I was wondering if there is a way to tell rsync to only apply changes (delete, overwrite, create) only if all files in the file list transferred successfully.

Just to clarify, this would essentially be putting a transaction around the transfer.

3 Answers 3


you could use a filesystem (btrfs, zfs) with snapshot-features:

  • snapshot your current state
  • rsync
  • check exit code of rsync and rollback if needed

you can also enroll your own snapshots:

  • make a copy of the files (this becomes the working area)
  • rsync to the working area
  • check exit code of rsync and move working area over the original files if exit code was ok.
  • Instead of copies, you may want to use hard links to save time and space. Nov 15, 2010 at 4:12

You could use the --delay-updates option, or if you want really atomic updates, the atomic-rsync script (included in Debian as /usr/share/doc/rsync/scripts/atomic-rsync.gz).

  • I'm actually using the --backup option now and checking to see if the rsync fails. If so I attempt to restore the backup. Nothing much you can do if the network craps out and you can't connect to restore the backup. Pretty small chance though ;)
    – Tres
    Nov 18, 2010 at 10:57

From the 'rsync' man pages, you may be in luck only for deletes:

Some options require rsync to know the full file list, so these options disable the incremental recursion mode. These include: --delete-before, --delete-after, --prune-empty-dirs, and --delay-updates. Because of this, the default delete mode when you specify --delete is now --delete-during when both ends of the connection are at least 3.0.0 (use --del or --delete-during to request this improved deletion mode explicitly). See also the --delete-delay option that is a better choice than using --delete-after.

  • That would satisfy deletes, however, I still need it to work for all files just in case there is packet loss or connection interruption. Great answer though. Thanks.
    – Tres
    Nov 16, 2010 at 4:10

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