I heard that rsync isn't the best one when creating the first backup in terms of performance. Instead it is the best for the later backups. So I wonder what are some better commands for creating the first backup, and what your usages for them are? Thanks!


rsync isn't a good option for copying files to an empty destination. If you're migrating data to an empty destination, you already know all files need to be copied so the checking rsync does is counterproductive and actually increases the time the transfer takes. This is mentioned somewhere in the rsync man page or FAQ or something, I think.

  • Do you have any references for “what you've heard”?
    – Marco
    Sep 19, 2012 at 11:54
  • @Marco: See my update.
    – Tim
    Sep 19, 2012 at 12:24
  • 1
    I don't think rsync into an empty directory would be that much slower and besides you only do copy to an empty directory once so I wouldn't worry much about it. If you are worried about it, just use cp or something.
    – jw013
    Sep 19, 2012 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


rsync is great for keeping two directories up to date by comparing them and only moving over what had changed. You could totally use rsync for the first time. It just will obviously have nothing to compare against and just move everything over. So with that though in mind you could just use cp or scp if you're moving the files to a remote server.

If you want more backup options like detailed changes and more control over your backups check out https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BackupYourSystem

  • Thanks! rsync seems to do some kind of version control. Does it create and store some files for storing information about older versions, like CVS does?
    – Tim
    Sep 19, 2012 at 12:49
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    Its not really version control. version control keeps track of files and see what changes. Rsync uses an algorythm to compare two directories and only sends the differences. Its close but kind of opposite ends of the comparison. Also it only keeps the comparison for that session. Although you could out put the process to a file. More about the Algorithm
    – Nate
    Sep 19, 2012 at 12:58

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