I'm trying to use SCP to copy a file from a remote VPS which uses private keys to a local machine.

I'm getting different errors depending on what I try and I am not sure what the correct method should be.

Here is what I have tried:

scp -i ~/.ssh/private-key [email protected]:/var/www/html/index.html /var/www/html/

This asks for the private key password, then gives the error /var/www/html is a directory.

scp -i ~/.ssh/private-key [email protected]:/var/www/html/index.html root@localhost:/var/www/html/

This asks for the private key password, then says Host Key Verification Failed. lost connection.

scp -i ~/.ssh/private-key [email protected]:/var/www/html/index.html [email protected]:/var/www/html/

This simply gives a blank screen which seemingly lasts forever. I assume this might be the method that is actually working, but may just be copying incredibly slowly?

I have tried connecting to the server using ssh, with the same key file, which works fine, so I'm not sure what the issue is.

Does anyone have a solution, or knows what I am doing wrong? Thanks

3 Answers 3


For the first error - try giving the name of the file - as the error message says, instead of /var/www/html put the destination as /var/www/html/index.html.

The second error sounds like the server you're trying to copy from has changed its public key since last access. If that's the case (and you're sure it's not a security breach), use ssh-keygen -R host to remove the cached key; you will be asked to accept the new key on the next connection attempt. However, I think modifying the first way should work.

  • First one states - /var/www/html/index.php: Not a directory. The public key shouldn't have changed, however I did try the ssh-keygen command, but I get the same errors.
    – Edward144
    Sep 22, 2017 at 11:11
  • Are you sure /var/www/html/ exists and is accessible by the user doing scp?
    – AdrianH
    Sep 22, 2017 at 11:12
  • It does exist, and i'm logged in as root so there shouldn't be any issue
    – Edward144
    Sep 22, 2017 at 11:16
  • So, you're copying /var/www/html/index.html to /var/www/html/index.php? I'm asking because I didn't see a PHP file in the OP. Could it be that the source or destination contains a directory with the name index.html or index.php and SCP then tries to copy a directory?
    – AdrianH
    Sep 22, 2017 at 11:23
  • 1
    Analysis of the first issue looks right - but the later errors are due to the OP specifying a ssh target as the local end rather than writing direct to the filesystem. On its own this wouldn't e a problem but by explicitly using a single p[rivate key, the client app is trying to use the private key for the remote server to authenticate against the local server.
    – symcbean
    Sep 22, 2017 at 15:23

Basically you're missing the syntax in all the aspects. You should check syntax first. If I want to copy files from VPS to local server, I would do like below on local machine.

cd /var/www/html/
scp -i ~/.ssh/private-key -r [email protected]:/var/www/html/* .

This would copy whole folder to my local /var/www/html/

Or If I am transferring data from my VPS to my local machine then I need to have a public IP to my local machine or server assigned. And from remote VPS I would do something like below.

cd /var/www/html/
scp -i <key_path> -r * root@<my_local_machine_public_ip:~/var/www/html/

OR Copy to /tmp folder on local machine from remote VPS like below.

cd /var/www/html/
scp -i <key_path> -r * root@<my_local_machine_public_ip:~/tmp/

Add following options in the scp command

-o StrictHostKeyChecking=no -o UserKnownHostsFile=/dev/null

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