SFTP via the Command Line
Simple instructions for uploading or downloading files and directories using Secure File Transfer Protocol (sFTP) in Linux.
If you have a large quantity of files that you want to transfer from one server to another, the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is the way to go. This comes in a secure version called SFTP which uses SSH (Secure Shell) to encrypt the data.
Traditionally uploads and downloads via FTP would be conducted using a GUI software programme such as WinSCP or FileZilla, but it’s actually possible to transfer files using SFTP on the command line. Here’s how it’s done:
Connect to the server
To connect to a remote SFTP server, establish a secure SSH connection and then create a SFTP session as shown:
$ sftp email@example.com
To check the remote working directory, enter the
sftp> pwd Remote working directory: /group/home/adam/
To check the local working directory, type the
sftp> lpwd Local working directory: t:\files\photos
Before uploading whole directories, you’ll need to create a target directory on the remote server. Let’s call this “photos”:
sftp> mkdir photos
If you don’t want to create a directory in the current path (as determined by
cd to the location where you want to create your new directory:
sftp> cd /group/home/adam/path/to/my/files/ sftp> mkdir photos
To start the upload, your local working directory will need to be in the parent. So in this case, if we want to upload the entire directory from t:\files\photos, then our local working directory should be t:\files. We can easily change this via the
lcd command then check via
sftp> lcd t:\files sftp> lpwd Local working directory: t:\files
To upload, the
put command is used:
sftp> put -pr photos
-p flag preserves all modification times, access times, and modes from the original files transferred whilst the
-r flag allows subdirectories and subfolders to be uploaded.
Typical output may look like this:
sftp> put -pr upload Uploading upload/ to /group/home/adam/ Entering photos/ photos/IMG_1507.jpg 100% 10MB 265.1KB/s 00:39 photos/IMG_1507.xmp 100% 8703 21.3KB/s 00:00 photos/IMG_1511.jpg 100% 10MB 265.5KB/s 00:37 photos/IMG_1511.xmp 100% 8702 50.0KB/s 00:00 Entering photos/pix photos/test/IMG_1507.CR2 100% 25MB 223.0KB/s 01:56 photos/test/IMG_1511.CR2 100% 25MB 188.9KB/s 02:16
To download files from a Linux server via the command line, you’ll need to change the remote working directory to the parent. So, if I wanted to download files from /group/home/adam/photos, I’d need to cd to /group/home/adam:
sftp> cd /group/home/adam/
The target location on the local server also needs to be specified and must already exist. If it does not exist, it can be created in the command line as follows:
sftp> lmkdir photos
The local working directory should also be the parent. So if we need to download to t:\downloads\photos, the local working directory should be set to t:\downloads.
get command can then be used to download the files:
sftp> get -r photos
sftp> get -r photos Fetching /group/home/adam/photos/ to Retrieving /group/home/adam/photos /group/home/adam/photos/IMG_1507.xmp 100% 8703 6.2KB/s 00:01 /group/home/adam/photos/IMG_1507.jpg 100% 10MB 488.9KB/s 00:21 Retrieving /group/home/adam/photos/pix /group/home/adam/photos/pix/IMG_1511.CR2 100% 25MB 386.1KB/s 01:06 /group/home/adam/photos/pix/IMG_1507.CR2 100% 25MB 782.7KB/s 00:33 /group/home/adam/photos/pix/IMG_1511.jpg 100% 10MB 494.4KB/s 00:20 /group/home/adam/photos/pix/IMG_1511.xmp 100% 8702 39.4KB/s 00:00
Exiting the Shell
To exit, type
exit into the command line.
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