Simple method for copying files over network

Copying files between computers is, fundamental. However, sometimes it is not so easy. When struggling with NFS I have been thinking; how did Microsoft get this one more right than the other ones? But Windows file sharing is not so very simple either, and it is not exactly getting easier with new versions.

However, copying files between two computers (on the same network) IS easy, especially between *NIX-based systems. Here are two methods, and they may work on Windows too, with the right tools installed (cygwin).

The following examples presume you want to copy files from a client computer to a Mac OS X machine with IP

sshfs allows you to mount any folder on the server, on any folder on the client. Normal permissions apply, and you need to have sshfs installed on the client, and sshd on the server (you have it if you can ssh to the server).

Lets assume I have a user zo0ok on the Mac OS X machine, and I want to access that users home directory. Then I do (on the client):

  > mkdir zo0ok-on-osx
  > sshfs zo0ok@ zo0ok-on-osx

I need to authenticate. Done! Now the contents of the remote home directory is available locally. Note; performance is not optimal, and things like random access to files might not work. But for many purposes it works perfectly.

Netcat (nc)
netcat (or just nc) is an insanely powerful, and simple, tool. You can pipeline things, not just between programs, but over the network. More people should know about it! The following instructions assume you are logged in and have a shell on both machines.

First just see that everything works. On the mac (server), listen to port 9999:

  macosx$ nc -l 9999

Second, on the client, send message:

  client$ echo Hello World | nc 9999

If everything is fine, the message was sent to the Mac and displayed on its prompt. nc should quit as it reaches end of file.

Copy a file (hello.txt – it must exist on the client):

  macosx$ nc -l 9999 > hello.txt
  client$ nc 9999 < hello.txt

If everything is fine, you have a file on the Mac, identical to the one on the client (use md5sum if in doubt).

Copy a large file:

  macosx$ nc -l 9999 | gunzip > ubuntu.iso
  client$ cat ubuntu.iso | gzip | nc 9999

If your CPU is faster than you network, file transfer will be faster when you compress the data.

Copy a folder:

  macosx$ nc -l 9999 | tar -x
  client$ tar -c mp3collection | nc 9999

Of course you can use the -z switch for tar to enable compression, but for you mp3-collection it is not a wise idea.

Only your imagination limits what you can do with nc!

  1. Transfer files over network | TechFindings - pingback on 2011/09/13 at 23:40

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