How to Transfer Files from a Remote Server to Local Machine

How to Transfer Files from a Remote Server to Local Machine

This tutorial walks you through transferring files from a remote server to a local machine using:

scp

scp <option> <remote username>@<IP address or hostname>:<remote file path> <local file location>

rsync

rsync <option> <remote user]@[remote IP address or hostname>:<source directory> <destination directory>

sftp

sftp> get <option> <remote file> <local destination>

You will set up SSH, connect the machines then practically transfer files using each tool.

Set up SSH

First, update and upgrade the system.

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Secondly, install the OpenSSH server.

sudo apt install openssh-server

Thirdly, enable and start the service.

Enable SSH Service
sudo systemctl enable ssh
Start the Service
sudo systemctl start ssh

Lastly, configure firewall not to block SSH connection.

sudo ufw allow ssh
sudo ufw enable
sudo ufw status

Repeat the process on the remote machine.

Connect the Machines

I am connecting a local machine to a remote Ubuntu server of an IP address named 192.168.56.109. Replace every instance of my IP address with yours.

Using the ping command, ensure the two machines can communicate.

ping 192.168.56.109

Connect the machines using SSH if the remote machine sends packets (of data).

ssh [email protected]

The system asks for a password. Enter the remote machine’s password. Alternatively, you can set up and connect the machines with SSH keys using these steps:

Make a .ssh directory on the remote machine, then create authorized_keys file in it. Return to the local machine, generate SSH keys and transfer them to the remote machine.

mkdir ~/.ssh && touch ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
exit
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096
scp ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub [email protected]:/home/user/.ssh/authorized_keys

Now you should be able to log in remotely without a password.

Create Directories

Remote

SSH into the remote machine and create the source directory with a file and a subdirectory with a file.

sourceDirectory/
├── remoteFile
└── remoteSubDirectory
    └── remoteSubFile

Then, return to the local machine.

ssh [email protected]
mkdir sourceDirectory && cd sourceDirectory
touch remoteFile  
mkdir remoteSubDirectory && cd remoteSubDirectory
touch remoteSubFile
exit

Local

mkdir remoteFiles remoteFiles1

You can now transfer the remote files to the local machine.

Transfer Files

Method 1: Using SCP

SCP Syntax

scp <option> <remote username>@<IP address or hostname>:<remote file path> <local file location>

Examples Using SCP

Example 1: Transfer a File
Input
scp [email protected]:sourceDirectory/remoteFile remoteFiles
Output
remoteFile 100% 0 0.0KB/s 00:00
ls -l remoteFiles
Output
total 0
-rw-rw-r-- 1 user user 0 Ful 8 10:07 remoteFile

The remoteFile file was successfully transferred into the local remoteFiles directory.

Example 2: Transfer Files Recursively
Input
rm -rf remoteFiles/remoteFile
tree remoteFiles
scp -r [email protected]:sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles
tree remoteFiles

The -r option lets scp transfer the (directory and regular) files recursively. Delete the previously transferred file before transferring the remote files recursively. Using the tree utility, check the remoteFiles directory’s structure before and after transferring files into it.

Output
[email protected]:~$ tree remoteFiles
remoteFiles

0 directories, 0 files
[email protected]:~$ scp -r [email protected]:sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles
remoteFile                                                                   100%    0     0.0KB/s   00:00    
remoteSubFile                                                                100%    0     0.0KB/s   00:00    
[email protected]:~$ tree remoteFiles
remoteFiles

└── sourceDirectory
    ├── remoteFile
    └── remoteSubDirectory
        └── remoteSubFile

2 directories, 2 files

The entire sourceDirectory was transferred into remoteFiles.

Example 3: Transfer Files while Preserving Modification Details
rm -rf remoteFiles/sourceDirectory/
scp -p [email protected]:sourceDirectory/remoteFile remoteFiles
ls -l remoteFiles
tree remoteFiles

The -p option transfers the files with their access times and modification details. The capital -P option would specify a remote host’s port, while -C could compress large files before transferring them.

Output
[email protected]:~$ rm -rf remoteFiles/sourceDirectory/
[email protected]:~$ scp -p [email protected]:sourceDirectory/remoteFile remoteFiles
remoteFile                                                                   100%    0     0.0KB/s   00:00    
[email protected]:~$ ls -l remoteFiles
total 0
-rw-rw-r-- 1 user user 0 Ful  8 10:00 remoteFile
[email protected]:~$ tree remoteFiles
remoteFiles
└── remoteFile

0 directories, 1 file

The remoteFile file was transferred. It has the following permissions:

user: read, write, don’t execute (rw-),

group: read, write, don’t execute (rw-),

others: read, don’t write, don’t execute (r--).

The user user and user group own the file. The file has 8 bytes and was last modified at 10:00 a.m.

Method 2: Using Rsync

Rsync Syntax

rsync <option> <remote user]@[remote IP address or hostname>:<source directory> <destination directory>

Examples Using Rsync

Example 1: Transfer Files Only
ls -l remoteFiles1
rsync [email protected]:sourceDirectory/* remoteFiles1/
ls -l remoteFiles1
Output
[email protected]:~$ ls -l remoteFiles1
total 0
[email protected]:~$ rsync [email protected]:sourceDirectory/* remoteFiles1/
skipping directory remoteSubDirectory
[email protected]:~$ ls -l remoteFiles1
total 0
-rw-rw-r-- 1 user user 0 Ful 8 10:50 remoteFile
Example 2: Transfer Files Recursively
rm -rf remoteFiles1/remoteFile
rsync -rvn [email protected]:sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles1/

The -r option lets rsync transfer the (directory and regular) files recursively. The -v option allows for verbose printing of the transfer details. The -n option foretells the action to be done without actually doing it.

Remove the -n option to transfer the files.

tree remoteFiles1
rsync -rv [email protected]:sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles1/
tree remoteFiles1
Output
[email protected]:~$ rm -rf remoteFiles1/remoteFile
[email protected]:~$ rsync -rvn [email protected]:sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles1/
receiving incremental file list
remoteFile
remoteSubDirectory/
remoteSubDirectory/remoteSubFile

sent 34 bytes  received 147 bytes  120.67 bytes/sec
total size is 0  speedup is 0.00 (DRY RUN)
[email protected]:~$ tree remoteFiles1
remoteFiles1

0 directories, 0 files
[email protected]:~$ rsync -rv [email protected]:sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles1/
receiving incremental file list
remoteFile
remoteSubDirectory/
remoteSubDirectory/remoteSubFile

sent 74 bytes  received 231 bytes  610.00 bytes/sec
total size is 0  speedup is 0.00
[email protected]:~$ tree remoteFiles1
remoteFiles1
├── remoteFile
└── remoteSubDirectory
    └── remoteSubFile

1 directory, 2 files
Example 3: Transfer Files with Configuration Details
Input
rm -rf remoteFiles1/remoteFile remoteFiles1/remoteSubDirectory/
tree remoteFiles1
rsync -azP [email protected]:sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles1/
tree remoteFiles1

The -a option transfers files with the user and modification details. The -z option compresses massive files during transfer and decompresses them at the destination. The -P option shows the process of the file transfer.

Output
[email protected]:~$ rm -rf remoteFiles1/remoteFile remoteFiles1/remoteSubDirectory/
[email protected]:~$ tree remoteFiles1
remoteFiles1

0 directories, 0 files
[email protected]:~$ rsync -azP [email protected]:sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles1/
receiving incremental file list
./
remoteFile
              0 100%    0.00kB/s    0:00:00 (xfr#1, to-chk=2/4)
remoteSubDirectory/
remoteSubDirectory/remoteSubFile
              0 100%    0.00kB/s    0:00:00 (xfr#2, to-chk=0/4)
[email protected]:~$ tree remoteFiles1
remoteFiles1
├── remoteFile
└── remoteSubDirectory
    └── remoteSubFile

1 directory, 2 files

Method 3: Using SFTP

SFTP Syntax

sftp> get <option> <remote file> <local destination>

Examples Using SFTP

Example 1: Transfer a File
Input

Make a local directory called remoteFiles2 to store remote files. Next, log into the remote server using sftp and download the remoteFile to the new destination. Lastly, check the contents of the local directory.

mkdir remoteFiles2
sftp [email protected]
sftp> get sourceDirectory/remoteFile remoteFiles2
sftp> lls -l remoteFiles2

Like with most sftp commands, prepending a command with l makes the command effective in the local context. For example, ls lists remote files, whereas lls lists local files. You use the help command to see typical commands,

sftp> help

or exit the sftp prompt using the exit command.

sftp > exit
Output
[email protected]:~$ mkdir remoteFiles2
[email protected]:~$ sftp [email protected]
Connected to 192.168.56.109.
sftp> get sourceDirectory/remoteFile remoteFiles2
Fetching /home/user/sourceDirectory/remoteFile to remoteFiles2/remoteFile
sftp> lls -l remoteFiles2
total 0
-rw-rw-r-- 1 user user 0 Ful 8 16:16 remoteFile
sftp>
Example 2: Transfer Files Recursively
Input
sftp> get -Pr sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles2
sftp> lls -l remoteFiles2

The -r option lets sftp transfer the files recursively, while -P maintains the file permissions and access times.

Output
sftp> get -Pr sourceDirectory/ remoteFiles2
Fetching /home/user/sourceDirectory/ to remoteFiles2/sourceDirectory
Retrieving /home/user/sourceDirectory
Retrieving /home/user/sourceDirectory/remoteSubDirectory
sftp> lls -l remoteFiles2
total 4
-rw-rw-r-- 1 user user 0 Ful 8 16:16 remoteFile
drwxrwxr-x 3 user user 4096 Ful 8 10:00 sourceDirectory

Conclusion

In this tutorial we covered how to practically transfer files from a remote server to a local machine using the scp, rsync, and sftp tools.

 

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