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I have a bunch of tar files in my machine which I want to transfer to an external hard drive (EHD); they where created preserving permissions (using the -p flag). I plan to use rsync to copy them to the EHD, but I wonder if it's necessary to transfer them in the so called "archive mode" (using the -a flag), since, as I understand, the main purpose of this mode is to preserve permissions, ownerships, etc.

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It's the right way to use -a . One of the benefits of using RSYNC is that it will only copy changes the next time you want to sync destination with source changes.

I use it like this:

rsync -avz ~/home/user/blah USER@HOST:/home/user/blahblah

Form Rsync man page:

- -a, --archive This is equivalent to -rlptgoD. It is a quick way of saying you want recursion and want to preserve almost everything (with -H being a notable omission). The only exception to the above equivalence is when --files-from is specified, in which case -r is not implied. Note that -a does not preserve hardlinks, because finding multiply-linked files is expensive. You must separately specify -H.

Check this Server Fault post out: What is archive mode in rsync?

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  • Misses the point of the question: will it matter for a tar archive, since all the permissions are contained inside?
    – Wildcard
    Oct 19 '15 at 6:07
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No. Since you already created a tar file, rsync would only look at the permissions of that file. Those are irrelevant, obviously.

You don't even need to use rsync; the file is on a local hard drive, after all. You can just use cp instead.

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