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PROBLEM: cp --attributes-only Source Target results in two files unchanged, where the attributes from Source should be copied to Target.

Attempts to solve: As I have the 8.13 version of coreutils installed [Aha?], I wonder why this option is mentioned, but doesn't seem to work. No error messages, no nothing, even when running it with --verbose. The same goes when trying to copy the attributes from various accounts. Nothing.

In cp's man page I found the option

--attributes-only -> don't copy the file data, just the attributes

In this answer I found that

With recent versions of GNU coreutils (≥ 8.6), you can use cp --attributes-only to replicate the metadata … of a file on another file without changing the target file's contents.

In another posting, someone mentions to be working in Ubuntu, but then there are remarks that I doesn't work on Mac OS X.

QUESTION: Where am I wrong? Could it be the older version of coreutils - and if so, why is there something documented that doesn't work »now«?

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The info docs (accessed by running info cp or online) have the clue

`--attributes-only'
     Copy only the specified attributes of the source file to the
     destination.  If the destination already exists, do not alter its
     contents.  See the `--preserve' option for controlling which
     attributes to copy.

So try adding --preserve, --preserve=context, --preserve=all, --archive, or similar, depending on which attributes you want to copy.

cp --preserve --attributes-only... works for me with coreutils 8.20.

  • Oh… I didn't see the connection :) – erch Oct 7 '13 at 13:04

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