CP(1) General Commands Manual CP(1)
cp – copy files
cp [-R [-H | -L | -P]] [-fi | -n] [-apvX] source_file target_file
cp [-R [-H | -L | -P]] [-fi | -n] [-apvX] source_file ... target_directory
In the first synopsis form, the cp utility copies the contents of the
source_file to the target_file. In the second synopsis form, the contents
of each named source_file is copied to the destination target_directory.
The names of the files themselves are not changed. If cp detects an
attempt to copy a file to itself, the copy will fail.
The following options are available:
-a Same as -pPR options. Preserves structure and attributes of files but
not directory structure.
-f If the destination file cannot be opened, remove it and create a new
file, without prompting for confirmation regardless of its
permissions. (The -f option overrides any previous -n option.)
The target file is not unlinked before the copy. Thus, any existing
access rights will be retained.
-H If the -R option is specified, symbolic links on the command line are
followed. (Symbolic links encountered in the tree traversal are not
-i Cause cp to write a prompt to the standard error output before
copying a file that would overwrite an existing file. If the
response from the standard input begins with the character ‘y’ or
‘Y’, the file copy is attempted. (The -i option overrides any
previous -n option.)
-L If the -R option is specified, all symbolic links are followed.
-n Do not overwrite an existing file. (The -n option overrides any
previous -f or -i options.)
-P If the -R option is specified, no symbolic links are followed. This
is the default.
-p Cause cp to preserve the following attributes of each source file in
the copy: modification time, access time, file flags, file mode, user
ID, and group ID, as allowed by permissions. Access Control Lists
(ACLs) and Extended Attributes (EAs), including resource forks, will
also be preserved.
If the user ID and group ID cannot be preserved, no error message is
displayed and the exit value is not altered.
If the source file has its set-user-ID bit on and the user ID cannot
be preserved, the set-user-ID bit is not preserved in the copy's
permissions. If the source file has its set-group-ID bit on and the
group ID cannot be preserved, the set-group-ID bit is not preserved
in the copy's permissions. If the source file has both its set-user-
ID and set-group-ID bits on, and either the user ID or group ID
cannot be preserved, neither the set-user-ID nor set-group-ID bits
are preserved in the copy's permissions.
-R If source_file designates a directory, cp copies the directory and
the entire subtree connected at that point. If the source_file ends
in a /, the contents of the directory are copied rather than the
directory itself. This option also causes symbolic links to be
copied, rather than indirected through, and for cp to create special
files rather than copying them as normal files. Created directories
have the same mode as the corresponding source directory, unmodified
by the process' umask.
In -R mode, cp will continue copying even if errors are detected.
Note that cp copies hard-linked files as separate files. If you need
to preserve hard links, consider using tar(1), cpio(1), or pax(1)
-v Cause cp to be verbose, showing files as they are copied.
-X Do not copy Extended Attributes (EAs) or resource forks.
-c copy files using clonefile(2)
For each destination file that already exists, its contents are overwritten
if permissions allow. Its mode, user ID, and group ID are unchanged unless
the -p option was specified.
In the second synopsis form, target_directory must exist unless there is
only one named source_file which is a directory and the -R flag is
If the destination file does not exist, the mode of the source file is used
as modified by the file mode creation mask (umask, see csh(1)). If the
source file has its set-user-ID bit on, that bit is removed unless both the
source file and the destination file are owned by the same user. If the
source file has its set-group-ID bit on, that bit is removed unless both
the source file and the destination file are in the same group and the user
is a member of that group. If both the set-user-ID and set-group-ID bits
are set, all of the above conditions must be fulfilled or both bits are
Appropriate permissions are required for file creation or overwriting.
Symbolic links are always followed unless the -R flag is set, in which case
symbolic links are not followed, by default. The -H or -L flags (in
conjunction with the -R flag) cause symbolic links to be followed as
described above. The -H, -L and -P options are ignored unless the -R
option is specified. In addition, these options override each other and
the command's actions are determined by the last one specified.
If cp receives a SIGINFO (see the status argument for stty(1)) signal, the
current input and output file and the percentage complete will be written
to the standard output.
The cp utility exits 0 on success, and >0 if an error occurs.
Historic versions of the cp utility had a -r option. This implementation
supports that option; however, its use is strongly discouraged, as it does
not correctly copy special files, symbolic links, or fifo's.
The -v and -n options are non-standard and their use in scripts is not
In legacy mode, -f will override -i. Also, under the -f option, the target
file is always unlinked before the copy. Thus, new access rights will
always be set.
In -R mode, copying will terminate if an error is encountered.
For more information about legacy mode, see compat(5).
mv(1), rcp(1), umask(2), fts(3), compat(5), symlink(7)
The cp command is expected to be IEEE Std 1003.2 (“POSIX.2”) compatible.
A cp command appeared in Version 1 AT&T UNIX.
macOS 12.1 February 23, 2005 macOS 12.1