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I want to download a folder from a server containing several thousands of files using ssh. I am using Ubuntu and I do not have write permissions on the server, so I am not able to create a .tar on the server and copy it afterwards. But dowloading all files individually is very slow.

So how can I download this folder with that many files as one archive using the command line?

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You could do something like this:

ssh username@hostname 'tar -cf - /dir/to/download' | gzip > remote_files.tgz

This will run tar on the remote server, but instead of writing to a file, it will output to stdout. This will be returned through SSH to your local machine, gzipped and then written to a file.

  • If I'd have enough reputation to vote, I would definitely do ;) – Patrick Weiß Mar 5 '16 at 13:03
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    Might be better to inclue the gzip command server-side to save bandwidth usage. – Jaap Eldering Mar 6 '16 at 17:00
  • Concur with Jaap. ssh username@hostname 'tar -cf - /dir/to/download | gzip -9c' > remote_files.tgz might save a lot of bandwidth if you're copying text files or anything easily compressed. – Bolwerk Sep 29 '19 at 12:50
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Secure copy "scp" is installed with OpenSSH. So this should do the trick...

scp -r username@yourserver.com:/path/to/remote/files /path/to/local/files

-r Recursively copy entire directories.

man scp for full details.

  • If I'd have enough reputation to vote, I would definitely do ;) – Patrick Weiß Mar 5 '16 at 13:03
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Both of the previous answers will work, but I'm surprised that no one mentioned rsync, as in:

rsync -az username@yourserver.com:/path/to/remote/files/ /path/to/local/files/

Bonus points is that if the connection is interrupted, you can restart and it will figure out what is left to be copied.

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