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When I try to use sftp to transfer a directory containing files, I get an error message:

skipping non-regular file directory_name

The directory contains a couple of files and two subdirectories.

What am I doing wrong?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

sftp, like cp and scp, requires that when you copy a folder (and its contents, obviously), you have to explicitly tell it you want to transfer the folder recursively with the -r option.

So, add -r to the command.

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-r after the put command? I am getting a "put: Invalid flag -r" error message message if I do. Adding it to the original sftp command also does not work. –  haziz Dec 17 '11 at 9:12
Add -r to the sftp command when you're connecting. sftp -r user@host –  Kevin Dec 17 '11 at 15:50
@Kevin I am getting the following error "sftp: unknown option --r" –  Amatya Mar 27 '14 at 20:06
It looks like the -r option was added to OpenSSH sftp version 4.7. Go here and you can use the form at the top to see different versions of the man page. –  Kenster Oct 2 '14 at 20:55

I can only suggest, you use rsync. It is somewhat of an industry standard, when moving files over secure connections.

rsync -alPvz ./source_dir server.com:destination_dir

It is what I've been using for years by now.

(the -a option takes care of things like directory recursion)

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If you can, use sshfs. It's a FUSE filesystem, available on most modern unices, and works with any SFTP server. This is a remote filesystem: it allows you to manipulate remote files (over the SFTP protocol) with the usual utilities.

mkdir /mount/point
sshfs server.example.com:/remote/path /mount/point
ls /mount/point
cp -Rp /mount/point/somedir /local/location
fusemount -d /mount/point
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If rsync is not an option, I would next recommend lftp:

lftp sftp://user@host.com/path/path/

Then use the mirror command to recursively upload, like this:

mirror -R

Or to upload just:


You have to cd into the directories you want to mirror. Works great!

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This works for me:

1) connect via sftp to remote host

2) change into the remote directory you wish to copy. (Example: cd Music)

3) change to the local directory you wish to copy stuff to. (Example: lcd Desktop)

4) Issue this command: get -r *

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