I can copy a directory like so:

~$ cp -r ./Desktop/ /tmp/

Similarly, if I just wanted to copy the files from within a directory, I could do so:

~$ cp -r ./Desktop/. /tmp/

Things become a little more tricky if I want to copy the source directory into a target directory, that is a sub-directory of the source. i.e. copy a directory into itself. For example:

~$ cp -r ./Desktop/ ./Desktop/sub/

Would throw the following error: cp: cannot copy a directory, './Desktop/', into itself, './Desktop/sub/'

This can be circumnavigated, somewhat, using extglob, like so:

~$ cp -r ./Desktop/!(sub) ./Desktop/sub/

However, this last command is dependent on the directory sub already existing.

How can you copy a directory into itself, in such a fashion that the command to do so creates the sub directory at the same time?


Use rsync instead of cp:

rsync -Rr ./Desktop/ ./Desktop/sub/

Let's test it out:

$ cd /tmp
$ mkdir -p Desktop/sub
$ touch Desktop/a-file
$ ls -F Desktop
a-file sub/
$ cp ./Desktop ./Desktop/sub
cp: cannot copy a directory, './Desktop', into itself, './Desktop/sub/Desktop'

However rsync will work fine:

$ rsync -Rr ./Desktop/ ./Desktop/sub/
$ ls -F Desktop/sub/
  • I always forget about rsync. +1 =) – Terrance Aug 2 '17 at 16:57
  • @Terrance most of the times I forget about it myself too ;) – Ravexina Aug 2 '17 at 17:01
  • @Ravexina thank you. Is there a purely 'cp' way of doing this? Using rsync is a great solution, however I'm too obsessed with finding a solution using the cp utility. – Andrew Hardiman Aug 2 '17 at 18:27
  • @case_2501 nothing that I'm aware of :/ – Ravexina Aug 2 '17 at 18:36
  • @Ravexina thank you. I would up vote the answer, but I do not have the reputation! I'm going to persist a little while longer. It's always good to have a couple of ways to achieve the same outcome. If nothing else becomes apparent I will accept the answer. – Andrew Hardiman Aug 2 '17 at 18:45

You can always use the /tmp for a transmission. (without rsync

~$ ls
1  2  3  a  b  c  ddd  w  wow
~$ cp -r . /tmp/TEMP
~$ mv /tmp/TEMP copy_dir
~$ ls
1  2  3  a  b  c  copy_dir  ddd  w  wow
~$ ls copy_dir/
1  2  3  a  b  c  ddd  w  wow

Or, make a function:

function cpc() { cp -r . /tmp/cpc-$1 && mv /tmp/cpc-$1 .; }

Like this:

~$ function cpc() { cp -r . /tmp/cpc-$1 && mv /tmp/cpc-$1 .; }
~$ ls
1  2  3
~$ cpc hhh
~$ ls hhh
1  2  3
~$ ls
1  2  3  hhh

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