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)?

  • 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... Dec 2, 2012 at 21:31
  • I used find ... | cpio ... | mcrypt ... | pv ... | nc -lp 1
    – Vi.
    Dec 3, 2012 at 0:16

4 Answers 4


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.


I have a Python script for doing this at https://github.com/robertknight/mandrawer/blob/master/save-file-attrs.py

On the original server run:

save-file-attrs.py save scp .saved-file-attrs <user>@<dest-server>:<path>

On the destination server run:

cd <path> save-file-attrs.py restore

This will restore the file attributes.


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

  • 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, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 at 0:12

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.

  • 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) Jul 9, 2014 at 19:51
  • 2
    I've been using find . -type f -exec stat -c 'touch --no-create -d @%Y "%n"' {} \; >restore-timestamps (timestamps instead of local date representation). Aug 23, 2019 at 13:48

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