Best copy-rename directory linux command examples

Last updated on June 23rd, 2018 at 11:02 am

While working on development project or support activities  in Linux operation system , I often need to  backup or rename the current working folder /directory before many any changes. Let’s see how we can do accomplished that.

How to copy-rename Files/folder  in Linux Operating system

Linux Operating system provides cp command to copy the files/directory from one place to another  and mv command to move/rename the file/directory/folder. Apart of these we can also use rsync utility to  perform copy and backup.

Each of these command has various options to change  directory

I would explaining each command in details here with many examples

cp  copy files/dirs [copy linux command]

This  command is used in Unix/Linux Operation system to copy the files and directory


cp General Options:
-i Interactive. cp will prompt for confirmation whenever the copy would overwrite an existing target.
-r Recursive. cp will copy the directory and all its files, including any subdirectories and their files to target.
-p Preserve. cp duplicates not only the contents of source_file, but also preserves the owner and group id, permissions modes, modification and access time.
More Options:
-v verbose. cp will show all the file being copied.
-u copy only if the source file is newer
–backup This option will make backup copy of the file in destination side.–backup=simple option will create a backup file which marked by a tilde sign (~)–attributes-only  This option will copy file with zero bytes and same attribute as source file-f  Force option.  it will force the copying activity. If the destination files cannot be opened, then -f will try again.-a  archive option. It will copy the directory with exact files and directory including symbolic link-L copy without following symbolic link in source-P copy following symbolic link in source

How it works for General option

If directory d2 does not exist, it is created. Otherwise, it creates a directory named d1 within directory d2.

Command Results
cp x y Copies the contents of x into y. If y does not exist, it is created; otherwise, y is overwritten with the contents of x.
cp -i x y Like above however, since the “-i” (interactive) option is specified, if y exists, the user is prompted before it is overwritten with the contents of x.
cp x d1 Copy the contents of x (into a file named x) inside of directory d1.
cp -R d1 d2 Copy the contents of the directory d1.

Examples of copy directory linux command


Copy the file myfile1 to myfile2

cp  myfile1 myfile2

Copy multiple files to the directory

cp file1 file2 file3   dir1/

Copy the file preserving the timestamp

cp -p  file1  file1_backup

Copy a directory dir1 to dir2

cp -r dir1  dir2

Copy a directory dir1 to home directory

cp -r dir1 /home/user/

Copy the file myfile1 to myfile2 with verbose option

cp   -v myfile1 myfile2


Copy the file myfile1 to myfile2 only if source file is newer wih verbose option

cp -vu myfile.txt /home/users/

Copy the files using interactive mode

cp -I *.txt dir/


Screenshot of  copy directory linux command

copy directory linux

mv – move files(s) /dirs[how to rename a directory in linux]

Options: –

-f   mv will move the file(s) without prompting even if it is writing over an existing target.

-i   mv will prompt for confirmation whenever the  move would  overwrite  an  existing  target


  1.   mv –i f1.txt f2.txt

[moves f1.txt to f2.txt, if f2.txt exists prompts for confirmation.]

  1.   mv file1 file2 file3  dest_directory.

[ moves file1 to 3 to dst_directory.]

  1.    mv –r oracle/app /u000

[ moves directory app and all its subdirectories files to /u000 directory]

  1. mv f1.txt oracle/f2.txt

[ moves directory app and all its subdirectories files to /u000 directory]


You can find all the option of cp and mv using the command man cp,man mv

linux copy directory


We have written a nice article previously to explain various option it. I would certainly recommend you to read it and get the benefits

RSYNC command – sync the data between two directory

Frequently asked question for copy directory command

1) how to copy multiple directories to a directory in Linux


You can use copy command like this

suppose you need to copy directories dir1 dir2 to dir3, then copy like below

cp -r dir1 dir2 dir3/

2) How to copy the directory tree structure without copying the files inside them


find SOURCE -type d -exec mkdir -p TARGET/{} \;


Copying or backing up the folder or files is not a scary task. If you know the commands  with the option available , it is easy to copy or backup the folder/directory in Linux.We can use either of three command cp,mv or rsync according to the need and circumstances. I would suggest you to go over unix box and create a directory with sample files  and try the option given above to get hands on experience with the commands

What tips are you having for copying the files?

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