Command Line Data Transfer

Standard Linux tools can efficiently transfer a small to moderate quantity of data to or from Rivanna.


scp uses the secure shell (SSH) protocol to transfer files between your local machine and a remote host, or between two remote hosts.

The following syntax enables copying from local to remote or vice versa. In both cases we are starting from the local system.
By default, scp works from the level of the directory in which it is invoked.

  • Copying from local to remote: scp source_file mst3k@hostaddress:target_file
  • Copying from remote to local: scp mst3k@hostaddress:source_file target_file

The following examples detail how to transfer data between your local computer and /project storage on Rivanna. In these examples

  • my_file is the file you would like to transfer
  • mst3k is your computing ID
  • mygroup_name is the name of your /project directory.
  • my_directory is the directory to which you wish to copy the file.

To copy a file:

From your computer to /project storage:

scp my_file

From /project storage to my_directory on your computer:

scp /my_directory

scp accepts wildcards. In this example, the mycode directory must exist in your scratch directory.

scp *cxx

scp Options

The -r option recursively copies directories.

From your computer to /project storage:

scp -r my_directory

From /project storage to your computer:

scp -r /target_directory

The -p option preserves modification time, access time, and ownership from the original file.

The -q option suppresses the progress and debugging messages. Useful for scripts.


Secure FTP or sfpt is an interface built on top of scp to mimic the behavior of ftp.

To connect to Rivanna with sftp, execute the following in the command line interface:


When prompted, enter your password. Once the connection succeeds, you will see the sftp prompt:


You can access both your local and remote file systems with sftp. The following table lists how to execute the following commands for both your local and remote systems.

Action On Remote System On Local System
Print Working Directory pwd lpwd
List Contents of Directory ls lls
Change Directory cd lcd

File Transfer from Local to Remote

To transfer files from your computer to the Rivanna file system, use the put command:

sftp> put my_file

To transfer a folder from your computer to Rivanna, use put -r. A folder with the same name must also exist on Rivanna. An example is shown below:

sftp> mkdir /project/mygroup_name/my_folder
sftp> cd /project/mygroup_name
sftp> put -r my_folder

File Transfer from Remote to Local

To transfer files from Rivanna to your computer, use the get command:

sftp> get my_file

To transfer a folder from Rivanna to your computer, use get -r:

sftp> get my_folder

Terminating the Connection

To terminate the sftp connection, use exit.

sftp> exit


Remote sync is a powerful tool for copying files. It is most widely used to transfer multiple files and/or directories.

In this example, we have a local directory ldir and a remote directory rdir and we wish to copy the contents of ldir to rdir.

rsync -r ldir/

The trailing / after ldir is important. Without it, ldir and its contents would be placed under rdir.

Unlike scp, if the target directory does not exist, rsync will create it.

It is more common to use the -a (archive) option. This option preserves symbolic links, special files, ownership, permissions, and timestamps.

rsync -a ldir/

Show a progress bar and keep partially transferred files

rsync -Pa ldir/

Delete files not present on the source directory if they are present on the target directory

rsync -Pa --delete ldir/

Have rsync print the list it will transfer without carrying out the tranfers. Especially important when using --delete.

rsync -Pa --delete --dry-run ldir/

Globus CLI

The Globus command-line interface can also be used to orchestrate the transfer of large datasets, or to script regular transfers in or out of systems.

Read more about the Globus CLI.

Usage from Off Grounds

Off Campus?

Connecting to Rivanna from off Grounds via Secure Shell Access (SSH) or FastX requires a VPN connection. We recommend using the UVA More Secure Network if available. The UVA Anywhere VPN should only be used if the UVA More Secure Network is not available. Only Windows and Mac OSX operating systems are supported by the Cisco client provided by ITS. Linux users should refer to these unsupported instructions to install and configure a VPN. The More Secure Network requires authentication through Duo; users should follow the instructions on the dialog box to enter "push" as the password.

Open OnDemand users do not need a VPN to access Rivanna.