I want to copy the contents of a folder colors from ~/Downloads/vim-colorschemes-master to /etc/vim/colors. I tried this as instructed:

cp colors/* ~/etc/.vim/colors

But I am getting the error:

cp: target ‘/home/advenio/etc/.vim/colors’ is not a directory

How do I do this correctly?

  • First, are you sure you have an etc folder in your Home (/home/advenio)? Normally there isn't one there. Second, if your destination is /etc, then are you sure the vim folder has a dot in front of it?
    – user68186
    Mar 12, 2014 at 15:45
  • Post the output of [-d /home/advenio/etc/.vim/colors ] && echo "dir" || echo "not dir" Mar 12, 2014 at 15:46
  • You said, i want to copy from ~/Downloads/vim-colorschemes-master then why do you try cp colors/* ~/etc/.vim/colors? Mar 12, 2014 at 15:49
  • @user68186 Ok you were correct abut it.
    – Robin
    Mar 12, 2014 at 16:13
  • @AvinashRaj actually I wan to copy the contents of colors in the vim/color dir
    – Robin
    Mar 12, 2014 at 16:13

6 Answers 6


~ refers to the home directory (in your case /home/advenio/). The place you want to copy it to is /etc/vim/colors

Try the command sudo cp ~/Downloads/path_to_colors/colors/* /etc/vim/colors

  • he will need sudo for copying into /etc ;)
    – Rinzwind
    Mar 12, 2014 at 15:53
  • I tried so, but still getting this error: cp: target ‘/etc/.vim/colors’ is not a directory .
    – Robin
    Mar 12, 2014 at 15:53
  • Ok I had to remove . from .vim but now getting this error: cp: cannot stat ‘colors/*’: No such file or directory .
    – Robin
    Mar 12, 2014 at 15:55
  • colors needs to be in your working directory. I don't know the full path, but if you do something along the lines of cp ~/Downloads/vim-colorschemes-master/colors/* /etc/vim/colors it should work fine. Bear in mind that that's a guess since I don't know your file structure.
    – Hugo Buff
    Mar 12, 2014 at 16:18

Try the following command:

sudo mkdir -p /etc/vim/colors && sudo cp ~/Downloads/vim-colorschemes*/colors/* /etc/vim/colors
  • I am getting an error: cp: cannot stat ‘colors/*’: No such file or directory
    – Robin
    Mar 12, 2014 at 15:55
  • I fixed the command but make sure that you downloaded/cloned vim-colorschemes in ~/Download Mar 12, 2014 at 16:27

First make sure the target directory (here ~/etc/.vim/colors) exists.

If it does not, create it with:

mkdir -p ~/etc/.vim/colors

To copy the contents of a source directory to some other location:

cp -rvt destination-directory source-directory/*

(this will copy all contents, both files and directories within source-directory to destination-directory.)

cp -vt destination-directory source-directory/*

(this will copy the files within source-directory to destination-directory.)


cp -rvt ~/etc/.vim/colors ~/Downloads/vim-colorschemes-master/colors/*

Here, the contents of ~/Downloads/vim-colorschemes-master/colors directory will be copied to ~/etc/.vim/colors.

If you want to copy the source-directory itself use:

cp -rvt destination-directory source-directory

(where v in -rvt is for verbose output, r for recursive used when copying directories, t to specify the destination.)


cp -rvt ~/etc/.vim/colors ~/Downloads/vim-colorschemes-master/colors

Here, the source ~/Downloads/vim-colorschemes-master/colors directory will be copied to ~/etc/.vim/colors.

  • it seems the correct location was /etc/vim/colors (the . was the whole problem I think)
    – Zanna
    Nov 8, 2016 at 10:01

Here's how to copy a folder in Ubuntu terminal.

At the upper most part of your terminal window you will know what user or directory you are.

Note: you won't be able to run the cp command if you are in the wrong directory.

Terminal command:

cp -R /home/user/directory /destination

You'll get it to work soon, just continue thinking hard. Me, it took about 3 hours before I understand the command.

  • 1
    this isn't really what OP wanted, they actually wanted to copy the contents, not the directory, although it wasn't clear from the question
    – Zanna
    Nov 8, 2016 at 10:00

When copying folders using the cp tool, use the recursive option. This copies the contents of the colors folder:

sudo cp  ~/Downloads/colors/* /etc/vim/

or copy the entire folder

sudo cp -r ~/Downloads/colors/ /etc/vim/

where the ~ sign represents the home directory.

By the way it's not .vim but vim.


The command for copying a directory including all of its contents is:

me@linuxbox:~$ cp -R location_of_source_directory location_of_destination_directory

This command will create the destination directory at the new location.

For example, here I copied a folder from one destination to another destination. I used cd and ls to make sure the files were copied and didn't exist before.

Copying a whole directory using terminal

By the way, as you are trying to copy the folder to /etc/... you need to use sudo like:

me@linuxbox:~$ sudo cp -R location_of_source_directory location_of_destination_directory

Because that location is owned by root and you don't have permission to add/remove files/folders in there.


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