copy it to its new directory, use the -p option. If you don't, the owner will be whoever is using the cp file:
cp -p my-file-1.txt ./test
So far we've looked at how to copy files. If we want to copy directories, we need to use the -R option, which stands for recursive. When we use this option, we copy the entire directory and all its children to a new location. For instance, to copy the test directory and call this copied directory newTest, you would write the following in the terminal:
cp -R ./test ./newTest
To copy multiple items at once, list them all out, and have the last location as the place where you want to copy all that stuff to. For example:
cp my-file-1.txt my-file-2.txt my-file-3.txt ./newTest
And if you want to include folders when you copy multiple things, use the -R option:
cp -R my-file-1.txt my-file-2.txt ./test ./newTest
Published at DZone with permission of Johnny Simpson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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