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How do I diff files/folders across machines provided that the only connectivity available is ssh?

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6  
There's a relatively similar question at #16661: How can I diff two RedHat Linux servers?. The answer there, to save the clicks, is rsync -ani --delete / root@remotehost:/ but the full answer gives more detail. –  Owen Blacker Feb 14 '12 at 18:30
    
Quite many answers here, but which approach is the faster? –  pl1nk Aug 17 '12 at 18:26
    
Nobody uses visual diff tools? –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 19 at 11:09
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11 Answers

You can do it with Bash's process substitution:

 diff foo <(ssh myServer 'cat foo')

Or, if both are on remote servers:

diff <(ssh myServer1 'cat foo') <(ssh myServer2 'cat foo')
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5  
yeah, something like this, but for directories :) –  Alexey Timanovsky Aug 26 '09 at 17:29
    
How do you mean for directories, could always replace cat with ls –  Kyle Brandt Aug 26 '09 at 17:29
14  
I suspect that 'for directories' means doing a recursive diff –  Ian Clelland Aug 26 '09 at 17:36
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I found that this technique didn't work for me if my remote host required a password. The password prompt didn't seem to work well with the redirection and couldn't be successfully completed. If you use ssh keys this shouldn't be a problem. –  Adam Franco Jan 24 '12 at 14:28
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up vote 49 down vote accepted

Finally I've found great solution: vimdiff

vimdiff /path/to/file scp://remotehost//path/to/file

thanks to http://linux.spiney.org/remote_diff_with_vim_and_ssh see also http://www.vim.org/scripts/script.php?script_id=1075 .

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vimdiff is sweet, thanks! –  Max Felker Oct 12 '11 at 19:32
1  
What about directories? :) –  Perlnika Dec 16 '13 at 16:13
    
Here is an example: vimdiff .bash_profile scp://vaibhavc@10.217.212.97//home/vaibhavc/.bash_profile –  vaichidrewar Feb 19 at 22:56
    
2 slashes // after the remotehost is important. Single slash will not work –  CK Lee Apr 7 at 2:05
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If you just want to see what files are different, rather than a diff of the actual files, then you can use rsync --dry-run

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4  
rsync -n is the short version. –  Artem Shnayder Jan 3 '12 at 23:48
    
This is exactly what I needed, anyway! –  octern Nov 6 '12 at 22:36
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Here's another quick and dirty command line recipe. Unlike the chosen answer, it works inside of makefiles:

ssh [login]@[host] "cat [remote file]" | diff - "[local file]"
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If my edit doesn't go through: this method is superior to the chosen answer because it works with makefiles. –  Chris Redford Sep 13 '13 at 21:36
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Use scp to bring the files to a common machine and diff them there?

Or, if you just want to know if the files are different or not, hash them with md5sum on each machine.

You could also look into something like SSHFS, but I don't know how well an algorithm like diff performs over that.

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An easier way to see if the files are different or not is rsync --dry-run. –  Gerald Combs Aug 26 '09 at 20:18
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One way, if it is possible on your system would be to simply mount the remote filesystem with sshfs.

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diff is usually one-shot action, like to check config difference. Mounting filesystem each time is possible, but not convinient. I'd better tar and scp. –  Alexey Timanovsky Aug 26 '09 at 17:28
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Here is how I did it.

I used SFTP to the remote server and entered my username/pwd when prompted. Then I used the dir that was created in the .gvfs dir in my home directory in the diff command.

diff -r --brief /home/user dir/.gvfs/SFTP\ on\ freenas.local/path to dir/dir1 /path to local dir/dir2

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This is a script that can help to diff local folder and remote folder.:

 #!/bin/bash

 LOCALFOLDER=/var/www/tee
 REMOTEFOLDER=$(ssh root@111.111.111.1 'ls -lA /hfs/tee'| grep -E '^total' | cut -d " " -f 2 > remotessh.txt)
 COMMAND=$(ls -lA $LOCALFOLDER | grep -E '^total' | cut -d " " -f 2 > localssh.txt)
 REM=$(cat remotessh.txt)
 LOCAL=$(cat localssh.txt)

 echo $LOCAL
 echo $REM

 if [ $REM -eq $LOCAL ]
 then
      echo Directories are the same
 else
      echo Directories are differnt
 fi

 #diff localssh.txt remotessh.txt | grep -E '^total' | cut -d " " -f 2
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http://myfedora.co.za/2012/04/diff-two-remote-file-systems/

diff <(/usr/bin/ssh user1@192.168.122.1 'ls /opt/lib/') <(/usr/bin/ssh user2@192.168.122.1 'ls /tmp/') | grep -i ">" | sed 's/> //g'

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  • on your local machine, make a recursive copy of the directory you want to diff. For instance:

    cp -R dir replica
    
  • use rsync to replicate the remote directory over the local copy:

     rsync remote:/path/to/dir replica
    
  • use diff to find difference between the local directory and the local replica of the remote one:

    diff dir replica
    
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Use sshfs mounted across ssh. It won't be all that fast, but you can use your full suite of tools that expect everything to be on a local filesystem. An alternative is NFS over a tunnel made with "ssh -w" (or other communications where ssh isn't the limitation).

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