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scp: Secure Copy


Copying files from your Mac to another Mac or a Linux box is easy with scp – also known as secure copy. Mention ftp to anyone and the first thing they’ll tell you is that is sends your password in the clear.

scp-secure-copyA common complaint about the Mac is that it doesn’t have an ftp application. That’s not entirely true – there’s an ftp client you can access in Terminal. Still, it’s probably not what some users are looking for. You might want to skip ftp and take a look at scp, which transmits over an encrypted channel. Murphy uses scp to upload content to his Bluehost account, and has never had a need for ftp. If you want this kind of functionality make sure your host supports it.

You can use scp to copy entire folders, single files, or wildcard specified selections. You can upload files to the remote machine, or copy files down. You could copy a zip file up and then unpack it over ssh with zip.

In the screencast Murphy connects to a Linux machine, but the steps would be exactly the same if he were copying to another Mac. He’ll also show how to move a Terminal task to the background with bg, so other commands can be entered. This is especially useful when connected via ssh to a remote machine. You can kick off additional tasks without opening another ssh session or waiting for the current task to finish.

Throughout the screencast Murphy has to enter his password. That can get old really fast. See this post for a screencast about using keys instead of entering passwords.

The screencast assumes you’ve got some familiarity with getting around in the Terminal. If you don’t, check out Navigating the Terminal. It includes a warning screencast – tools like scp will overwrite files without warning. So be careful where you copy to.

Finally, Murphy refers to the remote machine by its ip address throughout the screencast. You can use domain names to use scp with computers on the Internet. You can use names on your own network too. See these two posts if you’re having trouble using names on your network:

The Hosts File
Netinfo Manager

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2 comments to “scp: Secure Copy”

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