What is the difference between following 2 commands?

cp -rp /dir1/*.* /dir2/
cp -rp /dir1/* /dir2/
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    Even though both answers are correct, I think there is one thing to be noted. Hidden files (files that start with . like .bashrc) are not copied with any of those commands. To copy those files you should explicitly indicate that with .* so, to copy all files (including hidden ones) the command would be cp -rp /dir1/.* /dir1/* /dir2/
    – YoMismo
    Sep 29, 2015 at 6:52
  • In short, *.* is the MS-DOS/Windows way of doing it, while * is the UNIX/Linux way. In Unix suffix (file-ending, the part after the . - like .txt or .jpg) is optional... In MS-DOS the . (dot) and suffix was required, so to match all files, one used *.* - while to match all text-files, one would use *.txt. Sep 29, 2015 at 9:34
  • @BaardKopperud suffix wasn't required, there could be files with name like FILENAME or even FILE.
    – Ruslan
    Sep 29, 2015 at 11:57
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    @Ruslan but *.* in DOS still matches files named FILENAME or FILE, because the name is 'really' FILENAME. or FILE. (with an empty extension). In Unix, the name is 'really' FILENAME or FILE, so *.* won't match. Sep 29, 2015 at 16:01
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    @Ruslan It was required on actual DOS, not required anymore on windows. Back in the old days, a single * would only match FILE, and not FILE.TXT.
    – Random832
    Sep 29, 2015 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


*.* only matches filenames with a dot in the middle or at the end. For example:


* matches the filenames above, plus the names which don't have a dot at all. for example:

  • 6
    Maybe also note that the anti-idiom *.* used to be the correct way to match all files on MS-DOS back in the day of 8+3 filenames. In MS-DOS, the dot is mandatory (albeit implicit on files which do not have an extension).
    – tripleee
    Sep 29, 2015 at 6:44
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    @Mark, No, I don't think so. unless you have dotglob on. Sep 29, 2015 at 7:32
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    Huh, I never realized that *.* matches foo. but not .foo. That asymmetry is terrible.
    – jamesdlin
    Sep 29, 2015 at 7:42
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    @jamesdlin, from bash manual: When a pattern is used for filename expansion, the character ‘.’ at the start of a filename or immediately following a slash must be matched explicitly, unless the shell option dotglob is set. Sep 29, 2015 at 7:52
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    @jamesdlin. Since the 1st day of Unix (circa 1969), directory entries starting with a dot were considered hidden. Originally this was needed to skip the . (current directory) and .. (parent directory) entries which always exist in any directory (even empty dirs). Ritchie and Thompson later considered it to be a useful feature to hide (by default) all the .*rc config files and added an explicit -a option to ls to display all these (leading-dot) "hidden" entries. So this is not very surprising knowing Unix history. A leading dot in Unix has been special since "forever".
    – arielf
    Oct 5, 2015 at 22:07

Suppose your have following files in /dir1:


cp -rp /dir1/*.* /dir2/

This command will copy only the following files:


cp -rp /dir1/* /dir2/

This will copy all the files in /dir1

The condition applies to the subdirectories in /dir1 as well..

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