I am using rsync in a bash script to keep files in sync between a few servers and a NAS. One issue I have run into is trying to generate a list of the files that have changed from the during the rsync.

The idea is that when I run rsync, I can output the files that have changed into a text file - more hoping for an array in memory - then before the script exists I can run a chown on only the changed files.

Has anyone found a way to perform such a task?

# specify the source directory

# specify the destination directory

# run the rsync command
rsync -avz $source_directory $destination_directory

# grab the changed items and save to an array or temp file?

# loop through and chown each changed file
for changed_item in "${changed_items[@]}"
        # chown the file owner and notify the user
        chown -R user:usergroup; echo '!! changed the user and group for:' $changed_item

You can use rsync's --itemize-changes (-i) option to generate a parsable output that looks like this:

~ $ rsync src/ dest/ -ai
.d..t.... ./
>f+++++++ newfile
>f..t.... oldfile

~ $ echo 'new stuff' > src/newfile

~ $ !rsync
rsync src/ dest/ -ai
>f.st.... newfile

The > character in the first position indicates a file was updated, the remaining characters indicate why, for example here s and t indicate that the file size and timestamp changed.

A quick and dirty way to get the file list might be:

rsync -ai src/ dest/ | egrep '^>'

Obviously more advanced parsing could produce cleaner output :-)

I came across this great link while trying to find out when --itemize-changes was introduced, very useful:

http://andreafrancia.it/2010/03/understanding-the-output-of-rsync-itemize-changes.html (archived link)

  • 2
    For a cleaner output as mentioned, rsync -zaic src/ dest/ | grep '^?c' | cut -d' ' -f2 --dry-run would only list the modified files (different checksum) , definitely a keeper, thx :) FYI putting --dry-run after the command instead of using the n option is for me a best practice – MediaVince Dec 23 '16 at 9:37
  • Essentially the same as rsync -zavc src/ dest/ --dry-run without verbose – MediaVince Dec 23 '16 at 9:45

Use the -n flag, combined with the -c checksum flag and the -i flag:

# rsync -naic test/ test-clone/
>fcst...... a.txt
>fcst...... abcde.txt
>fcst...... b.txt

In this example, only one file has changed, based on the contents of the file itself. However, no file syncing is done because of the -n flag


If you want to run chown on the changed files, parse them out with sed or similar and process with xargs, for example:

rsync -naic test/ test-clone/ | sed 's/............//' | xargs -I+ sudo chown root "test-clone/+"
  • 3
    sed -> cut -d ' ' -f2,- – MUY Belgium Jun 21 '16 at 12:01
  • -n --dry-run, -c --checksum, -i --itemize-changes – ThorSummoner Aug 18 '18 at 20:12

This question is a little bit old, but I think it worth to be added:

-i is a shortcut of --out-format=%i%n%L

And %n means the filename, (section log format of man rsyncd.conf)

P.S. rsync version 3.1.0

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