The cp command in Ubuntu Linux with examples



The article explains the use of the ‘cp’ command in Ubuntu Linux, which creates copies of files and directories. It is important due to its versatility in copying with diverse customization options. Its syntax includes three parts: ‘cp [OPTION]… SOURCE… DESTINATION’. Examples demonstrate varied usage like copying single/multiple files, directories, preserving file attributes, prompt for…

This article explains the cp command in Ubuntu Linux. It also provides examples that you can use in your environment.

The cp command in Ubuntu Linux is used to create copies of files and directories. It stands for “copy” and offers a variety of options for customizing copying needs.

Using the cp command in Ubuntu Linux is important because it allows you to create copies of files and directories, a common task in many computing environments. The cp command offers a variety of options to customize the copying behavior, making it a versatile tool for different use cases.

By mastering the basic usage of the cp command and some of its commonly used options, you can become more efficient and effective in managing your files and directories in Ubuntu Linux.


The basic syntax of the cp command is as follows:

  • OPTION: Specifies any additional options to customize the copying behavior.
  • SOURCE: Specifies the file or directory to be copied.
  • DESTINATION: Specifies the location where the copy will be created.


Let’s dive into some practical examples to understand better how to use the cp command. For demonstration purposes, we will use the following directory structure:

├── Documents
│   ├── file1.txt
│   └── file2.txt
└── Pictures
    └── image.jpg

Copying a File

To create a copy of a file, you can use the cp command followed by the source file and the destination where the copy should be stored. Here’s an example:

cp /home/user/Documents/file1.txt /home/user/Documents/file1_copy.txt

This command creates a copy of file1.txt named file1_copy.txt in the same directory.

Copying Multiple Files

You can also copy multiple files simultaneously by specifying multiple source files followed by the destination directory. For instance:

cp /home/user/Documents/file1.txt /home/user/Documents/file2.txt /home/user/Pictures/

This command will copy file1.txt and file2.txt to the /home/user/Pictures/ directory.

Copying Directories

To copy entire directories and their contents, you need to use the -r or --recursive option. For example:

cp -r /home/user/Documents /home/user/Backup/

This command recursively copies the Documents directory and all of its files and subdirectories to the Backup directory.

Preserving File Attributes

The -a or --archive option can preserve the attributes of files and directories during the copying process. This includes permissions, timestamps, and ownership. Here’s an example:

cp -a /home/user/Documents /home/user/Backup/

Prompting for Confirmation

If you want to be prompted before overwriting existing files in the destination directory, you can use the -i or --interactive option. For instance:

cp -i /home/user/Documents/file1.txt /home/user/Backup/

Verbose Output

To see detailed information about the copying process, you can use the -v or --verbose option. This provides a more verbose output with each file that is copied. Here’s an example:

cp -v /home/user/Documents/file1.txt /home/user/Backup/

These are just a few examples of how you can utilize the cp command in Ubuntu Linux. There are many more options available, which you can explore by referring to the cp command’s manual page (man cp).

Remember to exercise caution when using the cp command, especially when overwriting files or directories. Make sure to double-check your source and destination paths to avoid any unintended data loss.

That should do it!


This post showed you how to use the cp command in Ubuntu Linux. Please use the comments form below if you find errors or have something to add.

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