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I have a ton of files and dirs in a subdirectory I want to move to the parent directory. There are already some files and dirs in the target directory which need to be overwritten. Files that are only present in the target should be left untouched. Can I force mvto do that? It (mv * ..) complains

mv: cannot move `xyz' to `../xyz': Directory not empty

What am I missing?

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Have you tried mv -f? –  faif Mar 22 '11 at 17:16
    
Ofcourse....... –  EricSchaefer Mar 22 '11 at 17:44
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6 Answers

up vote 23 down vote accepted

You will have to copy them to the destination and then delete the source, using the commands cp -r * .. followed by rm -rf *.

I don't think you can "merge" directories using mv.

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1  
Well, that's what I didn't want to do, because it will take a long time... Thanks anyway. –  EricSchaefer Mar 22 '11 at 17:45
4  
Presumably mv is faster because you're on the same filesystem? What if you use cp -l to create hardlinks rather than actually moving the files? –  mattdm Mar 22 '11 at 20:32
    
You should use cp -a instead of cp -r in order to preserve the file attributes (timestamp, permissions, etc.). –  dotancohen Feb 2 at 7:14
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rsync would probably be a better option here. It's as simple as rsync -a subdir/ ./.

My test tree in filename:contents format:

./file1:root
./file2:root
./dir/file3:dir
./dir/file4:dir
./subdir/dir/file3:subdir
./subdir/file1:subdir

Running rsync:

$ rsync -a -v subdir/ ./
sending incremental file list
./
file1
dir/
dir/file3

Gives:

./file1:subdir
./file2:root
./dir/file3:subdir
./dir/file4:dir
./subdir/dir/file3:subdir
./subdir/file1:subdir

And then, to emulate mv, you probably want to remove the source directory:

$ rm -r subdir/

Giving:

./file1:subdir
./file2:parent
./dir/file3:subdir
./dir/file4:dir

If this is wrong, can you please provide a similar example (e.g. using my test tree from near the top of this answer) with the desired result?

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rsync copies. This question is about moving. –  Gilles Mar 22 '11 at 22:51
1  
@Gilles: Thanks. I added rm -r at the end to make it basically the same as mv. –  Mikel Mar 22 '11 at 22:53
1  
copy-then-delete isn't equivalent to mv when the source and destination are on the same filesystem. mv is atomic, preserves inode numbers (so the file can remain open), and doesn't take time and space making a copy. –  Gilles Mar 22 '11 at 23:08
3  
@Gilles: I realize that, but currently the leading answer is cp -r; rm -r. I think in that sense, rsync is worth mentioning too. –  Mikel Mar 22 '11 at 23:21
    
I already did it with cp/rm (it was urgent). It really took a long time. Gilles script would probably have been a lot quicker, but he was too late too. –  EricSchaefer Mar 23 '11 at 10:09
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rsync can delete the source after copies with the --remove-source-files parameter. This should be a convenient way to do what you'd like.

From the rsync man page:

        --remove-source-files   sender removes synchronized files (non-dir)
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Here's a script that moves files from under /path/to/source/root to the corresponding path under /path/to/destination/root.

  • If a directory exists in both the source and the destination, the contents are moved-and-merged recursively.
  • If a file or directory exists in the source but not in the destination, it is moved.
  • Any file or directory that already exists in the destination is left behind. (In particular merged directories are left behind in the source. This is not easy to fix.)

Beware, untested code.

export dest='/path/to/destination/root'
cd /path/to/source/root
find . -type d \( -exec sh -c '[ -d "$dest/$0" ]' \; -o \
                  -exec sh -c 'mv "$0" "$dest/$0"' {} \; -prune \) \
    -o -exec sh -c '
        if ! [ -e "$dest/$0" ]; then
          mv -f "$0" "$dest/$0"
        fi
' {} \;
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Two corrections: you need a \; before the -o on the first line of the find command, and you shouldn't escape ! in the if -- it's just !, not \! –  llhuii Apr 20 '11 at 5:30
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I find the easiest way is to just pipe yes to the cp command like this:

yes | cp -R /source/* /destination/
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What on earth does yes add here? –  Bernhard Mar 24 at 6:21
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I just used kind of the same as last one. Without any yes |.. I had a problem which needed overwriting some files over ssh after decompression. What I did was

cp -R * ..

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