cp Man page

CP(1) User Commands CP(1)


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

-a, –archive
same as -dR –preserve=all

don’t copy the file data, just the attributes

–backup[=CONTROL] make a backup of each existing destination file

-b like –backup but does not accept an argument

copy contents of special files when recursive

-d same as –no-dereference –preserve=links

-f, –force
if an existing destination file cannot be opened, remove it and
try again (this option is ignored when the -n option is also

-i, –interactive
prompt before overwrite (overrides a previous -n option)

-H follow command-line symbolic links in SOURCE

-l, –link
hard link files instead of copying

-L, –dereference
always follow symbolic links in SOURCE

-n, –no-clobber
do not overwrite an existing file (overrides a previous -i

-P, –no-dereference
never follow symbolic links in SOURCE

-p same as –preserve=mode,ownership,timestamps

–preserve[=ATTR_LIST] preserve the specified attributes (default: mode,ownership,time‐
stamps), if possible additional attributes: context, links,
xattr, all

don’t preserve the specified attributes

use full source file name under DIRECTORY

-R, -r, –recursive
copy directories recursively

–reflink[=WHEN] control clone/CoW copies. See below

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

control creation of sparse files. See below

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

-Z set SELinux security context of destination file to default type

–context[=CTX] like -Z, or if CTX is specified then set the SELinux or SMACK
security context to CTX

–help display this help and exit

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 behav‐
ior 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.

When –reflink[=always] is specified, perform a lightweight copy, where
the data blocks are copied only when modified. If this is not possible
the copy fails, or if –reflink=auto is specified, fall back to a stan‐
dard copy.

The backup suffix is ‘~’, unless set with –suffix or SIM‐
PLE_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.


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Copyright © 2016 Free Software Foundation, Inc. License GPLv3+: GNU
GPL version 3 or later .
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.


Full documentation at:
or available locally via: info ‘(coreutils) cp invocation’

GNU coreutils 8.25 February 2016 CP(1)