I'm trying to exclude a directory tree as part of an rsync command embedded in a bash script approximately like this:

$OPTIONS="-rl --exclude 'Some Parent Directory/Another Directory'"

rsync $OPTIONS $SOURCEDIR a@b.com:/SomeTargetDir

My aim is to sync all of $SOURCEDIR into /SomeTargetDir on the target machine, with the exception of everything under Some Parent Directory/Another Directory. However, I keep seeing errors of this form:

rsync: link_stat "/Users/myusername/Parent\" failed: No such file or directory (2)

I assume this is related to escaping the exclude path, but I just can't seem to get it right: every combination of \\, \ and so on that I try doesn't seem right. How can I write the exclude rule correctly?

I don't want to use --exclude-from unless I absolutely have to.

I am using rsync version 3.0.9 on OS X 10.8, syncing to Ubuntu 12.04 over SSH.


2 Answers 2


Exclude matches patterns too. So try it like this:

$OPTIONS="-rl --exclude '*/Another Directory'"
rsync $OPTIONS $SOURCEDIR a@b.com:/SomeTargetDir

See this tutorial for more details.


Another suggestion would be to try escaping double quotes rather than use single quotes:

$OPTIONS="-rl --exclude \"Some Parent\ Directory/Another\ Directory\""

The OP tried this alternative but it still didn't work for him in his case. It does work for me on Linux using version "3.0.8 protocol version 30" of rsync.

  • Thanks. That's not really what I wanted, though; I wanted to exclude only that specific subdirectory - 'Some Parent Directory/Another Directory'. Apr 13, 2013 at 13:16
  • it will also exclude Different Parent Directory/Another Directory, which isn't what I'm asking for. Apr 13, 2013 at 16:37
  • I cannot use double-quotes, as the environment variable in question ($OPTIONS) is already double-quoted. Apr 13, 2013 at 16:38
  • Good point, sorry. Nevertheless, I've just tried this and I still see the same error as before. Apr 13, 2013 at 17:01
  • What version of rsync are you using on MacOSX? Also can you show a little more of the directory tree, when I use the commands as I've suggested they work for me. Running rsync --version shows mine to be "3.0.8 protocol version 30".
    – slm
    Apr 13, 2013 at 17:03

Use --exclude-from. The exclusion file will have all patterns on a new line, and you can forget about quotes, escaping and space problems.

I have a similar script to yours, and this is what I did. Note that with this solution, I am generating the exclusion file in my script, therefore I still have to make sure quotes are right. If you can have a static exclusion file, that will be even simpler.

# create a temporary file
RSYNC_EXCLUDES=$( mktemp -t rsync-excludes )
# remove the temp file when the script exits
# populate the exclusion file
echo 'Some Parent Directory/Another Directory' > "$RSYNC_EXCLUDES"
# have your options point to your exclusion file
$OPTIONS="-rl --exclude-from='$RSYNC_EXCLUDES'"
# profit
rsync $OPTIONS $SOURCEDIR a@b.com:/SomeTargetDir

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