Otherwise, is there any alternative command line utility that can achieve this?

18 Answers 18


While cp hasn't got this functionality, you can use pv to do this:

pv my_big_file > backup/my_big_file

Note: this method will lose the file's permissions and ownership. Files copied this way will have the same permissions as if you'd created them yourself and will belong to you.

In this example, pv basically just outputs the file to stdout*, which you redirect to a file using the > operator. Simultaneously, it prints information about the progress to the terminal when you do that.

This is what it looks like:

stefano@ubuntu:~/Data$ pv my_big_file > backup/my_big_file
 138MB 0:00:01 [73.3MB/s] [=================================>] 100% 

You may need to  Install pv (alternatively, type sudo apt-get install pv) on your system.

*: The technical bit

There are three important streams of data in a unix-like system: stdout (standard output), stderr (standard error) and stdin (standard input). Every program has all three, so to speak. The > redirection operator redirects program output to a file. Without arguments, as you see above, > redirects a program's standard output to a file. cp basically does nothing fancier than

cat source > destination

(where cat just reads a file and prints it to stdout). pv is just like cat, but if you redirect it's output stream somewhere else, it will print progress information to stdout instead.

Take a look at man pv to learn more about it.

Another option, as alt textDoR suggests in this answer, is to use rsync instead:

$ rsync -ah --progress source-file destination-file
sending incremental file list
        621.22M  57%  283.86MB/s    0:00:01

This will preserve the files permissions/ownership while showing progress.

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  • 3
    It may or may no be significant (depending on the situation), but pv does not handle permissions the same way as cp does... (based on one quick test I tried: pv didn't copy the execute bit across.. rsync did. – Peter.O Dec 14 '10 at 15:55
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    IMO: alias cp="rsync -avz" cp is outdated. – Marco Ceppi Dec 26 '10 at 1:26
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    If you're like me, and forget about pv, you can go snooping in /proc/PID of cp/fd and /proc/PID of cp/fdinfo to figure out progress. (It's up to you to infer speed.) I use this technique to watch updatedb. – Thanatos Dec 26 '10 at 1:30
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    Yes, -z should probably only be used for network copies; compressing and decompressing the data for a local copy is pure overhead. – Matthew Read Jun 17 '15 at 15:17
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    @MarcoCeppi , when copying directory with rsync be sure not to add trailing / to source path (or remove if e.g. bash completion put it there automatically). Otherwise you will get results different than when using cp (or gcp). – Piotr Findeisen Apr 3 '16 at 19:07

There isn't. See here as to why. Although it does more than you need, rsync has a --progress parameter. The -a will keep permissions,etc, and -h will be human readable.

rsync -ah --progress source destination

The output will look something like this:

      2.13M 100%    2.28MB/s    0:00:00 (xfr#5898, to-chk=1/5905)
      1.68M 100%    1.76MB/s    0:00:00 (xfr#5899, to-chk=0/5905)
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  • 11
    This works great in the current Ubuntu (14.10). It also supports the -r flag to recurse directories. It can even be aliased as a direct replacement for cp: alias cp="rsync -ah --progress" – rustyx Dec 23 '14 at 21:04
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    i like this alternative better than pv, specially because rsync is part of the standard install – Joao Costa Sep 17 '17 at 18:31
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    @bartekbrak thanks for sharing. I'm presently on macOS 10.12.x running homebrew version of rsync 3.1.2 and using --progress makes my head spin 🙃 watching all the output display in the terminal. So those coming here from AOL keyword searches, rsync -ah --info=progress2 [source] [destination] presents the output in a little more sane 👩‍⚕️ manner IMHO. – ipatch Mar 1 '18 at 19:53
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    Unfortunately, the output is not very helpful when copying many small files. – Raphael Apr 28 '18 at 18:29
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    @Raphael, true, that's why you should use --info=progress2 rather than --progress as suggested by @ipatch in their comment – Zaccharie Ramzi Jun 19 '19 at 15:15

If you want to see if your files are transferring correctly you could use gcp and gcp is like cp but by default gives you a progress bar so that you can see what is being copied. As the program's wiki notes, gcp has several useful features such as

  • transfer progression indication
  • continuous copying on error (skip to next file)
  • copy status logging: gcp logs all its actions so that it is possible to know which files have been successfully copied
  • name mangling to handle target filesystem limitations (for example deletion of incompatible characters "*" or "?" on FAT)

However, even when the progress bar has reached 100% when using the tool, you must wait until your terminal prompt reappears before safely removing your media so that you can ensure that the transfer process has successfully finished.

gcp is used to copy files and has options such as --preserve so that various attributes and permissions can be preserved and --recursive so that whole directories can be copied. More information on its options can be found by entering man gcp or by going to the Ubuntu manpages online. A tutorial is also available on this site.

Install gcp from the repositories with

sudo apt-get install gcp

(Note: in Ubuntu 12.10 the new automount point is, for example, /media/user/usbdisk)

You can copy a file to your media by entering

gcp /home/mike/file.mp4 /media/usb

and copy a folder to your media with

gcp -rv ~/Podcasts /media/Mik2

Sample output from gcp with the progress bar:

gcp ~/Videos_incIplayer/mars.flv /media/Mik2
Copying 168.57 MiB 100% |########################################################|   7.98 M/s Time: 00:00:22

You can of course specify multiple files or folders to copy to your disk, and there are a lot of other options covered in man gcp.

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    Got error with it over ssh dbus.exceptions.DBusException: org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.NotSupported: Unable to autolaunch a dbus-daemon without a $DISPLAY for X11 – msa.im Jan 17 '16 at 23:29
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    if you have a X11 display open on the machine you can just set export DISPLAY=:0.0 before starting gcp. If the machine is headless then you'd have to start a xsession into a virtual framebuffer or something, at that point you should probably just look for another program – user292067 Oct 9 '16 at 17:33
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    gcp is pretty decent but the DBUS/X requirement is odd. I handled this over SSH by using ssh forwarding: ssh -X user@host and that allowed me to run it. – Oli Oct 21 '16 at 12:24

I get a kick out of using cURL for this exact purpose. The man page lists the "FILE" protocol as supported, so just use it like any other protocol in a URL:

curl -o destination FILE://source

Speed, progress, time remaining, and more -- all in a familiar format.

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    This is great especially in environments where you are prohibited from installing new tools and where rsync is unavailable. – user190264 Sep 5 '13 at 7:00
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    Brilliant, this has got to be a must-known hack! – ionreflex Oct 20 '15 at 18:13
  • Nice answer! Clever! – 9301293 Jan 10 '18 at 20:48
  • This presumably has the same drawback as pv, that it won't save permissions. – Ploni Jul 9 '18 at 0:09
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    Sweet! any way to make this work for a directory? – Joseph Rajeev Motha Feb 25 '19 at 2:21

While it doesn't display speed, when copying multiple files, the -v option to the cp command will provide you with progress info. e.g.

cp -rv old-directory new-directory
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    Progress info? This is just verbose output. To provide progress info you would at least need to now how many files, or even which files, needs to be copied. – Julian F. Weinert Jul 3 '15 at 20:21
  • It shows what file it is on, which can be enough in less demanding cases. – Gringo Suave Apr 27 '19 at 23:54

There is a tool called progress in the repositories that is able to examine various different commands and display progress info for them.

Install it using the command

sudo apt-get install progress

This tool can be used like that:

cp bigfile newfile & progress -mp $!


[11471] cp /media/Backup/Downloads/FILENAME.file 
        29.9% (24.2 MiB / 16 MiB)
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    This is the most up to date answer in my opinion in 2019. – mchid Oct 18 '19 at 4:00

The kernel knows most of the data such as speed, and often also percentage. Modern kernels expose this via their /proc filesystem.

showspeed from https://github.com/jnweiger/showspeed uses that info. It can attach to already running programs and give periodic updates like this:

$ dd if=bigfile of=/tmp/otherbigfile &
$ showspeed dd
dd looks like a process name. pid=4417 matches av0=dd.
p/4417/fd/0r /home/jw/bigfile 113MB/s (12%, 2.3GB)  9m:35
p/4417/fd/1w /tmp/otherbigfile 182MB/s (2.6GB)
p/4417/fd/0r /home/jw/bigfile 285MB/s (15%, 3.0GB)  8m:08
p/4417/fd/0r /home/jw/bigfile 115MB/s (16%, 3.2GB)  8m:01
p/4417/fd/0r /home/jw/bigfile 107MB/s (17%, 3.4GB)  7m:39
p/4417/fd/1w /tmp/otherbigfile 104MB/s (3.5GB)
p/4417/fd/0r /home/jw/bigfile 139MB/s (19%, 3.7GB)  7m:37
p/4417/fd/0r /home/jw/bigfile 116MB/s (20%, 3.9GB)  7m:18
p/4417/fd/1w /tmp/otherbigfile  67MB/s (4.0GB)
p/4417/fd/1w /tmp/otherbigfile 100MB/s (4.1GB)
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  • Nice one. How does it work out percentages though? I guess only in case of file s open as read only? And it will probably not work in case of scattered access. – j_kubik Dec 22 '14 at 17:29
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    In this case you can also use another terminal to run pkill -USR1 dd to make dd show its status, another option would be watch -n 1 pkill -USR1 dd to make it show its progress periodically (every second). – Yaron Mar 16 '15 at 9:23
  • Right. Many tools got a builtin way to report statistics over time. dd is no exception. Modern implementations have a status=progess option. Showspeed is a classic unix style "one tool for one purpose" solution - just like pv. But it has different usecases: Think of cups pumping a file through ghostscript or you want to know the ETA for an ongoing cp or tar. It might be 95% done already after a few hours and you probably don't want to restart that just to add pv ... Scattered access would not work well. Showspeed only samples seek positions. – Jürgen Weigert Apr 30 '18 at 19:22

While pv can deal with local cp tasks, using dd with pv can deal with both local (cp) and remote (scp) tasks.

dd if=path/to/source.mkv | pv | dd of=path/to/dest.mkv

Please ensure the path/to/dest.mkv exits by touch path/to/dest.mkv

This can show the progress, but if you want the percentage information,

dd if=path/to/source.mkv | pv -s 100M | dd of=path/to/dest.mkv

Replace 100M above with the real size of your source file.

Here Comes the Remote Part

While scp can hardly show current progress, using dd with pv is a piece of cake.

ssh onemach@myotherhost dd if=path/to/source.mkv | pv -s 100M | dd of=path/to/dest.mkv
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There's a new tool called cv that can find any descriptor related to a running command and show progress and speed: https://github.com/Xfennec/cv

cv -w

outputs the stats for all running cp,mv etc. operations

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  • watch cv -q is even neater – nwgat Jan 19 '15 at 0:42
  • It only show progress for an individual files, it does realise whether a cp is copying a directory recursively or not. – Flimm Mar 31 '16 at 9:27
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    It war renamed to progress. Great tool! – sebastian Jun 25 '16 at 14:42

As many said, cp does not include this functionality.

Just to throw my $0.02, what I usually do with trivial copying situations (i.e. no -R):

  1. See how big the file is and remember

  2. Start copying

  3. Open another terminal

  4. Run watch ls -lh DIR on the directory where the target is

This can keep me updated on target file size, with quite a minimum hassle.

As an alternative for less trivial situations, e.g. recursively copying directories, you can use watch du -hs DIR to see summary of DIR size. However du can take long to compute and can even slow down the copying, so you might want to use -n INTERVAL argument to watch so that trade-off is acceptable.

Update: In case you use wild-cards with command used with watch du, e.g. watch du -hs backup/*, don't forget to quote:

watch "du -hs backup/*"

otherwise the wild-cards will be expanded only once, when watch is started so du will not look at new files / subdirectories.

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  • Does not answer the "speed" part, though... – Alois Mahdal Nov 16 '12 at 13:21

If you have rsync 3.1 or higher (rsync --version), you can copy (cp -Rpn) while preserving permissions and ownership, recurse directories, "no clobber," and display overall progress (instead of just progress by file), copy rate, and (very rough) estimated time remaining with:

sudo rsync -a --info=progress2 --no-i-r /source /destination

Note that sudo is only needed if dealing with directories/files you don't own. Also, without the --no-i-r, the percentage may reset to a lower number at some point during the copy. Perhaps later versions of rsync will default to no-i-r with info=progress2, but it does not in the current version of 3.1.2.

I've found that the percentage and time remaining are grossly overestimated when copying to a directory that already contains files (ie. like when you would typically use cp -n "no clobber").

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dd status=progress

Option added in GNU Coreutils 8.24+ (Ubuntu 16.04):

dd if=src of=dst status=progress

The terminal shows a line of type:

462858752 bytes (463 MB, 441 MiB) copied, 38 s, 12,2 MB/s

that gets regularly updated.

See also: How do you monitor the progress of dd?

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    You meant: stdout is a stream of characters and vt100 escape sequences that make your terminal display a periodically updated line ;). stdout is always a stream of bytes and has nothing to do with how it is displayed (except that the application can know whether it is currently attached to a terminal or not...) – masterxilo Sep 4 '18 at 9:20
  • @masterxilo newbs won't care, experts will know ;-) hehe – Ciro Santilli 郝海东冠状病六四事件法轮功 Sep 4 '18 at 9:33
  • Well I think it's always good to state things like they are, maybe leaving out some details, but never make your readers produce a wrong mental model. If you say "stdout is a (periodically updated) line" it seems like you are saying stdout is a block of mutable memory which it is not. This is important to know even for newbies. – masterxilo Sep 7 '18 at 9:09

Depending on what you want to do, Midnight Commander (mc) might be the answer. I'm surprised it's not been mentioned yet.

Tools like pv or rsync are good to display progress of transfer of one huge file, but when it comes to copying whole directories/trees, mc calculates the size and then displays the progress very nicely. Plus it's available out of the box on majority of systems.

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    "it's available out of the box on majority of systems." ... not on any default Ubuntu installation. – muru Jan 30 '16 at 17:58

Use a shell script:

   strace -q -ewrite cp -- "${1}" "${2}" 2>&1 \
      | awk '{
        count += $NF
            if (count % 10 == 0) {
               percent = count / total_size * 100
               printf "%3d%% [", percent
               for (i=0;i<=percent;i++)
                  printf "="
               printf ">"
               for (i=percent;i<100;i++)
                  printf " "
               printf "]\r"
         END { print "" }' total_size=$(stat -c '%s' "${1}") count=0

This will look like:

% cp_p /home/echox/foo.dat /home/echox/bar.dat
66% [===============================>                      ]


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pv knows how to watch file descriptors given a pid, whether it's cp or something else

From the documentation:

   (Linux only): Watching file descriptor 3 opened by another process 1234:

          pv -d 1234:3

   (Linux only): Watching all file descriptors used by process 1234:

          pv -d 1234


md5sum file &
[1] + 1271 suspended
pv -d 1271
417MiB 0:00:17 [12,1MiB/s] [============>                                 ] 29% ETA 0:00:53

$ cp file.mov copy.mov &
[2] 3731
$ pv -d 3731
3:/media/windows/file.mov:  754MiB 0:00:04 [97,2MiB/s] [======================>                       ] 52% ETA 0:00:07
4:/media/windows/copy.mov:  754MiB 0:00:04 [97,3MiB/s] [     <=>                                                                   ] 
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  • This should be incorporated into the selected answer. – Jürgen Hörmann Feb 5 at 13:07

one more option to preserve attributes could be (if source is a folder it will be created in destination)

tar -c source | pv -e -t -p -r | tar -C destination  -x

hope it may be useful to someone. To have estimated transfer time this can be acheived by doing do -s source in advance and passing it as a -s <size> parameter to pv.

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  • -f - is redundant. tar's default output for c and input for x are stdout and stdin. – muru Oct 17 '18 at 16:34
  • May it depend on the OS/tar version? I know it’s an Ubuntu site yet this may be useful for other OS owners like macOS – ciekawy Oct 17 '18 at 16:39
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    Nope. All sane implementations (including libarchive's tar, which macOS uses) have this behaviour. – muru Oct 17 '18 at 16:46
  • just verified on macos and your suggestion is perfectly valid - I've updated my answer. Thanks! – ciekawy Oct 17 '18 at 17:21

You can copy use any program. At the same time, you can start sudo iotop and see the actually disk read/write speed yet without progress.

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Check the source code for progress_bar in the below git repository


Also try the custom bash script package supreme

Download the deb file and install in debian based distribution or download the source files, modify and use for other distros

Functionality overview

(1)Open Apps ----Firefox ----Calculator ----Settings

(2)Manage Files ----Search ----Navigate ----Quick access

            |----Select File(s)
            |----Inverse Selection
            |----Make directory
            |----Make file
                                          |----Send to Device

(3)Manage Phone ----Move/Copy from phone ----Move/Copy to phone ----Sync folders

(4)Manage USB ----Move/Copy from USB ----Move/Copy to USB

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