When backing up with rsync, How do I keep the full directory structure?

For example, the remote server is saturn, and I want to backup saturn's /home/udi/files/pictures to a local directory named backup.

I want to have (locally) backup/home/udi/files/pictures rather than backup/pictures.

3 Answers 3


Use the -R or --relative option to preserve the full path.


Another common related use case it to keep a selected part of the directory tree with /./, e.g. if you wanted:


to go to:


you can write:

rsync --relative /home/udi/./files/pictures backup

The magic /./ gets specially parsed by rsync before it passes that path to the system calls, and tells it where to start creating directories from. The /./ means nothing for other POSIX utilities in general, e.g. the path a/./b is the same as a/b in POSIX.


With the Cygwin Windows rsync, and assuming the remote rsync is pointing to the root, I'd do:

rsync -vtrz --delete server::rsyncid/home/udi/files/pictures /cygdrive/d/backup/home/udi/files

That will put the contents of the remote pictures directory in /backup/home/udi/files/pictures. Presumably the syntax under unix would be similar.


  • It is not useful because we need to reproduce the whole directory hierarchy on the local side before executing the rsync command. Apr 2, 2012 at 11:42

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