> Linux Man Page: "cp"


Search with Google


The Linux Documentation Project maintains an archive of snaphots of the (English language) core Linux manual pages that are maintained by Michael Kerrisk. Corrections and additions are welcome, but review the "Help Wanted" list, first.

Man pages belonging to programs are usually distributed together with those programs. Therefore, the core Linux man-pages mainly contains the pages for system calls and library routines, special devices, and file formats. However, it also contains documentation for a few programs, in cases where the authors or maintainers of the program do not distribute man pages themselves.

This page is part of release 3.11 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, and information about reporting bugs, can be found at


man page(1) manual page Table of Contents


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.

-a, --archive
same as -dpPR

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=link

-f, --force
if an existing destination file cannot be opened, remove it and try again

-i, --interactive
prompt before overwrite

follow command-line symbolic links

-l, --link
link files instead of copying

-L, --dereference
always follow symbolic links

-P, --no-dereference
never follow symbolic links

same as --preserve=mode,ownership,timestamps

preserve the specified attributes (default: mode,ownership,timestamps) and security contexts, if possible additional attributes: links, all

don’t preserve the specified attributes

use full source file name under DIRECTORY

-R, -r, --recursive
copy directories recursively

remove each existing destination file before attempting to open it (contrast with --force)

control creation of sparse files

remove any trailing slashes from each SOURCE argument

-s, --symbolic-link
make symbolic links instead of copying

-S, --suffix=SUFFIX
override the usual backup suffix

-t, --target-directory=DIRECTORY
copy all SOURCE arguments into DIRECTORY

-T, --no-target-directory
treat DEST as a normal file

-u, --update
copy only when the SOURCE file is newer than the destination file or when the destination file is missing

-v, --verbose
explain what is being done

-x, --one-file-system
stay on this file system

--help display this help and exit

-Z, --context=CONTEXT
set security context of copy to CONTEXT

output version information and exit

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.

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:

none, off
never make backups (even if --backup is given)

numbered, t
make numbered backups

existing, nil
numbered if numbered backups exist, simple otherwise

simple, never
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.

Reporting Bugs

Report bugs to <>.


Copyright © 2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc. This is free software. You may redistribute copies of it under the terms of the GNU General Public License <>. There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.

See Also

The full documentation for cp is maintained as a Texinfo manual. If the info and cp programs are properly installed at your site, the command

info cp

should give you access to the complete manual.

Table of Contents

use open software!