Why can't I copy with scp when I'm using * characters in the path?


What configuration does SCP need in order to allow * in the path?

UPDATE: the problem is not on server side; pscp is trying to use SCPv1, and that's why the error message:

scp commandline and error message regarding a file called *

  • Check this, it worked for me: https://superuser.com/a/1390405/445746
    – AmitM
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 7:26
  • 1
    The question isn't clear as to whether you're trying to use * for file globbing, or to copy a file called * (see disagreement in comments as to what the question is asking).
    – LarsH
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 15:41
  • The question says "the problem is not on server side", but the screenshot shows a local filename of "C:/test" — so, the problem is on the local side, which is Windows?????  Why is this question on Unix&Linux? Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 2:16
  • 1
    I recommend to use rsync for complicated case like this instead of using scp.
    – VuVanLy
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 13:34

5 Answers 5


You need to pass a literal escape to scp to avoid the remote machine treating * as a glob (notice that it is doubly quoted):

scp 'SERVERNAME:/DIR/\*' .
  • 97
    You either need quotes, or a backslash before the star, not both. And scp is not the one expanding it, the shell is.
    – phemmer
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 4:39
  • 1
    @Patrick That's not correct, scp expands the glob, even if your shell doesn't (you can try it for yourself). There are two stages: stopping your shell from expanding the glob (which is not necessary because it should have nothing to expand the glob to, and thus will remain intact), and telling scp that this character is not a glob. If it was your shell expanding the glob you would not have to escape it at all.
    – Chris Down
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 13:29
  • 3
    Have you tried it? I just did, works exactly as I described (quoting and escaping causes failure). User1274964 even confirms the behavior in his answer. touch /tmp/abcd.1234; scp 'localhost:/tmp/abcd.\*' ./: scp: /tmp/abcd.*: No such file or directory
    – phemmer
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 1:00
  • 2
    @Patrick The question is about using a literal asterisk, ie, avoiding globbing altogether, not about how to glob on the remote.
    – Chris Down
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 20:57
  • 4
    Actually the question is about getting pscp on the client side to allow remote globbing.
    – phemmer
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 22:08

I found Patrick's advice to be correct, although Chris's answer got me on the right track. Use quotes and then you don't need the backslash before the asterisk.

  • With quotes+backslash:

    $ scp 'SERVERNAME:/tmp/file_num\*' .
    scp: /tmp/file_num*.csv: No such file or directory
  • With quotes only:

    $ scp 'SERVERNAME:/tmp/file_num*' .
    judgments_for_job_171642.csv 100%   32KB  32.0KB/s   00:00    
    judgments_for_job_172394.csv 100%  548KB 182.6KB/s   00:03  
  • 4
    Right, because this means that you want to glob on the remote. The question is about how to stop globbing on the remote (to get a literal *), not about how to glob on the remote only.
    – Chris Down
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 20:57
  • 6
    @ChrisDown. No. The user wants the wildcard not expanded on the host, and does want it expanded on the remote, to allow it to match multiple files there. None of the files returned have a literal '*' in them. Did you mean "stop globbing on the host "?
    – Tim Bird
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 19:38

In order to avoid globbing you want both - single quotes and an escaped asterisk:

scp 'SERVERNAME:/DIR/\*' ./

If you want to use wildcards use either single quotes or escape only the asterisk:

scp 'SERVERNAME:/DIR/*' ./
# or

It seems that scp only supports wildcards for file names but not for directory names.


NOTE: Solution offered below tested and known to work correctly.

Single quotes will break variable expansion if you've aliased part of the path that you're globbing.

Here's a script that uses DOUBLE quotes for the use-case of the globbed filename command-configure_.tar.gz* using a path aliased with a variable:




## Uncomment appropriate below command for your distro to install "sshpass"
#apt-get -y sshpass
#yum -y install sshpass

sshpass -p "$SCPUSERPASSWD" scp -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no $SCPUSER@$SCPHOST:"$SCPDIRECTORYREMOTE/command-configure_*.tar.gz" $(getent passwd|grep ^$(echo $USEREXECUTINGSCRIPT)|cut -d ':' -f6)/$SCRIPTSDIR/

After the closing double quote, the local directory target is constructed by just extracting the specified user's home dir from /etc/passwd.

The scp command itself is prefaced with sshpass and -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no to fully automate the scp command without user interaction. Looks convoluted but better than hard-coding paths which are expected to change from time to time.

Anyhoo, an example using double quotes where variables in the path you're globbing need to be allowed to expand. HTH


Well actually just use -r in similar cases. Especially if you use variables in your script.


SERVERNAME="[email protected]"

scp -r $SERVERNAME:/DIR/ ./

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