In an rsync I am trying to exclude sub-directories that match a pattern. But, I cannot get it to work. I have followed several examples found here and on Google. But, I do not get the correct results. Here is the option bit of my command:

-avh --exclude 'branch*' --stats --delete --link-dest=$LNK

My source directory structure is


This is part of a backup script. $LNK is a link to the previous day's rsync destination.

I do not want /root/branch1, /root/branch2, /root/branch3. or their contents to be synced. But, they are.

Here are the exclude bits I have already tried:

--exclude '/branch*'
--exclude /branch*

Thanks for any help/advice.

EDIT - to address the "possible duplicate" flag

This question is regarding a known list of directories. I need to exclude any directories that follow a pattern, even if those directories do not yet exist. i.e. from my example, other directories named /branch* may be added. I need to make my script future-proof, and avoid editing the script when a directory that matches the pattern is added, as those directories may be temporary.

  • your exclude parameter is ok. If rsync ignores branch* when copying, it also ignores it when deleting from dest, so you have to manually delete these dirs at destination one time. Sep 8, 2016 at 14:30
  • the destination is a new, empty directory, created by my bash script. I did delete the branch* directories from the link-dest directory, to no avail. Sep 8, 2016 at 14:32
  • 1
    You have to use an explicit full pattern like *branch* or /root/branch* not the short branch* - short form is not found and thus is not excluded.
    – Kondybas
    Sep 8, 2016 at 14:33
  • @Kondybas So, all is ok in my options except I need to prepend a '*' to my exclude branch? (--exclude '*branch*) Sep 8, 2016 at 14:36
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of rsync - exclude all directories except a few
    – mdpc
    Sep 9, 2016 at 1:09

2 Answers 2


rsync version 3.1.3 (possibly earlier, haven't checked) correctly excludes subdirectories using this syntax (obviously replacing exclude_dirname with the pattern you want to exclude):

rsync [other opts...] --exclude='*/exclude_dirname/' /src/ /dst/

This also works with wildcards. Original question uses 'branch*', so this works:

rsync [other opts...] --exclude='*/branch*/' /src/ /dst/

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Thanks for sharing, the first time I've seen this syntax! Mar 24 at 22:09

You exclude rule is correct. However, rsync will not delete excluded files on the destination without the extra parameter --delete-excluded:

--delete-excluded also delete excluded files from dest dirs


#  tree test
|-- 123
|-- branch1
|-- branch2
|-- branch3
`-- other

#  tree test2
|-- 123
|-- branch1
|-- branch2
|-- branch3
`-- other

# rsync -avh test/ test2 --delete --exclude='branch1' --delete-excluded
sending incremental file list
deleting branch1/

sent 140 bytes  received 27 bytes  334.00 bytes/sec
total size is 0  speedup is 0.00

#  tree test2
|-- 123
|-- branch2
|-- branch3
`-- other

3 directories, 1 file
  • I changed my options in the script to -avh --exclude 'branch*' --stats --delete --delete-excluded --link-dest=$LNK Last night's backup still backed up the /branch* directories. Sep 9, 2016 at 13:59

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