(coreutils.info.gz) cp invocation

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 11.1 `cp': Copy files and directories
 `cp' copies files (or, optionally, directories).  The copy is
 completely independent of the original.  You can either copy one file to
 another, or copy arbitrarily many files to a destination directory.
      cp [OPTION]... [-T] SOURCE DEST
      cp [OPTION]... -t DIRECTORY SOURCE...
    * If two file names are given, `cp' copies the first file to the
    * If the `--target-directory' (`-t') option is given, or failing
      that if the last file is a directory and the
      `--no-target-directory' (`-T') option is not given, `cp' copies
      each SOURCE file to the specified directory, using the SOURCEs'
    Generally, files are written just as they are read.  For exceptions,
 see the `--sparse' option below.
    By default, `cp' does not copy directories.  However, the `-R',
 `-a', and `-r' options cause `cp' to copy recursively by descending
 into source directories and copying files to corresponding destination
    When copying from a symbolic link, `cp' normally follows the link
 only when not copying recursively.  This default can be overridden with
 the `--archive' (`-a'), `-d', `--dereference' (`-L'),
 `--no-dereference' (`-P'), and `-H' options.  If more than one of these
 options is specified, the last one silently overrides the others.
    When copying to a symbolic link, `cp' follows the link only when it
 refers to an existing regular file.  However, when copying to a
 dangling symbolic link, `cp' refuses by default, and fails with a
 diagnostic, since the operation is inherently dangerous.  This behavior
 is contrary to historical practice and to POSIX.  Set `POSIXLY_CORRECT'
 to make `cp' attempt to create the target of a dangling destination
 symlink, in spite of the possible risk.  Also, when an option like
 `--backup' or `--link' acts to rename or remove the destination before
 copying, `cp' renames or removes the symbolic link rather than the file
 it points to.
    By default, `cp' copies the contents of special files only when not
 copying recursively.  This default can be overridden with the
 `--copy-contents' option.
    `cp' generally refuses to copy a file onto itself, with the
 following exception: if `--force --backup' is specified with SOURCE and
 DEST identical, and referring to a regular file, `cp' will make a
 backup file, either regular or numbered, as specified in the usual ways
 ( Backup options).  This is useful when you simply want to make
 a backup of an existing file before changing it.
    The program accepts the following options.  Also see  Common
      Preserve as much as possible of the structure and attributes of the
      original files in the copy (but do not attempt to preserve internal
      directory structure; i.e., `ls -U' may list the entries in a copied
      directory in a different order).  Try to preserve SELinux security
      context and extended attributes (xattr), but ignore any failure to
      do that and print no corresponding diagnostic.  Equivalent to `-dR
      --preserve=all' with the reduced diagnostics.
       Backup options.  Make a backup of each file that would
      otherwise be overwritten or removed.  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.  One useful application of this combination of
      options is this tiny Bourne shell script:
           # Usage: backup FILE...
           # Create a GNU-style backup of each listed FILE.
           for i; do
             cp --backup --force -- "$i" "$i"
      Preserve SELinux security context of the original files if
      possible.  Some file systems don't support storing of SELinux
      security context.
      If copying recursively, copy the contents of any special files
      (e.g., FIFOs and device files) as if they were regular files.
      This means trying to read the data in each source file and writing
      it to the destination.  It is usually a mistake to use this
      option, as it normally has undesirable effects on special files
      like FIFOs and the ones typically found in the `/dev' directory.
      In most cases, `cp -R --copy-contents' will hang indefinitely
      trying to read from FIFOs and special files like `/dev/console',
      and it will fill up your destination disk if you use it to copy
      `/dev/zero'.  This option has no effect unless copying
      recursively, and it does not affect the copying of symbolic links.
      Copy symbolic links as symbolic links rather than copying the
      files that they point to, and preserve hard links between source
      files in the copies.  Equivalent to `--no-dereference
      When copying without this option and an existing destination file
      cannot be opened for writing, the copy fails.  However, with
      `--force'), when a destination file cannot be opened, `cp' then
      removes it and tries to open it again.  Contrast this behavior
      with that enabled by `--link' and `--symbolic-link', whereby the
      destination file is never opened but rather is removed
      unconditionally.  Also see the description of
      This option is independent of the `--interactive' or `-i' option:
      neither cancels the effect of the other.
      This option is redundant if the `--no-clobber' or `-n' option is
      If a command line argument specifies a symbolic link, then copy the
      file it points to rather than the symbolic link itself.  However,
      copy (preserving its nature) any symbolic link that is encountered
      via recursive traversal.
      When copying a file other than a directory, prompt whether to
      overwrite an existing destination file. The `-i' option overrides
      a previous `-n' option.
      Make hard links instead of copies of non-directories.
      Follow symbolic links when copying from them.  With this option,
      `cp' cannot create a symbolic link.  For example, a symlink (to
      regular file) in the source tree will be copied to a regular file
      in the destination tree.
      Do not overwrite an existing file. The `-n' option overrides a
      previous `-i' option. This option is mutually exclusive with `-b'
      or `--backup' option.
      Copy symbolic links as symbolic links rather than copying the
      files that they point to.  This option affects only symbolic links
      in the source; symbolic links in the destination are always
      followed if possible.
      Preserve the specified attributes of the original files.  If
      specified, the ATTRIBUTE_LIST must be a comma-separated list of
      one or more of the following strings:
           Preserve the file mode bits and access control lists.
           Preserve the owner and group.  On most modern systems, only
           users with appropriate privileges may change the owner of a
           file, and ordinary users may preserve the group ownership of
           a file only if they happen to be a member of the desired
           Preserve the times of last access and last modification, when
           possible.  On older systems, it is not possible to preserve
           these attributes when the affected file is a symbolic link.
           However, many systems now provide the `utimensat' function,
           which makes it possible even for symbolic links.
           Preserve in the destination files any links between
           corresponding source files.  Note that with `-L' or `-H',
           this option can convert symbolic links to hard links.  For
                $ mkdir c; : > a; ln -s a b; cp -aH a b c; ls -i1 c
                74161745 a
                74161745 b
           Note the inputs: `b' is a symlink to regular file `a', yet
           the files in destination directory, `c/', are hard-linked.
           Since `-a' implies `--preserve=links', and since `-H' tells
           `cp' to dereference command line arguments, it sees two files
           with the same inode number, and preserves the perceived hard
           Here is a similar example that exercises `cp''s `-L' option:
                $ mkdir b c; (cd b; : > a; ln -s a b); cp -aL b c; ls -i1 c/b
                74163295 a
                74163295 b
           Preserve SELinux security context of the file. `cp' will fail
           if the preserving of SELinux security context is not
           Preserve extended attributes if `cp' is built with xattr
           support, and xattrs are supported and enabled on your file
           system.  If SELinux context and/or ACLs are implemented using
           xattrs, they are preserved by this option as well.
           Preserve all file attributes.  Equivalent to specifying all
           of the above, but with the difference that failure to
           preserve SELinux security context or extended attributes does
           not change `cp''s exit status.  `cp' does diagnose such
      Using `--preserve' with no ATTRIBUTE_LIST is equivalent to
      In the absence of this option, each destination file is created
      with the mode bits of the corresponding source file, minus the
      bits set in the umask and minus the set-user-ID and set-group-ID
      bits.   File permissions.
      Do not preserve the specified attributes.  The ATTRIBUTE_LIST has
      the same form as for `--preserve'.
      Form the name of each destination file by appending to the target
      directory a slash and the specified name of the source file.  The
      last argument given to `cp' must be the name of an existing
      directory.  For example, the command:
           cp --parents a/b/c existing_dir
      copies the file `a/b/c' to `existing_dir/a/b/c', creating any
      missing intermediate directories.
      Copy directories recursively.  By default, do not follow symbolic
      links in the source; see the `--archive' (`-a'), `-d',
      `--dereference' (`-L'), `--no-dereference' (`-P'), and `-H'
      options.  Special files are copied by creating a destination file
      of the same type as the source; see the `--copy-contents' option.
      It is not portable to use `-r' to copy symbolic links or special
      files.  On some non-GNU systems, `-r' implies the equivalent of
      `-L' and `--copy-contents' for historical reasons.  Also, it is
      not portable to use `-R' to copy symbolic links unless you also
      specify `-P', as POSIX allows implementations that dereference
      symbolic links by default.
      Perform a lightweight, copy-on-write (COW) copy.  Copying with
      this option can succeed only on some file systems.  Once it has
      succeeded, beware that the source and destination files share the
      same disk data blocks as long as they remain unmodified.  Thus, if
      a disk I/O error affects data blocks of one of the files, the
      other suffers the exact same fate.
      The WHEN value can be one of the following:
           The default behavior: if the copy-on-write operation is not
           supported then report the failure for each file and exit with
           a failure status.
           If the copy-on-write operation is not supported then fall back
           to the standard copy behaviour.
      Remove each existing destination file before attempting to open it
      (contrast with `-f' above).
      A "sparse file" contains "holes"--a sequence of zero bytes that
      does not occupy any physical disk blocks; the `read' system call
      reads these as zeros.  This can both save considerable disk space
      and increase speed, since many binary files contain lots of
      consecutive zero bytes.  By default, `cp' detects holes in input
      source files via a crude heuristic and makes the corresponding
      output file sparse as well.  Only regular files may be sparse.
      The WHEN value can be one of the following:
           The default behavior: if the input file is sparse, attempt to
           make the output file sparse, too.  However, if an output file
           exists but refers to a non-regular file, then do not attempt
           to make it sparse.
           For each sufficiently long sequence of zero bytes in the
           input file, attempt to create a corresponding hole in the
           output file, even if the input file does not appear to be
           sparse.  This is useful when the input file resides on a file
           system that does not support sparse files (for example,
           `efs' file systems in SGI IRIX 5.3 and earlier), but the
           output file is on a type of file system that does support
           them.  Holes may be created only in regular files, so if the
           destination file is of some other type, `cp' does not even
           try to make it sparse.
           Never make the output file sparse.  This is useful in
           creating a file for use with the `mkswap' command, since such
           a file must not have any holes.
      Remove any trailing slashes from each SOURCE argument.  
      Trailing slashes.
      Make symbolic links instead of copies of non-directories.  All
      source file names must be absolute (starting with `/') unless the
      destination files are in the current directory.  This option merely
      results in an error message on systems that do not support
      symbolic links.
      Append SUFFIX to each backup file made with `-b'.   Backup
      Specify the destination DIRECTORY.   Target directory.
      Do not treat the last operand specially when it is a directory or a
      symbolic link to a directory.   Target directory.
      Do not copy a non-directory that has an existing destination with
      the same or newer modification time.  If time stamps are being
      preserved, the comparison is to the source time stamp truncated to
      the resolutions of the destination file system and of the system
      calls used to update time stamps; this avoids duplicate work if
      several `cp -pu' commands are executed with the same source and
      Print the name of each file before copying it.
      Skip subdirectories that are on different file systems from the
      one that the copy started on.  However, mount point directories
      _are_ copied.
    An exit status of zero indicates success, and a nonzero value
 indicates failure.
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