UNIX in a Nutshell: System V Edition

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UNIX Commands
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cpio flags [options]

Copy file archives in from or out to tape or disk, or to another location on the local machine. Each of the three flags -i, -o, or -p accepts different options.

cpio -i [options] [patterns]

Copy in (extract) files whose names match selected patterns. Each pattern can include filename metacharacters from the Bourne shell. (Patterns should be quoted or escaped so they are interpreted by cpio, not by the shell.) If no pattern is used, all files are copied in. During extraction, existing files are not overwritten by older versions in the archive (unless -u is specified).

cpio -o [options]

Copy out a list of files whose names are given on the standard input.

cpio -p [options] directory

Copy files to another directory on the same system. Destination pathnames are interpreted relative to the named directory.

Comparison of valid options

Options available to the -i, -o, and -p flags are shown respectively in the first, second, and third row below. (The - is omitted for clarity.)

i: 6   b B c C d E f H I k   m M  r R s S t u v V
o: a A   B c C       H     L   M O            v V
p: a           d         l L m      R       u v V



Reset access times of input files.


Append files to an archive (must use with -O).


Swap bytes and half-words. Words are 4 bytes.


Block input or output using 5120 bytes per record (default is 512 bytes per record).


Read or write header information as ASCII characters; useful when source and destination machines are of differing types.

-C n

Like B, but block size can be any positive integer n.


Create directories as needed.

-E file

Extract filenames listed in file from the archives.


Reverse the sense of copying; copy all files except those that match patterns.

-H format

Read or write header information according to format. Values for format are crc (ASCII header containing expanded device numbers), odc (ASCII header containing small device numbers), ustar (IEEE/P1003 Data Interchange Standard header), or tar (tar header).

-I file

Read file as an input archive.


Skip corrupted file headers and I/O errors.


Link files instead of copying.


Follow symbolic links.


Retain previous file modification time.

-M msg

Print msg when switching media. Use variable %d in the message as a numeric ID for the next medium. -M is valid only with -I or -O.

-O file

Direct the output to file.


Rename files interactively.


Reassign file ownership and group information to the user's login ID (privileged users only).


Swap bytes.


Swap half-words.


Print a table of contents of the input (create no files). When used with the -v option, resembles output of ls -l.


Unconditional copy; old files can overwrite new ones.


Print a list of filenames.


Print a dot for each file read or written (this shows cpio at work without cluttering the screen).


Process a UNIX 6th Edition archive format file.


Generate a list of old files using find; use list as input to cpio:

find . -name "*.old" -print | cpio -ocBv\
    > /dev/rst8

Restore from a tape drive all files whose name contains "save" (subdirectories are created if needed):

cpio -icdv "save" < /dev/rst8

To move a directory tree:

find . -depth -print | cpio -padm /mydir

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