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rclone syncs cloud storage files from the command line

17 October 2016, Mike Williams

rcloneRclone is an open-source command line tool which enables copying and syncing data to and from a host of popular cloud storage providers.

Supported technologies include Google Drive, Amazon S3, Openstack Swift / Rackspace cloud files / Memset Memstore, Dropbox, Google Cloud Storage, Amazon Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Hubic, Backblaze B2, Yandex, and – if all else fails – your local file system.

Rclone is convenient to use, just a single executable, configuration file and “readme”. Copy it to a USB stick and you’ll be able to work with your cloud files anywhere.

Setup is simpler than you might expect. There’s no GUI, but you’re not left editing INI files either. Entering the command rclone config starts an interactive setup process with this response:

No remotes found – make a new one
n) New remote
s) Set configuration password

“New remote” sounds like the best option, so hit “n” as prompted and the next step appears.

Choose a number from below, or type in your own value
1 / Amazon Drive
\ “amazon cloud drive”
2 / Amazon S3 (also Dreamhost, Ceph)
\ “s3”
3 / Backblaze B2
\ “b2”
4 / Dropbox
\ “dropbox”…

Nothing too complicated here.

Choose a few more options and a browser window appears, prompting you to authorize rclone for access to your account. Agree, switch back to rclone, save the settings and you’re ready to use the program to manage files.

Rclone’s basic syntax is much like the DOS commands you know already. Here’s one simple example.

rclone copy c:\important\stuff remote:\backup

This copies the contents of the c:\important\stuff folder to a \backup folder on your cloud account. We’ve assumed you’ve called that account “remote”, but it could be “work”, “music”, whatever you like.

Here’s another.

rclone sync c:\important\stuff remote:\backup

This syncs the source folder to the destination, changing the destination folder only. Files can be tested by size, modification time or MD5 checksum to ensure only changed items are copied.


There’s plenty of documentation available, both online and within the program

There are some very handy options and switches. To limit bandwidth to 10 Mb/s, for instance, try “–bwlimit 10”. Or if you’re happy to grab all the bandwidth available, enable 80 parallel transfers with “–transfers 8”.

A sophisticated filtering system allows you to include or exclude files by name, size, date and more.

The core transfer engine has many convenient touches, whatever you’re doing, including support for partial syncs (on a whole file basis) and preserving time stamps on files.

There’s even support for server-side copying, which allows transferring files directly between cloud storage accounts without having to download them yourself. This only works with a few providers – Drive, S3, Dropbox, Swift and Google Cloud Storage – but if you’re covered, that could save you a lot of time and hassle.

Put it all together and rclone is an excellent tool for almost any level of user. Novices can quickly set up a shortcut or batch file to copy a folder or two, while experts can fine-tune everything with a stack of settings and options. Recommended.

Rclone is an open-source application for Windows, Linux and Mac.

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