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I've copied a bunch of files from one server to the other, and now the files' dates are reset to current.

How to backup files' dates on old server and restore the them on the new one (without re-transferring all files)?

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If you version of cp (or scp) has the -p or the --preserve option, you should have used it! Don't forget it next time... – gniourf_gniourf Dec 2 '12 at 21:31
I used find ... | cpio ... | mcrypt ... | pv ... | nc -lp 1 – Vi. Dec 3 '12 at 0:16
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Here are scripts to save and restore all {c,n,a}times of files and directories:


find / -mount -print0 | perl -ne 'INIT{ $/ = "\0"; use File::stat;} chomp; my $s = stat($_); next unless $s; print $s->ctime . "/" . $s->mtime . "/" . $s->atime ."/$_\0"; ' > dates.dat


cat dates.dat |  perl -ne 'INIT{ $/ = "\0";} chomp; m!^([0-9]+)/([0-9]+)/([0-9]+)/(.*)!s or next; my ($ct, $mt, $at, $f) = ($1, $2, $3, $4); utime $at, $mt, $f;'

It does not set ctime (inote-change time) although.

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You can use stat to get the dates on the source and touch to modify them on the target.

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How to do it automatically for a bunch of files (including ones with special names)? I don't want to stat and touch each file manually. – Vi. Dec 2 '12 at 21:04
You'd have to use a script. I'd do something with find, piped into a while statement, then parsing the output of stat for each file and applying with touch to the source. The actual implementation will depend on the particular file structure involved. – MaQleod Dec 2 '12 at 21:34
OK, implementing the script myself (I thought there should be a tool fo this or someone already having such script). – Vi. Dec 3 '12 at 0:12

I have a Python script for doing this at

On the original server run: save scp .saved-file-attrs <user>@<dest-server>:<path>

On the destination server run:

cd <path> restore

This will restore the file attributes.

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If file names are not too weird, and I only need to restore mtime, I use this quick & dirty solution:

find . -type f -exec stat -c 'touch --no-create -d "%y" "%n"' {} \;

This creates a script on the source, and that script can be run on the destination to restore the mtime timestamps.

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A probably faster alternative is find . -type f -printf 'touch --no-create -d "%t" "%p"\n' because it doesn't fork. But it still needs some improvement (stable time format) – Daniel Alder Jul 9 '14 at 19:51

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