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Principles & Applications in Computer Operation

Step-by-Step Guide: Secure File Copying Using SSH


May 24, 2023
Using SSH

Secure file copying is essential for protecting sensitive data during transfers between computers. One widely used and reliable method for secure file copying is utilizing the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol. SSH provides encryption and authentication mechanisms, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of transferred files. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of securely copying files using SSH, enabling you to transfer data safely between computers.

Step 1: Install an SSH Client:

To initiate secure file copying using SSH, you need to install an SSH client on your computer. Popular SSH clients include OpenSSH, PuTTY, and WinSCP. Choose the client that suits your operating system and install it following the provided instructions.

Step 2: Set Up SSH Server:

On the destination computer, ensure that an SSH server is installed and running. Most Linux distributions come with SSH server pre-installed. If not, install an SSH server package suitable for your operating system. Configure the SSH server to allow incoming connections and specify authentication methods (e.g., password or key-based authentication).

Step 3: Establish SSH Connection:

Launch your SSH client and initiate an SSH connection to the destination computer. Enter the IP address or hostname of the destination computer, along with your credentials (username and password). If using key-based authentication, configure the SSH client to use your private key for authentication.

Step 4: Navigate to Source and Destination Directories:

Once connected to the destination computer via SSH, navigate to the directory where the source file(s) are located and identify the destination directory where you want to copy the files.

Step 5: Copying Files Locally:

To copy files from the source computer to the destination computer, use the secure copy command scp. The basic syntax is as follows:

scp [options] source_file destination_file

Copy code
scp [options] source_file destination_file
For example, to copy a file named “example.txt” from the source computer to the destination computer, use the following command:

scp example.txt username@destination_ip:destination_directory

Copy code
scp example.txt username@destination_ip:destination_directory
Replace “username” with your username on the destination computer and “destination_ip” with the IP address or hostname of the destination computer.

Step 6: Verify and Monitor the Copy Process:

As the file(s) are being copied, the progress will be displayed in the terminal window. You can monitor the transfer speed, completion percentage, and any error messages that may occur during the process. Once the transfer is complete, a confirmation message will be displayed.

Step 7: Copying Files Remotely:

To copy files from the destination computer to the source computer, reverse the source and destination in the scp command:

scp username@source_ip:source_file destination_directory

Copy code
scp username@source_ip:source_file destination_directory
Replace “source_ip” with the IP address or hostname of the source computer.

Step 8: Safely Disconnect the SSH Session:

After the file copying is complete, close the SSH session by typing exit in the terminal or using the appropriate option in your SSH client. This will safely disconnect from the destination computer.


Secure file copying using SSH provides a reliable method for transferring files between computers while ensuring data confidentiality and integrity. By following this step-by-step guide, you can securely copy files using SSH, protecting your sensitive data during transfers. Remember to keep your SSH client and server up to date and follow best practices for secure authentication methods, such as key-based authentication. With SSH, you can confidently transfer files between computers with peace of mind knowing that your data remains secure throughout the process.

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