How to Copy a File in Linux: A Step-by-Step Guide

Copying a file in Linux is a simple task that can be done using the command line interface. By entering a specific command, you can easily duplicate a file and store it in another location on your system. This process is useful for creating backups, moving files between directories, or simply making a copy of an important document.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Copy a File in Linux

Before you start copying files in Linux, it’s important to understand that you’ll be using the command line interface, also known as the terminal. This means you’ll be typing commands, rather than using a graphical user interface (GUI). Don’t worry, it’s not as intimidating as it sounds!

Step 1: Open the Terminal

Open the terminal window on your Linux system.

When you open the terminal, you’ll see a prompt where you can enter commands. This prompt typically includes your username, the name of your machine, and your current directory.

Step 2: Use the ‘cp’ Command

Type the ‘cp’ command followed by the name of the file you want to copy and the destination where you want to store the copy.

The ‘cp’ command stands for copy, and it’s the primary command used for copying files in Linux. You’ll need to specify the source file (the file you’re copying) and the target location (where you want the copy to be saved).

Step 3: Verify the Copy

After entering the command, check the destination directory to ensure the file has been copied successfully.

You can do this by using the ‘ls’ command, which lists the contents of a directory. If you see your copied file in the list, you’ve successfully completed the task!

Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll have a copy of your file in the new location. This allows you to keep the original file intact while working with or sharing the duplicate.

Tips: How to Copy a File in Linux

  • Always double-check the file names and paths before executing the ‘cp’ command to avoid overwriting important files.
  • Use the ‘-i’ option with the ‘cp’ command to get a prompt before overwriting any existing files.
  • To copy a directory and all its contents, use the ‘-r’ option, which stands for recursive.
  • If you’re copying files with special characters in their names, enclose the file names in quotes.
  • To copy a file to your current directory, you can use the ‘.’ (dot) as the destination in the ‘cp’ command.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the ‘cp’ command do?

The ‘cp’ command is used to copy files or directories in Linux.

Can I copy multiple files at once?

Yes, you can copy multiple files at once by listing them all before the destination path.

How do I copy a file to a different user’s directory?

To copy a file to a different user’s directory, you’ll need to have the appropriate permissions or use the ‘sudo’ command.

What if I want to copy a file with the same name to a directory?

If you copy a file with the same name to a directory where a file with that name already exists, it will overwrite the existing file unless you use the ‘-i’ option.

Can I undo a copy if I make a mistake?

Unfortunately, you cannot undo a copy. You can only manually delete the copied file if it was copied incorrectly.


  1. Open the terminal.
  2. Use the ‘cp’ command with the source file and destination.
  3. Verify the copy in the destination directory.


Copying a file in Linux is a straightforward process that involves using the terminal and the ‘cp’ command. By following the steps outlined in this article, you should now be able to confidently duplicate files and manage your file system more effectively. Remember to pay close attention to file names and paths, and always verify that your copy was successful. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to move or backup files, this knowledge will come in handy. So go ahead, fire up that terminal, and start copying files like a pro! If you need further assistance or want to learn more advanced file management techniques, there’s a plethora of online resources and Linux user communities ready to help you out. Happy copying!