I'm trying to copy one directory to an ext4 filesystem on a Veracrypt encrypted USB stick. The command I used was:

cp -aL /source /destination

I've also tried:

cp -ad /source /destination

... but I get back:

cp: cannot create symbolic link ‘/xyz/pdq’: Operation not permitted

I looked at the problem links and they don't link outside the copied directory tree. Why is this happening?


1 Answer 1


Just for you I played with Veracrypt(never heard the name before :D).

Have you formatted the drive as FAT? Then thats your problem. When Veracrypt asks you, format it as NTFS instead of FAT and then try again.

FAT32 unfortunately does not support owner, permissions or symlinks. That is why you are getting an Operation not permitted error. Note that this error is not “permission denied”: “operation not permitted” often means “operation not supported”, i.e. nobody can do this.

  • 1
    Thanks siddharth and @Gilles . “operation not permitted” often means “operation not supported".. This has perfectly explained the situation. Thanks once again!
    – Sandeep
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 4:04
  • 4
    @mk.. That's not always the case: sometimes “operation not permitted” can mean a lack of permission. EACCESS (“permission denied”) is about file ownership and permission modes, while EPERM is about other kinds of control, for example system calls that are reserved to root. The rule of thumb is that EACCESS can be solved by chmod/chown, EPERM is a more fundamental problem. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 7:01
  • 1
    VeraCrypt appears to be one pretty decent inheritor of the TrueCrypt mantle. We'll see if that lasts. They have passed a security review or two.
    – user447607
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 15:54
  • I also ran into this issue but I figured I could tar the folder then copy it over and untar it. But I found that I was copying from ext4 to exFat and had this same problem. Lucky it was a new hard drive so I formatted it to ext4 and used tar -xhf myfolder.tar and it worked. Hope this helps someone. Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 5:13

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