I have a directory on an nfs mount, which on the server is at /home/myname/.rubies

Root cannot access this directory:

[mitchell.usher@server ~]$ stat /home/mitchell.usher/.rubies
  File: `/home/mitchell.usher/.rubies'
  Size: 4096            Blocks: 8          IO Block: 32768  directory
Device: 15h/21d Inode: 245910      Links: 3
Access: (0755/drwxr-xr-x)  Uid: (  970/mitchell.usher)   Gid: (  100/   users)
Access: 2016-08-22 15:06:15.000000000 +0000
Modify: 2016-08-22 14:55:00.000000000 +0000
Change: 2016-08-22 14:55:00.000000000 +0000

[mitchell.usher@server ~]$ sudo !!
sudo stat /home/mitchell.usher/.rubies
stat: cannot stat `/home/mitchell.usher/.rubies': Permission denied

I am attempting to copy something from within that directory to /opt which only root has access to:

[mitchell.usher@server ~]$ cp .rubies/ruby-2.1.3/ -r /opt
cp: cannot create directory `/opt/ruby-2.1.3': Permission denied

[mitchell.usher@server ~]$ sudo !!
sudo cp .rubies/ruby-2.1.3/ -r /opt
cp: cannot stat `.rubies/ruby-2.1.3/': Permission denied

Obviously I can do the following (and is what I've done for the time being):

[mitchell.usher@server ~]$ cp -r .rubies/ruby-2.1.3/ /tmp/
[mitchell.usher@server ~]$ sudo cp -r /tmp/ruby-2.1.3/ /opt/

Is there any way to do this that wouldn't involve copying it as an intermediary step or changing permissions?

  • cp -Rp /home/mitchell.usher/.rubies /tmp/templocation; sudo mv /tmp/templocation/ruby-2.1.3 /opt will this not work ? If no, why ?
    – MelBurslan
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 15:31
  • @MelBurslan that's what I did, as stated in the question. But let's say it's a 50 GB file that won't fit anywhere else on the filesystem, then I wouldn't be able to cp <file> /tmp/tmpfile
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 17:45

3 Answers 3


You can use tar as a buffer process

cd .rubies
tar cf - ruby-2.1.3 | ( cd /opt && sudo tar xvfp - )

The first tar runs as you and so can read your home directory; the second tar runs under sudo and so can write to /opt.

  • 1
    How is this on memory? If I have a 10 GB file, is that going to fill 10 GB of memory before it pipes and un-tars, or will it un-tar as it tars?
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 18:39
  • 6
    They run in parallel; a typical pipe has a 64Kbyte buffer. Nothing to worry about :-) unix.stackexchange.com/questions/11946/… for pipe size details. Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 18:50
  • See also In what order do piped commands run? (in particular, my answer). Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 21:12
  • cpio can be used in much the same way. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 7:34
  • If you have GNU tar, you can save the subshell by using its -C argument to change directory (i.e. tar cf - ruby-2.1.3 | sudo tar -C /opt xpf -). Might be worth mentioning that you want to ensure that sudo won't ask your password (e.g. through a sudoers entry or cached credentials). Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 7:37

You could use rsync or scp to copy from user@localhost to the local directory.

Example for rsync:

# rsync "$real_user@localhost:$PWD/.rubies/ruby-2.1.3" /opt

You could alternatively

$ rsync .rubies/ruby-2.1.3 "root@localhost:/opt"

if you let root access localhost directly (not recommended; we normally prefer root access to be via sudo).


You can make a second entry in the FAT (or whatever).
I do this for my HOSTS file. I have a link in a writable directory that refers to the file and it has different permissions, so I have /Hosts/HOSTS that I can modify easily, and the changes are put in both (i.e. "the one") file(s). It's 2 entries for 1 file. I don't remember the command, sorry.

For you, you make a link to /opt for all the files in .rubies, and when you change anything in /opt, it is the same file as in .rubies.

  • 4
    This is false and misleading, besides not answering the question.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 1:37
  • It is only false because we're dealing with a different file system. The answerer was obviously referring to hard links which do operate as mentioned, although not applicable for this question. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 4:13
  • Thanks Wildcard, I had a line in my answer about getting a bunch of flack but it was edited out when Michael improved it. :p
    – Engineer
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 1:24

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