14 SCP Command Examples to Securely Copy Files in Linux

In this blog post, we will learn scp command in Linux with 14 different examples.

SCP is a command line tool in Linux and UNIX distributions, which is used to copy files and directories across the systems securely over the network. SCP stands for secure copy as it copies files using ssh protocol.

When we scp command is invoked then it makes ssh connection to remote system and uses the same SSH security mechanism in the backend, it needs either password or keys for authentication.

SCP Command Syntax

SCP syntax is straightforward and mirrors that of the traditional cp command:

Copy from Local to Remote Host

# scp <options> <files_or_directories> user@target_host:/<folder>

Copy from Remote Host to local system

# scp <options> user@target_host:/files   <folder_local_system>


  •  -C         Enable Compression
  •  -i           identity File or private key
  •  -l           limit the bandwidth while copying
  •  -P          ssh port number of target host
  •  -p          Preserves permissions, modes and access time of files while copying
  •  -q          Suppress warning message of SSH
  •   -r          Copy files and directories recursively
  •   -v          verbose output

Let’s delve into 14 SCP command examples that will empower you to securely copy files in Linux.

1) Copy File From Local to Remote System

$ scp /path/to/local/file username@remote_server:/path/to/destination/

Let’s assume we want to copy jdk rpm package from our local Linux system to remote system ( using scp command, run

$ scp jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm [email protected]:/opt
[email protected]'s password:
jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm                          100%   10MB  27.1MB/s   00:00

Above command will copy jdk rpm package file to remote system under /opt folder.

2) Copy File from Remote to Local System

Suppose we want to copy a file from remote system to our local system under the /tmp folder, execute the following,

$ scp [email protected]:/root/Technical-Doc-RHS.odt /tmp
[email protected]'s password:
Technical-Doc-RHS.odt                         100% 1109KB  31.8MB/s   00:00
$ ls -l /tmp/Technical-Doc-RHS.odt
-rwx------. 1 pkumar pkumar 1135521 Oct 19 11:12 /tmp/Technical-Doc-RHS.odt

3) Verbose Output While Copying Files

We can enable verbose output with -v option while copying files via scp command. Using verbose output we can easily find what exactly is happening in the background. This becomes very useful in debugging connection, authentication and configuration problems.

$ scp -v jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm [email protected]:/opt
Executing: program /usr/bin/ssh host, user root, command scp -v -t /opt
OpenSSH_7.8p1, OpenSSL 1.1.1 FIPS  11 Sep 2018
debug1: Reading configuration data /etc/ssh/ssh_config
debug1: Reading configuration data /etc/ssh/ssh_config.d/05-redhat.conf
debug1: Reading configuration data /etc/crypto-policies/back-ends/openssh.config
debug1: /etc/ssh/ssh_config.d/05-redhat.conf line 8: Applying options for *
debug1: Connecting to [] port 22.
debug1: Connection established.
debug1: Next authentication method: password
[email protected]'s password:

4) Copy Multiple Files to Remote System

Multiple files can be copied to remote system using scp command in one go. Specify the multiple files separated by space, example is shown below

$ scp install.txt index.html jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm [email protected]:/mnt
[email protected]'s password:
install.txt                                      100%    0     0.0KB/s   00:00
index.html                                       100%   85KB   7.2MB/s   00:00
jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm                            100%   10MB  25.3MB/s   00:00
[pkumar@linuxtechi ~]$

 5) Copy Files Across Two Remote Systems

Using scp command we can copy files and directories between two remote hosts, let’s suppose we have a local Linux system which can connect to two remote Linux systems, so from my local system I can use scp command to copy files across these two systems,


$scp user@remote_hosts1:/<files_to_transfer>  user@remote_host2:/<folder>

Example is shown below,

$ scp [email protected]:~/backup-Oct.zip [email protected]:/tmp
$ ssh [email protected] "ls -l /tmp/backup-Oct.zip"
-rwx------. 1 root root 747438080 Oct 19 12:02 /tmp/backup-Oct.zip

6) Copy Files and Directories Recursively

Use -r option in scp command to recursively copy the entire directory from one system to another, example is shown below,

$ scp -r Downloads [email protected]:/opt

Use below command to verify whether Download folder is copied to remote system or not,

$ ssh [email protected] "ls -ld /opt/Downloads"
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 75 Oct 19 12:10 /opt/Downloads

7) Increase Copy Speed by Enabling Compression

We can increase the transfer or copy speed by enabling the compression using -C option, it will automatically enable compression at source and decompress at destination.

$ scp -r -C Downloads [email protected]:/mnt

In the above example we are transferring the Download directory with compression enabled.

8) Limit Bandwidth While Copying

Use ‘-l’ option in scp command to put limit on bandwidth usage while copying. Bandwidth is specified in Kbit/s, example is shown below,

$ scp -l 500 jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm  [email protected]:/var

9) Use Different SSH Port in SCP

There can be some scenario where ssh port is changed on destination host, so while using scp command we can specify the ssh port number using ‘-P’ option.

$ scp -P 2022 jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm  [email protected]:/var

In above example, ssh port for remote host is “2022”

10) Preserves Permissions, Modes and Access Time While Copying

Use ‘-p’ option in scp command to preserve permissions, access time and modes while copying from source to destination

$ scp -p jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm  [email protected]:/var/tmp
jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm            100%   10MB  13.5MB/s   00:00

11) Copying Files in Quiet Mode

Use ‘-q’ option in scp command to suppress transfer progress, warning and diagnostic messages of ssh. Example is shown below,

$ scp -q -r Downloads [email protected]:/var/tmp

12) Use Identify File in scp while Copying

In most of the Linux environments, keys-based authentication is preferred. In scp command we can specify the identify file or private key file using ‘-i’ option, example is shown below,

$ scp -i my_key.pem -r Downloads [email protected]:/root

In above example, “my_key.pem” is the identity file or private key file.

13) Use Different ssh_config File in scp

There are some scenarios where you use different networks to connect to Linux systems, may be some network is behind proxy servers, so in that case we must have different ssh_config file.

Different ssh_config file in scp command is specified via ‘-F’ option, example is shown below

$ scp -F /home/pkumar/new_ssh_config -r Downloads \ 
[email protected]:/root
[email protected]'s password:
jdk-linux-x64_bin.rpm                     100%   10MB  16.6MB/s   00:00
backup-Oct.zip                            100%  713MB  41.9MB/s   00:17
index.html                                100%   85KB   6.6MB/s   00:00

14) Use Different Cipher in scp Command

By default, scp uses ‘AES-128’ cipher to encrypt the files. If you want to use another cipher in scp command then use ‘-c’ option followed by cipher name,

Let’s suppose we want to use ‘3des-cbc’ cipher in scp command while transferring the files, run the following scp command

$ scp -c 3des-cbc -r Downloads [email protected]:/root

Use the below command to list ssh and scp ciphers,

$ ssh -Q cipher localhost | paste -d , -s -
3des-cbc,aes128-cbc,aes192-cbc,aes256-cbc,[email protected],\
aes128-ctr,aes192-ctr,aes256-ctr,[email protected],[email protected],\
[email protected]

That’s all from this post, to get more details about scp command, kindly refer its man page. Feel free to share your feedback and comments in below comments section.

Also Read : How to Setup Passwordless SSH Login in Linux with Keys

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I am a Cloud Consultant with over 15 years of experience in Linux, Kubernetes, cloud technologies (AWS, Azure, OpenStack), automation (Ansible, Terraform), and DevOps. I hold certifications like RHCA, CKA, CKAD, CKS, AWS, and Azure.

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