I am trying to use rsync to backup a website on my raspberry pi, but when I specify include and exclude it is not recursing into subdirectories. I use the following command:

rsync -rva html/ /media/pi/DEC6-5E68/html/ --include '.htaccess' --include '*.html' --include '*.php' --exclude '*'

But I only am backing up the upper level and not recursing, despite the 'r' option. I think I have a basic misunderstanding of linux wildcards. It does recurse if I omit any include or exclude arguments.

  • My answer has not been accepted, so maybe it's not enough. Can I get some feedback? How can I help you more? Jul 11, 2019 at 8:36
  • Sorry, I haven't had a chance to test it yet. But I will accept your answer by virtue of it being quite definitive.
    – RufusVS
    Jul 11, 2019 at 17:08
  • I didn't mean to rush you; just thought maybe the problem is not entirely solved. To be clear: it's not about reputation points I get for accepted answer, it's about solving the problem. If it turns out after testing that the solution is not enough, please leave me a comment. And don't hesitate to unaccept if appropriate, I believe you can do this anytime. Jul 12, 2019 at 8:01

1 Answer 1


Whenever a subdirectory is encountered, it gets excluded by the --exclude '*' statement and rsync doesn't descend.

This behavior is mentioned in the manual, with a solution. From man 1 rsync:

Note that, when using the --recursive (-r) option (which is implied by -a), every subcomponent of every path is visited from the top down, so include/exclude patterns get applied recursively to each subcomponent’s full name (e.g. to include /foo/bar/baz the subcomponents /foo and /foo/bar must not be excluded). The exclude patterns actually short-circuit the directory traversal stage when rsync finds the files to send. If a pattern excludes a particular parent directory, it can render a deeper include pattern ineffectual because rsync did not descend through that excluded section of the hierarchy. This is particularly important when using a trailing * rule. For instance, this won’t work:

+ /some/path/this-file-will-not-be-found
+ /file-is-included
- *

This fails because the parent directory some is excluded by the * rule, so rsync never visits any of the files in the some or some/path directories. One solution is to ask for all directories in the hierarchy to be included by using a single rule: + */ (put it somewhere before the - * rule), and perhaps use the --prune-empty-dirs option. […]

Note this part of the manual uses the syntax of the --filter (-f) option where + is like --include and - is like --exclude. The advised rule + */ may appear in your command line as --include '*/'. Quoting is very important, it prevents */ from being expanded by the shell.

For completeness this is what the manual says about the useful --prune-empty-dirs option:

-m, --prune-empty-dirs
This option tells the receiving rsync to get rid of empty directories from the file-list, including nested directories that have no non-directory children. This is useful for avoiding the creation of a bunch of useless directories when the sending rsync is recursively scanning a hierarchy of files using include/exclude/filter rules.


So your command may be

rsync -rmva html/ /media/pi/DEC6-5E68/html/ \
      --include '*/' \
      --include '.htaccess' \
      --include '*.html' \
      --include '*.php' \
      --exclude '*'

You can omit the destination (/media/pi/DEC6-5E68/html/ in your case) to make rsync only list what would be copied. This way you can verify if my command is what you need.

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