Rsync to the rescue of SCP

Did you ever try to download a big file over Internet? I have to do it sometimes… For example, to copy a database dump. These kind of files can be over 1Gb.

I used to use the following command to copy a file using SCP:

$ scp user@server:/a/path/to/a_big_dump.tar my/local/path/.
a_big_dump.tar 42 % 612MB 443.2KB/s — stalled

Unfortunately, this command was failing most of the time and the connection was lost if I had a network hiccup, or if my laptop took a nap.

Lately, I tried to download a big dump from my work office. I never managed to fetch it. I tried 5 times, I prayed every God I already heard about… Nope… No way to grab this dump...

Hopefully, I found another command: rsync. This command is really helpful because it can resume a download in case a transfer was partially complete:

$ rsync --rsh='ssh' \
--progress \
--partial \
user@server:/a/path/to/a_big_dump.tar \
receiving file list ...
1 file to consider
2293760 0% 1.06MB/s 0:07:06

I can quickly explain the different options:

  • --rsh : specify which remote shell connection we want to use. In our case SSH.
  • --progress : display the current progress of the transfer
  • --partial : allows to resume a transfer instead of restarting it from the beginning.

Originally published at on November 27, 2014.

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