How to copy-merge two directories?

I have two directories images and images2 with this structure in Linux:


… and other 4000 folders

and the other is like:


… and other 4000 folders

Each of these folders contain images and the directories’ names under images and images2 are exactly the same, however their content is different. Then I want to know how I can copy-merge the images of /images2/ad into images/ad, the images of /images2/foo into images/foo and so on with all the 4000 folders..

Asked By: ssierral


@inulinux12 , you can use the following one line for loop from command line:

$ for dir in images2/*; do mv "$dir"/* "${dir/2/}"; done

This will move all of the files from images2 to images in their respective directories. Note: this assumes no files have the same name.

For example:

Before execution:

$ ls -R images*
ad  adfoo  fe
jpg.1  jpg.2
ad  adfoo  fe

After execution:

$ ls -R images*
ad  adfoo  fe
jpg.1  jpg.2  jpg.3
jpg.6  jpg.7
jpg.4  jpg.5
Answered By: Simply_Me
for dir in images2/*; do mv "$dir"/* "images/$(basename "$dir")"; done

Loop over all the contents of images2 using an expanded glob (to avoid the problems with parsing ls) then mv the contents of those items to the matching entry in images. Uses basename to strip the leading images2 from the globbed path.

Answered By: Etan Reisner

This is a job for rsync. There’s no benefit to doing this manually with a shell loop unless you want to move the file rather than copy them.

rsync -a /path/to/source/ /path/to/destination

In your case:

rsync -a /images2/ /images/

(Note trailing slash on images2, otherwise it would copy to /images/images2.)

If images with the same name exist in both directories, the command above will overwrite /images/SOMEPATH/SOMEFILE with /images2/SOMEPATH/SOMEFILE. If you want to replace only older files, add the option -u. If you want to always keep the version in /images, add the option --ignore-existing.

If you want to move the files from /images2, with rsync, you can pass the option --remove-source-files. Then rsync copies all the files in turn, and removes each file when it’s done. This is a lot slower than moving if the source and destination directories are on the same filesystem.

The best choice, as already posted, is of course rsync. Nevertheless also unison would be a great piece of software to do this job, though typically requires a package install. Both can be used in several operating systems.


rsync synchronizes in one direction from source to destination.
Therefore the following statement

rsync -avh --progress Source Destination

syncs everything from Source to Destination. The merged folder resides in Destination.

-a means "archive" and copies everything recursively from source to destination preserving nearly everything.

-v gives more output ("verbose").

-h for human readable.

–progress to show how much work is done.

If you want only update the destination folder with newer files from source folder:

rsync -avhu --progress source destination


unison synchronizes in both directions. Therefore the following statement

unison Source Destination

syncs both directories in both directions and finally source equals destination. It’s like doing rsync twice from source to dest and vice versa.

For more advanced usages look at the man pages or the following websites:

Answered By: debiarch

There are faster and much more space-efficient ways of merging two directories using the --link option to cp if the directories are on the same file system, described in the multiple varied answers in a related article here: (The title of the article doesn’t exactly match the user’s question, and the answers address the title topic, merging, more than they address the user’s actual question.)

Merging folders with mv?

The --link option to cp means no file data is copied. An example of this, where everything in /images2 replaces any older items in /images is:

cp --force --archive --update --link /images2/. /images

After the merge into /images, you can then rm -rf /images2

This solution will fail if anywhere in the file tree the merge tries to merge a directory onto an existing file or symlink with the same name, i.e. it won’t merge a directory named /images2/x onto an existing file or symlink with the same name /images/x and if you get such an error you can manually delete the file or symlink and just re-run the command.

The nice thing about --link is that no data is moved to merge the directories.

Answered By: Ian D. Allen

# filename:


cd "$SOURCE"
# duplicate the directory structure into TARGET, no files
find . -type d -exec mkdir -vp "$TARGET/{}" ';'
# move files from SOURCE to TARGET, skip if existing
find . -type f -exec mv -vn '{}' "$TARGET/{}" ';'
cd "$OLDPWD"
# optional: remove all empty directories from SOURCE
find "$SOURCE" -type d -empty -exec rmdir -vp '{}' '+' will give you a merged TARGET. Anything left in SOURCE was a duplicate filename. Whether to delete those is a different problem, but you can always make a script like

# filename:
cmp "$1" "$2" && rm -v "$1"  -i  # -i: prompt before deletion

and run:

find "$SOURCE" -type f -exec ./ '{}' "$TARGET/{}" ';'
Answered By: Pedro

Another simple solution is to make an archive of images/:

~$ zip -1 images/*

then unpack into images2/

~$ unzip images2/
Answered By: TheEagle

The answer to this question is dead simple. I have used it many times.

All you need to do is …

cp -rf source_folder parent_of_dest_folder

Using the specific file structure in the original question, the command would be…

cp -rf /images/* /images2/

The result will be a merged version of source and the destination. This will also process subdirectories recursively.

As pointed out by @ingyhere, the above commands will override existing files in the destination directory. If you wish to keep existing files, then you must add the -n parameter to the cp command. Read more about this in the cp man page at,%2Dn%2C%20%2D%2Dno%2Dclobber,-do%20not%20overwrite

cp -rfn /images/* /images2/

edit: Based on the comment from @Kolay.Ne, the -f parameter is redundant (and ignored) when using -n. For that reason, the previous example is equivalent to:

cp -rn /images/* /images2/
Answered By: asiby

This effectively merges using the cp command without overwriting:

cp -prnv /images/* /images2/


-p -- preserve ownership, perms and detailed attributes
-r -- recursive
-n -- no overwrite
-v -- verbose (display operation detail for each file)

To see what actually was copied, run it this way:

cp -prnv /images/* /images2/ | grep '->'  # shows copies

To see the opposite of what didn’t copy, use grep -v '->'.

If you want to do something more complex, like replacing files with differences, use rsync or fly your own by testing the md5sum on both sides then copying based on the diff exit code (not recommended for large files or big directories — use rsync).

Answered By: ingyhere

kdiff3 has an awesome, if slightly frustrating, interactive merge tool that can merge up to three directories into a fourth output directory.

Answered By: Josh Hansen
Categories: Answers Tags: , ,
Answers are sorted by their score. The answer accepted by the question owner as the best is marked with
at the top-right corner.