cp - copy files and directory subtrees
cp [-f|-i] [-p] [-e extarg ] file1 new_file
cp [-f|-i] [-p] [-e extarg ] file1 [file2 ...] dest_directory
cp [-f|-i] [-p] [-R|-r] [-e extarg ] directory1 [directory2 ...]
+ file1 to new or existing new_file,
+ file1 to existing dest_directory,
+ file1, file2, ... to existing dest_directory,
+ directory subtree directory1, to new or existing
+ multiple directory subtrees directory1, directory2, ... to
new or existing dest_directory.
cp fails if file1 and new_file are the same (be cautious when using
shell metacharacters). When destination is a directory, one or more
files are copied into that directory. If two or more files are
copied, the destination must be a directory. When copying a single
file to a new file, if new_file exists, its contents are destroyed.
If the access permissions of the destination dest_directory or
existing destination file new_file forbid writing, cp aborts and
produces an error message ``cannot create file''.
To copy one or more directory subtrees to another directory, the -r
option is required. The -r option is ignored if used when copying a
file to another file or files to a directory.
If new_file is a link to an existing file with other links, cp
overwrites the existing file and retains all links. If copying a file
to an existing file, cp does not change existing file access
permission bits, owner, or group.
When copying files to a directory or to a new file that does not
already exist, cp creates a new file with the same file permission
bits as file1, modified by the file creation mask of the user if the
-p option was not specified, and then bitwise inclusively ORed with
S_IRWXU. The owner and group of the new file or files are those of
the user. The last modification time of new_file (and last access
time, if new_file did not exist) and the last access time of the
source file1 are set to the time the copy was made.
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-i (interactive copy) Cause cp to write a prompt to standard
error and wait for a response before copying a file that would
overwrite an existing file. If the response from the standard
input is affirmative, the file is copied if permissions allow
the copy. If the -i (interactive) and -f (forced-copy)
options are both specified, the -i option is ignored.
-f Force existing destination pathnames to be removed before
copying, without prompting for confirmation. This option has
the effect of destroying and replacing any existing file whose
name and directory location conflicts with the name and
location of the new file created by the copy operation.
-p (preserve permissions) Causes cp to preserve in the copy as
many of the modification time, access time, file mode, user
ID, and group ID as allowed by permissions.
-r (recursive subtree copy) Cause cp to copy the subtree rooted
at each source directory to dest_directory. If dest_directory
exists, it must be a directory, in which case cp creates a
directory within dest_directory with the same name as file1
and copies the subtree rooted at file1 to
dest_directory/file1. An error occurs if dest_directory/file1
already exists. If dest_directory does not exist, cp creates
it and copies the subtree rooted at file1 to dest_directory.
Note that cp -r cannot merge subtrees.
Usually normal files and directories are copied. Character
special devices, block special devices, network special files,
named pipes, symbolic links, and sockets are copied, if the
user has access to the file; otherwise, a warning is printed
stating that the file cannot be created, and the file is
dest_directory should not reside within directory1, nor should
directory1 have a cyclic directory structure, since in both
cases cp attempts to copy an infinite amount of data.
-R (recursive subtree copy) The -R option is identical to the -r
option with the exception that directories copied by the -R
option are created with read, write, and search permission for
the owner. User and group permissions remain unchanged.
With the -R and -r options, in addition to regular files and
directories, cp also copies FIFOs, character and block device
files and symbolic links. Only superusers can copy device
files. All other users get an error. Symbolic links are
copied so the target points to the same location that the
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Warning: While copying a directory tree that has device
special files, use the -r option; otherwise, an infinite
amount of data is read from the device special file and is
duplicated as a special file in the destination directory
occupying large file system space.
Specifies the handling of any extent attributes of the file[s]
to be copied. extarg takes one of the following values.
warn Issues a warning message if extent attributes
cannot be copied, but copies the file anyway.
ignore Does not copy the extent attributes.
force Fails to copy the file if the extent attribute
can not be copied.
Extent attributes can not be copied if the files are being
copied to a file system which does not support extent
attributes or if that file system has a different block size
than the original. If -e is not specified, the default value
for extarg is warn.
Access Control Lists (ACLs)
If new_file is a new file, or if a new file is created in
dest_directory, it inherits the access control list of the original
file1, file2, etc., altered to reflect any difference in ownership
between the two files (see acl(5) and aclv(5)). In JFS file systems,
new files created by cp do not inherit their parent directory's
default ACL entries (if any), but instead retain the ACLs of the files
being copied. When copying files from a JFS file system to an HFS
file system or vice versa, optional ACL entries are lost.
LC_CTYPE determines the interpretation of text as single and/or
LANG and LC_CTYPE determine the local language equivalent of y (for
LANG determines the language in which messages are displayed.
If LC_CTYPE is not specified in the environment or is set to the empty
string, the value of LANG is used as a default for each unspecified or
empty variable. If LANG is not specified or is set to the empty
string, a default of "C" (see lang(5)) is used instead of LANG. If
any internationalization variable contains an invalid setting, cp
behaves as if all internationalization variables are set to "C". See
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International Code Set Support
Single- and multi-byte character code sets are supported.
The following command moves the directory sourcedir and its contents
to a new location (targetdir) in the file system. Since cp creates
the new directory, the destination directory targetdir should not
cp -r sourcedir targetdir &&&&&&&& rm -rf sourcedir
The -r option copies the subtree (files and subdirectories) in
directory sourcedir to directory targetdir. The double ampersand (&&&&&&&&)
causes a conditional action. If the operation on the left side of the
&&&&&&&& is successful, the right side is executed (and removes the old
directory). If the operation on the left of the &&&&&&&& is not successful,
the old directory is not removed.
This example is equivalent to:
mv sourcedir targetdir
To copy all files and directory subtrees in the current directory to
an existing targetdir, use:
cp -r * targetdir
To copy all files and directory subtrees in sourcedir to targetdir,
cp -r sourcedir/* targetdir
Note that directory pathnames can precede both sourcedir and
To create a zero-length file, use any of the following:
cat /dev/null >>>>file
cp /dev/null file
Access control lists of networked files are summarized (as returned in
st_mode by stat()), but not copied to the new file. When using mv or
ln on such files, a + is not printed after the mode value when asking
for permission to overwrite a file.
cp was developed by AT&T, the University of California, Berkeley, and
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cpio(1), ln(1), mv(1), rm(1), link(1M), lstat(2), readlink(2),
stat(2), symlink(2), symlink(4), acl(5), aclv(5).
cp: SVID2, SVID3, XPG2, XPG3, XPG4, POSIX.2
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