Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Original author(s)Andrew Tridgell, Paul Mackerras[1]
Developer(s)Wayne Davison[2]
Initial releaseJune 19, 1996; 28 years ago (1996-06-19)[1]
Stable release
3.3.0[3] Edit this on Wikidata / 6 April 2024; 3 months ago (6 April 2024)
Written inC
TypeData transfer, differential backup
License2007: GPL-3.0-or-later[a][4][5][6]
2007: GPL-3.0-only[b]
2007: GPL-2.0-only[c]
1996: GPL-2.0-or-later[d][7]
Websitersync.samba.org Edit this on Wikidata

rsync is a utility for transferring and synchronizing files between a computer and a storage drive and across networked computers by comparing the modification times and sizes of files.[8] It is commonly found on Unix-like operating systems and is under the GPL-3.0-or-later license.[4][5][9][10][11][12]

rsync is written in C as a single threaded application.[13] The rsync algorithm is a type of delta encoding, and is used for minimizing network usage. Zstandard, LZ4, or Zlib may be used for additional data compression,[8] and SSH or stunnel can be used for security.

rsync is typically used for synchronizing files and directories between two different systems. For example, if the command rsync local-file user@remote-host:remote-file is run, rsync will use SSH to connect as user to remote-host.[14] Once connected, it will invoke the remote host's rsync and then the two programs will determine what parts of the local file need to be transferred so that the remote file matches the local one. One application of rsync is the synchronization of software repositories on mirror sites used by package management systems.[15][16]

rsync can also operate in a daemon mode (rsyncd), serving and receiving files in the native rsync protocol (using the rsync:// syntax).


Andrew Tridgell and Paul Mackerras wrote the original rsync, which was first announced on 19 June 1996.[1] It is similar in function and invocation to rdist (rdist -c), created by Ralph Campbell in 1983 and released as part of 4.3BSD.[17] Tridgell discusses the design, implementation, and performance of rsync in chapters 3 through 5 of his 1999 Ph.D. thesis.[18] As of 2023, it is maintained by Wayne Davison.[2]

Because of its flexibility, speed, and scriptability, rsync has become a standard Linux utility, included in all popular Linux distributions.[citation needed] It has been ported to Windows (via Cygwin, Grsync, or SFU[19]), FreeBSD,[20] NetBSD,[21] OpenBSD,[22] and macOS.


Similar to cp, rcp and scp, rsync requires the specification of a source and a destination, of which at least one must be local.[23]

Generic syntax:


where SRC is the file or directory (or a list of multiple files and directories) to copy from, DEST is the file or directory to copy to, and square brackets indicate optional parameters.

rsync can synchronize Unix clients to a central Unix server using rsync/ssh and standard Unix accounts. It can be used in desktop environments, for example to efficiently synchronize files with a backup copy on an external hard drive. A scheduling utility such as cron can carry out tasks such as automated encrypted rsync-based mirroring between multiple hosts and a central server.


A command line to mirror FreeBSD might look like:[24]

$ rsync -avz --delete ftp4.de.FreeBSD.org::FreeBSD/ /pub/FreeBSD/

The Apache HTTP Server supports rsync only for updating mirrors.[25]

$ rsync -avz --delete --safe-links rsync.apache.org::apache-dist /path/to/mirror

The preferred (and simplest) way to mirror a PuTTY website to the current directory is to use rsync.[26]

$ rsync -auH rsync://rsync.chiark.greenend.org.uk/ftp/users/sgtatham/putty-website-mirror/ .

A way to mimic the capabilities of Time Machine (macOS);[27]

$ date=$(date "+%FT%H-%M-%S") # rsync interprets ":" as separator between host and port (i.e. host:port), so we cannot use %T or %H:%M:%S here, so we use %H-%M-%S
$ rsync -aP --link-dest=$HOME/Backups/current /path/to/important_files $HOME/Backups/back-$date
$ ln -nfs $HOME/Backups/back-$date $HOME/Backups/current

Make a full backup of system root directory:[28]

$ rsync -avAXHS --progress --exclude={"/dev/*","/proc/*","/sys/*","/tmp/*","/run/*","/mnt/*","/media/*","/lost+found"} / /path/to/backup/folder

Delete all files and directories, within a directory, extremely fast:

# Make an empty directory somewhere, which is the first path, and the second path is the directory you want to empty.
$ rsync -a --delete /path/to/empty/dir /path/to/dir/to/empty


An rsync process operates by communicating with another rsync process, a sender and a receiver. At startup, an rsync client connects to a peer process. If the transfer is local (that is, between file systems mounted on the same host) the peer can be created with fork, after setting up suitable pipes for the connection. If a remote host is involved, rsync starts a process to handle the connection, typically Secure Shell. Upon connection, a command is issued to start an rsync process on the remote host, which uses the connection thus established. As an alternative, if the remote host runs an rsync daemon, rsync clients can connect by opening a socket on TCP port 873, possibly using a proxy.[29]

Rsync has numerous command line options and configuration files to specify alternative shells, options, commands, possibly with full path, and port numbers. Besides using remote shells, tunnelling can be used to have remote ports appear as local on the server where an rsync daemon runs. Those possibilities allow adjusting security levels to the state of the art, while a naive rsync daemon can be enough for a local network.

One solution is the --dry-run option, which allows users to validate their command-line arguments and to simulate what would happen when copying the data without actually making any changes or transferring any data.


Determining which files to send[edit]

By default, rsync determines which files differ between the sending and receiving systems by checking the modification time and size of each file. If time or size is different between the systems, it transfers the file from the sending to the receiving system. As this only requires reading file directory information, it is quick, but it will miss unusual modifications which change neither.[8]

Rsync performs a slower but comprehensive check if invoked with --checksum. This forces a full checksum comparison on every file present on both systems. Barring rare checksum collisions, this avoids the risk of missing changed files at the cost of reading every file present on both systems.

Determining which parts of a file have changed[edit]

The rsync utility uses an algorithm invented by Australian computer programmer Andrew Tridgell for efficiently transmitting a structure (such as a file) across a communications link when the receiving computer already has a similar, but not identical, version of the same structure.[30]

The recipient splits its copy of the file into chunks and computes two checksums for each chunk: the MD5 hash, and a weaker but easier to compute 'rolling checksum'.[31] It sends these checksums to the sender.

The sender computes the checksum for each rolling section in its version of the file having the same size as the chunks used by the recipient's. While the recipient calculates the checksum only for chunks starting at full multiples of the chunk size, the sender calculates the checksum for all sections starting at any address. If any such rolling checksum calculated by the sender matches a checksum calculated by the recipient, then this section is a candidate for not transmitting the content of the section, but only the location in the recipient's file instead. In this case, the sender uses the more computationally expensive MD5 hash to verify that the sender's section and recipient's chunk are equal. Note that the section in the sender may not be at the same start address as the chunk at the recipient. This allows efficient transmission of files which differ by insertions and deletions.[32] The sender then sends the recipient those parts of its file that did not match, along with information on where to merge existing blocks into the recipient's version. This makes the copies identical.

The rolling checksum used in rsync is based on Mark Adler's adler-32 checksum, which is used in zlib, and is itself based on Fletcher's checksum.

If the sender's and recipient's versions of the file have many sections in common, the utility needs to transfer relatively little data to synchronize the files. If typical data compression algorithms are used, files that are similar when uncompressed may be very different when compressed, and thus the entire file will need to be transferred. Some compression programs, such as gzip, provide a special "rsyncable" mode which allows these files to be efficiently rsynced, by ensuring that local changes in the uncompressed file yield only local changes in the compressed file.

Rsync supports other key features that aid significantly in data transfers or backup. They include compression and decompression of data block by block using Zstandard, LZ4, or zlib, and support for protocols such as ssh and stunnel.


The rdiff utility uses the rsync algorithm to generate delta files with the difference from file A to file B (like the utility diff, but in a different delta format). The delta file can then be applied to file A, turning it into file B (similar to the patch utility). rdiff works well with binary files.

The rdiff-backup script maintains a backup mirror of a file or directory either locally or remotely over the network on another server. rdiff-backup stores incremental rdiff deltas with the backup, with which it is possible to recreate any backup point.[33]

The librsync library used by rdiff is an independent implementation of the rsync algorithm. It does not use the rsync network protocol and does not share any code with the rsync application.[34] It is used by Dropbox, rdiff-backup, duplicity, and other utilities.[34]

The acrosync library is an independent, cross-platform implementation of the rsync network protocol.[35] Unlike librsync, it is wire-compatible with rsync (protocol version 29 or 30). It is released under the Reciprocal Public License and used by the commercial rsync software Acrosync.[36]

The duplicity backup software written in python allows for incremental backups with simple storage backend services like local file system, sftp, Amazon S3 and many others. It utilizes librsync to generate delta data against signatures of the previous file versions, encrypting them using gpg, and storing them on the backend. For performance reasons a local archive-dir is used to cache backup chain signatures, but can be re-downloaded from the backend if needed.

As of macOS 10.5 and later, there is a special -E or --extended-attributes switch which allows retaining much of the HFS+ file metadata when syncing between two machines supporting this feature. This is achieved by transmitting the Resource Fork along with the Data Fork.[37]

zsync is an rsync-like tool optimized for many downloads per file version. zsync is used by Linux distributions such as Ubuntu[38] for distributing fast changing beta ISO image files. zsync uses the HTTP protocol and .zsync files with pre-calculated rolling hash to minimize server load yet permit diff transfer for network optimization.[39]

Rclone is an open-source tool inspired by rsync that focuses on cloud and other high latency storage. It supports more than 50 different providers and provides an rsync-like interface for cloud storage.[40] However, Rclone does not support rolling checksums for partial file syncing (binary diffs) because cloud storage providers do not usually offer the feature and Rclone avoids storing additional metadata.[41]

rsync applications[edit]

Program Operating system Free software Description
Linux macOS Windows
Back In Time Yes No No Yes
BackupAssist No No Yes No Direct mirror or with history, VSS.
cwRsync No No Yes No Based on Cygwin.
Grsync Yes Yes Yes[42] Yes Graphical Interface for rsync.
LuckyBackup Yes Yes Yes Yes
rclone Yes Yes Yes Yes Inspired by rsync and supports more than 50 cloud storage providers and other high latency storage services. Does not actually use rsync or support rolling checksums and partial file synchronization.
tym Yes Yes Yes Yes Time rsYnc Machine – backup à la Time MachineBash script

See also[edit]


  1. ^ GPL-3.0-or-later since 2007-07-10, pre-release 3.0.0pre1 on 2007-10-05, stable 3.0.0 on 2008-03-01.
  2. ^ GPL-3.0-only from 2007-07-07 until 2007-07-09.
  3. ^ GPL-2.0-only from 2007-02-04 until 2007-07-07.
  4. ^ GPL-2.0-or-later from 1996-06-16 until 2007-01-31, versions 0.1 to 2.6.9.


  1. ^ a b c Tridgell, Andrew (19 June 1996). "First release of rsync – rcp replacement". Newsgroupcomp.os.linux.announce. Usenet: cola-liw-835153950-21793-0@liw.clinet.fi. Archived from the original on 8 November 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2007.
  2. ^ a b "rsync". Archived from the original on 27 November 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  3. ^ "NEWS for rsync 3.3.0 (6 Apr 2024)". 6 April 2024. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  4. ^ a b "NEWS".
  5. ^ a b "tweaking the license text a bit more".
  6. ^ "rsync's license".
  7. ^ "rsync's license".
  8. ^ a b c "rsync(1) – Linux man page". linux.die.net. Archived from the original on 1 January 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  9. ^ Sayood, Khalid (18 December 2002). Lossless compression handbook. Elsevier. ISBN 9780080510491. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  10. ^ Web content caching and distribution: proceedings of the 8th International Workshop. Springer Science & Business Media. 2004. p. 316. ISBN 9781402022579. Retrieved 18 August 2014 – via Internet Archive. rsync widely used.
  11. ^ Rasch, David; Burns, Randal; In-Place Rsync: File Synchronization for Mobile and Wireless Devices Archived 13 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Department of Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University
  12. ^ Dempsey, Bert J.; Weiss, Debra (30 April 1999). "Towards an Efficient, Scalable Replication Mechanism for the I2-DSI Project". Technical Report TR-1999-01. CiteSeerX
  13. ^ "Bash - Speed up rsync with Simultaneous/Concurrent File Transfers? - Stack Overflow". Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  14. ^ "Using Rsync and SSH". Troy.jdmz.net. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Using and running mirrors". GNU Project. Archived from the original on 16 April 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  16. ^ "How to create public mirrors for CentOS". CentOS wiki. Archived from the original on 1 April 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  17. ^ "rdist(1)".
  18. ^ Tridgell, Andrew; Efficient Algorithms for Sorting and Synchronization, February 1999, retrieved 29 September 2009
  19. ^ "Tool Warehouse". SUA Community. Archived from the original on 6 April 2013.
  20. ^ "FreeBSD Ports". Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  21. ^ "NetBSD Ports". Archived from the original on 25 October 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  22. ^ "OpenBSD Ports". Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  23. ^ See the README file Archived 10 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "How to Mirror FreeBSD (With rsync)". Freebsd.org. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  25. ^ "How to become a mirror for the Apache Software Foundation". Apache.org. Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  26. ^ "PuTTY Web Site Mirrors: Mirroring guidelines". Chiark.greenend.org.uk. 20 December 2007. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  27. ^ "Rsync set up to run like Time Machine". Blog.interlinked.org. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  28. ^ "Full system backup with rsync". wiki.archlinux.org. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  29. ^ "How Rsync Works". Archived from the original on 16 December 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  30. ^ "RSync – Overview". Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  31. ^ NEWS for rsync 3.0.0 Archived 20 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine (1 March 2008)
  32. ^ Norman Ramsey. The Rsync Algorithm
  33. ^ rdiff-backup
  34. ^ a b Pool, Martin; "librsync" Archived 9 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Chen, Gilbert. "acrosync-library". github.com. Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  36. ^ "acrosync.com". Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  37. ^ "Mac Developer Library". Developer.apple.com. Archived from the original on 26 September 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  38. ^ "Zsync Cd Image". ubuntu.com. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  39. ^ zsync web site
  40. ^ Craig-Wood, Nick. "Overview of cloud storage systems". rclone.org. Archived from the original on 4 October 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  41. ^ Craig-Wood, Nick. "Rclone Frequently Asked Questions". rclone.org. Archived from the original on 10 May 2022. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  42. ^ "Grsync for Windows". SourceForge. 12 July 2016. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2019.

External links[edit]