Suppose that /foo/src contains only A.c and that /foo/dest contains both A.c and B.c. And suppose I run the following command:

rsync /foo/src/ /foo/dest

Will rsync erase B.c?


Now suppose that /foo/src contains the directory A with some files inside it and that /foo/dest contains both directories A and B, each with some files inside of them. And suppose I run the following command (the -a option includes -r, recursive):

rsync -a /foo/src/ /foo/dest

Will rsync erase B and its contents?

  • You need the --delete switch.
    – fideli
    Mar 18, 2014 at 23:12

1 Answer 1


By default, rsync does not delete files but that depends on the commands options you specify. You can use any the following if you WANT to delete files:

  • −−del (alias for −−delete−during)
  • −−delete (deletes extraneous files from dest dirs)
  • −−delete−before (receiver deletes before xfer [default])
  • −−delete−during (receiver deletes during xfer, not before)
  • −−delete−after (receiver deletes after xfer, not before)
  • −−delete−excluded (also delete excluded files from dest dirs)
  • −−max−delete=NUM (don’t delete more than NUM files)

Since you specifically called out the -a option, here's what the man page says

−a, −−archive >

This is equivalent to −rlptgoD. It is a quick way of saying you want recursion and want to preserve almost everything (with −H being a notable omission). The only exception to the above equivalence is when −−files−from is specified, in which case −r is not implied.

Note that −a does not preserve hardlinks, because finding multiply-linked files is expensive. You must separately specify −H.

So it seems the answer to your question is NO, it won't be deleted given your examples.

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