The Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) is an essential tool for Linux users, enabling secure file transfers between different hosts over a network. This post is a comprehensive guide to understanding and effectively using the SCP command in Linux, catering to both beginners and advanced users.

Understanding SCP: What It Is and How It Works

SCP, part of the SSH suite, allows for the secure transfer of files between hosts on a network. It leverages SSH (Secure Shell) for data transfer and utilizes the same authentication and provides the same security as SSH.

Key Features of SCP

  • Security: Encrypts files during transfer, safeguarding against data breaches.
  • Versatility: Compatible with all SSH clients and servers.
  • Simplicity: Offers a straightforward command-line interface.

How to Use the SCP Command: Syntax and Examples

Basic Syntax

The SCP command follows this basic syntax:

scp [OPTION] [user@]SRC_HOST:]file1 [user@]DEST_HOST:]file2
  • OPTION: SCP options like -r for recursive copy, -p to preserve file attributes.
  • SRC_HOST/DEST_HOST: Source and destination hosts (can be local or remote).
  • file1/file2: Source and destination files/directories.


  1. Copying a File from Local to Remote:
    scp /path/to/local/file username@remotehost:/path/to/remote/directory
  2. Copying a File from Remote to Local:
    scp username@remotehost:/path/to/remote/file /path/to/local/directory
  3. Copying Directories Recursively:
    scp -r /path/to/local/directory username@remotehost:/path/to/remote/directory

Advanced SCP Usage

Using Port Option

If your SSH server listens on a non-standard port, use the -P option:

scp -P portnumber /path/to/local/file username@remotehost:/path/to/remote/file

Verbose Mode

For troubleshooting, use the -v (verbose) mode to see what’s happening during the file transfer.

Preserving File Attributes

Use -p to preserve file modifications times, access times, and modes from the original file.


  1. Q: How do I ensure my SCP command is secure? A: Always ensure you’re using SSH keys for authentication and your SSH server is configured securely.
  2. Q: Can I use SCP to copy files between two remote hosts? A: Yes, SCP can be used to transfer files between two remote hosts.
  3. Q: What’s the difference between SCP and SFTP? A: While SCP is primarily used for transferring files, SFTP provides a wider range of file operations like remote file browsing.
  4. Q: How do I handle a connection lost during transfer? A: SCP doesn’t support resuming interrupted transfers. You’ll need to restart the transfer.
  5. Q: Is SCP available on all Linux distributions? A: SCP is generally available on all Linux distributions with SSH installed.
  6. Q: How do I copy files to multiple destinations at once? A: SCP doesn’t support multiple destinations in a single command. You’ll need to execute separate commands or use a script.
  7. Q: Can I speed up my SCP file transfers? A: Using compression with the -C option can speed up transfers, especially for large files.


The SCP command is a powerful tool for securely transferring files across Linux systems. By understanding its syntax and options, you can efficiently manage file transfers in your network. Remember, security is paramount, so always follow best practices for SSH and SCP usage.

Visit for more tips, tricks, and tutorials on Linux and other tech topics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *