I want a command (or probably an option to cp) that creates the destination directory if it does not exist.


cp -? file /path/to/copy/file/to/is/very/deep/there

Solution 1

mkdir -p "$d" && cp file "$d"

(there's no such option for cp).

Solution 2

If both of the following are true:

  1. You are using the GNU version of cp (and not, for instance, the Mac version), and
  2. You are copying from some existing directory structure and you just need it recreated

then you can do this with the --parents flag of cp. From the info page (viewable at http://www.gnu.org/software/coreutils/manual/html_node/cp-invocation.html#cp-invocation or with info cp or man cp):

     Form the name of each destination file by appending to the target
     directory a slash and the specified name of the source file.  The
     last argument given to `cp' must be the name of an existing
     directory.  For example, the command:

          cp --parents a/b/c existing_dir

     copies the file `a/b/c' to `existing_dir/a/b/c', creating any
     missing intermediate directories.


/tmp $ mkdir foo
/tmp $ mkdir foo/foo
/tmp $ touch foo/foo/foo.txt
/tmp $ mkdir bar
/tmp $ cp --parents foo/foo/foo.txt bar
/tmp $ ls bar/foo/foo

Solution 3

Short Answer

To copy myfile.txt to /foo/bar/myfile.txt, use:

mkdir -p /foo/bar && cp myfile.txt $_

How does this work?

There's a few components to this, so I'll cover all the syntax step by step.

The mkdir utility, as specified in the POSIX standard, makes directories. The -p argument, per the docs, will cause mkdir to

Create any missing intermediate pathname components

meaning that when calling mkdir -p /foo/bar, mkdir will create /foo and /foo/bar if /foo doesn't already exist. (Without -p, it will instead throw an error.

The && list operator, as documented in the POSIX standard (or the Bash manual if you prefer), has the effect that cp myfile.txt $_ only gets executed if mkdir -p /foo/bar executes successfully. This means the cp command won't try to execute if mkdir fails for one of the many reasons it might fail.

Finally, the $_ we pass as the second argument to cp is a "special parameter" which can be handy for avoiding repeating long arguments (like file paths) without having to store them in a variable. Per the Bash manual, it:

expands to the last argument to the previous command

In this case, that's the /foo/bar we passed to mkdir. So the cp command expands to cp myfile.txt /foo/bar, which copies myfile.txt into the newly created /foo/bar directory.

Note that $_ is not part of the POSIX standard, so theoretically a Unix variant might have a shell that doesn't support this construct. However, I don't know of any modern shells that don't support $_; certainly Bash, Dash, and zsh all do.

A final note: the command I've given at the start of this answer assumes that your directory names don't have spaces in. If you're dealing with names with spaces, you'll need to quote them so that the different words aren't treated as different arguments to mkdir or cp. So your command would actually look like:

mkdir -p "/my directory/name with/spaces" && cp "my filename with spaces.txt" "$_"

Solution 4

Such an old question, but maybe I can propose an alternative solution.

You can use the install programme to copy your file and create the destination path "on the fly".

install -D file /path/to/copy/file/to/is/very/deep/there/file

There are some aspects to take in consideration, though:

  1. you need to specify also the destination file name, not only the destination path
  2. the destination file will be executable (at least, as far as I saw from my tests)

You can easily amend the #2 by adding the -m option to set permissions on the destination file (example: -m 664 will create the destination file with permissions rw-rw-r--, just like creating a new file with touch).

And here it is the shameless link to the answer I was inspired by =)

Solution 5

Shell function that does what you want, calling it a "bury" copy because it digs a hole for the file to live in:

bury_copy() { mkdir -p `dirname $2` && cp "$1" "$2"; }

Solution 6

Here's one way to do it:

mkdir -p `dirname /path/to/copy/file/to/is/very/deep/there` \
   && cp -r file /path/to/copy/file/to/is/very/deep/there

dirname will give you the parent of the destination directory or file. mkdir -p `dirname ...` will then create that directory ensuring that when you call cp -r the correct base directory is in place.

The advantage of this over --parents is that it works for the case where the last element in the destination path is a filename.

And it'll work on OS X.

Solution 7

with all my respect for answers above, I prefer to use rsync as follow:

$  rsync -a directory_name /path_where_to_inject_your_directory/


$ rsync -a test /usr/local/lib/

Solution 8

install -D file -m 644 -t /path/to/copy/file/to/is/very/deep/there

Solution 9

Simply add the following in your .bashrc, tweak if you need. Works in Ubuntu.

mkcp() {
    test -d "$2" || mkdir -p "$2"
    cp -r "$1" "$2"

E.g If you want to copy 'test' file to destination directory 'd' Use,

mkcp test a/b/c/d

mkcp will first check if destination directory exists or not, if not then make it and copy source file/directory.

Solution 10

This does it for me

cp -vaR ./from ./to

Solution 11

Just to resume and give a complete working solution, in one line. Be careful if you want to rename your file, you should include a way to provide a clean dir path to mkdir. $fdst can be file or dir. Next code should work in any case.

mkdir -p $(dirname ${fdst}) && cp -p ${fsrc} ${fdst}

or bash specific

mkdir -p ${fdst%/*} && cp -p ${fsrc} ${fdst}

Solution 12

As suggested above by help_asap and spongeman you can use the 'install' command to copy files to existing directories or create create new destination directories if they don't already exist.

Option 1 install -D filename some/deep/directory/filename
copies file to a new or existing directory and gives filename default 755 permissions

Option 2 install -D filename -m640 some/deep/directory/filename
as per Option 1 but gives filename 640 permissions.

Option 3 install -D filename -m640 -t some/deep/directory/
as per Option 2 but targets filename into target directory so filename does not need to be written in both source and target.

Option 4 install -D filena* -m640 -t some/deep/directory/
as per Option 3 but uses a wildcard for multiple files.

It works nicely in Ubuntu and combines two steps (directory creation then file copy) into one single step.

Solution 13

This is very late but it may help a rookie somewhere. If you need to AUTO create folders rsync should be your best friend.

rsync /path/to/sourcefile /path/to/tragetdir/thatdoestexist/

Solution 14

I wrote a support script for cp, called CP (note capital letters) that's intended to do exactly this. Script will check for errors in the path you've put in (except the last one which is the destination) and if all is well, it will do an mkdir -p step to create the destination path before starting the copy. At this point the regular cp utility takes over and any switches you use with CP (like -r, -p, -rpL gets piped directly to cp). Before you use my script, there are a few things you need to understand.

  • all the info here can be accessed by doing CP --help. CP --help-all include's cp's switches.
  • regular cp won't do the copy if it doesn't find the destination path. You don't have such a safety net for typos with CP. You're destination will be created, so if you misspell your destination as /usrr/share/icons or /usr/share/icon well that's what's going to be created.
  • regular cp tends to model it's behavior on the existing path: cp /a/b /c/d will vary on whether d exists or not. if d is an existing folder, cp will copy b into it, making /c/d/b. If d doesn't exist, b will be copied into c and renamed to d. If d exists but is a file and b is a file, it will be overwritten by b's copy. If c doesn't exist, cp doesn't do the copy and exits.

CP doesn't have the luxury of taking cues from existing paths, so it has to have some very firm behavior patterns. CP assumes that the item you're copying is being dropped in the destination path and is not the destination itself (aka, a renamed copy of the source file/folder). Meaning:

  • "CP /a/b /c/d" will result in /c/d/b if d is a folder
  • "CP /a/b /c/b" will result in /c/b/b if b in /c/b is a folder.
  • If both b and d are files: CP /a/b /c/d will result in /c/d (where d is a copy of b). Same for CP /a/b /c/b in the same circumstance.

This default CP behavior can be changed with the "--rename" switch. In this case, it's assumed that

  • "CP --rename /a/b /c/d" is copying b into /c and renaming the copy to d.

A few closing notes: Like with cp, CP can copy multiple items at a time with the last path being listed assumed to be the destination. It can also handle paths with spaces as long as you use quotation marks.

CP will check the paths you put in and make sure they exist before doing the copy. In strict mode (available through --strict switch), all files/folders being copied must exist or no copy takes place. In relaxed mode (--relaxed), copy will continue if at least one of the items you listed exists. Relaxed mode is the default, you can change the mode temporarily via the switches or permanently by setting the variable easy_going at the beginning of the script.

Here's how to install it:

In a non-root terminal, do:

sudo echo > /usr/bin/CP; sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/CP; sudo touch /usr/bin/CP
gedit admin:///usr/bin/CP 

In gedit, paste CP utility and save:

#Regular cp works with the assumption that the destination path exists and if it doesn't, it will verify that it's parent directory does.

#eg: cp /a/b /c/d will give /c/d/b if folder path /c/d already exists but will give /c/d (where d is renamed copy of b) if /c/d doesn't exists but /c does.

#CP works differently, provided that d in /c/d isn't an existing file, it assumes that you're copying item into a folder path called /c/d and will create it if it doesn't exist. so CP /a/b /c/d will always give /c/d/b unless d is an existing file. If you put the --rename switch, it will assume that you're copying into /c and renaming the singl item you're copying from b to d at the destination. Again, if /c doesn't exist, it will be created. So CP --rename /a/b /c/d will give a /c/d and if there already a folder called /c/d, contents of b will be merged into d. 

#cp+ $source $destination
#mkdir -p /foo/bar && cp myfile "$_"

err=0 # error count
i=0 #item counter, doesn't include destination (starts at 1, ex. item1, item2 etc)
m=0 #cp switch counter (starts at 1, switch 1, switch2, etc)
n=1 # argument counter (aka the arguments inputed into script, those include both switches and items, aka: $1 $2 $3 $4 $5)
easy_going=true #determines how you deal with bad pathes in your copy, true will allow copy to continue provided one of the items being copied exists, false will exit script for one bad path. this setting can also be changed via the custom switches: --strict and --not-strict

    \n         CREATIVE COPY SCRIPT (CP) -- written by thebunnyrules\
    \n This script (CP, note capital letters) is intended to supplement \
    \n your system's regular cp command (note uncapped letters). \n
    \n Script's function is to check if the destination path exists \
    \n before starting the copy. If it doesn't it will be created.\n    
    \n To make this happen, CP assumes that the item you're copying is \
    \n being dropped in the destination path and is not the destination\
    \n itself (aka, a renamed copy of the source file/folder). Meaning:\n 
    \n * \"CP /a/b /c/d\" will result in /c/d/b \
    \n * even if you write \"CP /a/b /c/b\", CP will create the path /a/b, \
    \n   resulting in /c/b/b. \n
    \n Of course, if /c/b or /c/d are existing files and /a/b is also a\
    \n file, the existing destination file will simply be overwritten. \
    \n This behavior can be changed with the \"--rename\" switch. In this\
    \n case, it's assumed that \"CP --rename /a/b /c/d\" is copying b into /c  \
    \n and renaming the copy to d.\n
    \n        CP specific help: Switches and their Usages \
    \n  --rename\tSee above. Ignored if copying more than one item. \n
    \n  --quiet\tCP is verbose by default. This quiets it.\n
    \n  --strict\tIf one+ of your files was not found, CP exits if\
    \n\t\tyou use --rename switch with multiple items, CP \
    \n  --relaxed\tIgnores bad paths unless they're all bad but warns\
    \n\t\tyou about them. Ignores in-appropriate rename switch\
    \n\t\twithout exiting. This is default behavior. You can \
    \n\t\tmake strict the default behavior by editing the \
    \n\t\tCP script and setting: \n
    \n  --help-all\tShows help specific to cp (in addition to CP)."

cp_hlp="\n\nRegular cp command's switches will still work when using CP.\
    \nHere is the help out of the original cp command... \
    \n          cp specific help: \

    \n******************************* HIT q TO EXIT ********************************\

#count and classify arguments that were inputed into script, output help message if needed
while true; do
    eval input="\$$n"

    if [ -z "$input" -a $n = 1 ]; then input="--help"; fi 

    if [ "$input" = "-h" -o "$input" = "--help" -o "$input" = "-?" -o "$input" = "--help-all" ]; then
        if [ "$input" = "--help-all" ]; then 
            echo -e "$help"$cp_hlp > /tmp/cp.hlp 
            cp --help >> /tmp/cp.hlp
            echo -e "$outro1" >> /tmp/cp.hlp
            cat /tmp/cp.hlp|less
            cat /tmp/cp.hlp
            rm /tmp/cp.hlp
            echo -e "$help" "$outro1"|less
            echo -e "$help" "$outro1"

    if [ -z "$input" ]; then
        count_i=$(expr $count_i - 1 ) # remember, last item is destination and it's not included in cound
    elif [ "$in_" = "-" ]; then
        count_s=$(expr $count_s + 1 )
        count_i=$(expr $count_i + 1 )
    n=$(expr $n + 1)

#error condition: no items to copy or no destination
    if [ $count_i -lt 0 ]; then 
            echo "Error: You haven't listed any items for copying. Exiting." # you didn't put any items for copying
    elif [ $count_i -lt 1 ]; then
            echo "Error: Copying usually involves a destination. Exiting." # you put one item and no destination

#reset the counter and grab content of arguments, aka: switches and item paths
while true; do
        eval input="\$$n" #input=$1,$2,$3,etc...
        in_=${input::1} #first letter of $input

        if [ "$in_" = "-" ]; then
            if [ "$input" = "--rename" ]; then 
                rename=true #my custom switches
            elif [ "$input" = "--strict" ]; then 
                easy_going=false #exit script if even one of the non-destinations item is not found
            elif [ "$input" = "--relaxed" ]; then 
                easy_going=true #continue script if at least one of the non-destination items is found
            elif [ "$input" = "--quiet" ]; then 
                #m=$(expr $m + 1);eval switch$m="$input" #input is a switch, if it's not one of the above, assume it belongs to cp.
                switch_list="$switch_list \"$input\""
        elif ! [ -z "$input" ]; then #if it's not a switch and input is not empty, it's a path
                i=$(expr $i + 1)
                if [ ! -f "$input" -a ! -d "$input" -a "$i" -le "$count_i" ]; then 
                    err=$(expr $err + 1 ); error_list="$error_list\npath does not exit: \"b\""
                    if [ "$i" -le "$count_i" ]; then 
                        eval item$i="$input" 
                        item_list="$item_list \"$input\""
                        destination="$input" #destination is last items entered
        n=$(expr $n + 1)

#error condition: some or all item(s) being copied don't exist. easy_going: continue if at least one item exists, warn about rest, not easy_going: exit.
#echo "err=$err count_i=$count_i"
if [ "$easy_going" != true -a $err -gt 0 -a $err != $count_i ]; then 
    echo "Some of the paths you entered are incorrect. Script is running in strict mode and will therefore exit."
    echo -e "Bad Paths: $err $error_list"

if [ $err = $count_i ]; then
    echo "ALL THE PATHS you have entered are incorrect! Exiting."
    echo -e "Bad Paths: $err $error_list"

#one item to one destination:
#assumes that destination is folder, it does't exist, it will create it. (so copying /a/b/c/d/firefox to /e/f/firefox will result in /e/f/firefox/firefox
#if -rename switch is given, will assume that the top element of destination path is the new name for the the item being given.

#multi-item to single destination:
#assumes destination is a folder, gives error if it exists and it's a file. -rename switch will be ignored.

# - multiple items being sent to a destination and it's a file.
# - if -rename switch was given and multiple items are being copied, rename switch will be ignored (easy_going). if not easy_going, exit.
# - rename option but source is folder, destination is file, exit.
# - rename option but source is file and destination is folder. easy_going: option ignored.

if [ -f "$destination" ]; then
    if [ $count_i -gt 1 ]; then 
        echo "Error: You've selected a single file as a destination and are copying multiple items to it. Exiting."; exit
    elif [ -d "$item1" ]; then
        echo "Error: Your destination is a file but your source is a folder. Exiting."; exit
if [ "$rename" = true ]; then
    if [ $count_i -gt 1 ]; then
        if [ $easy_going = true ]; then
            echo "Warning: you choose the rename option but are copying multiple items. Ignoring Rename option. Continuing."
            echo "Error: you choose the rename option but are copying multiple items. Script running in strict mode. Exiting."; exit
    elif [ -d "$destination" -a -f "$item1" ]; then
        echo -n "Warning: you choose the rename option but source is a file and destination is a folder with the same name. "
        if [ $easy_going = true ]; then
            echo "Ignoring Rename option. Continuing."
            echo "Script running in strict mode. Exiting."; exit
        dest_jr=$(dirname "$destination")
        if [ -d "$destination" ]; then item_list="$item1/*";fi
        mkdir -p "$dest_jr"
    mkdir -p "$destination"

eval cp $switch_list $verbal $item_list "$destination"

if [ "$cp_err" != 0 ]; then 
    echo -e "Something went wrong with the copy operation. \nExit Status: $cp_err"
    echo "Copy operation exited with no errors."


Solution 15

cp has multiple usages:

$ cp --help
Usage: cp [OPTION]... [-T] SOURCE DEST
  or:  cp [OPTION]... -t DIRECTORY SOURCE...
Copy SOURCE to DEST, or multiple SOURCE(s) to DIRECTORY.

@AndyRoss's answer works for the


style of cp, but does the wrong thing if you use the


style of cp.

I think that "DEST" is ambiguous without a trailing slash in this usage (i.e. where the target directory doesn't yet exist), which is perhaps why cp has never added an option for this.

So here's my version of this function which enforces a trailing slash on the dest dir:

cp-p() {
  last=${@: -1}

  if [[ $# -ge 2 && "$last" == */ ]] ; then
    # cp SOURCE... DEST/
    mkdir -p "$last" && cp "[email protected]"
    echo "cp-p: (copy, creating parent dirs)"
    echo "cp-p: Usage: cp-p SOURCE... DEST/"

Solution 16

i strongly suggest ditto. just works.

ditto my/location/poop.txt this/doesnt/exist/yet/poop.txt

Solution 17

Simply without creating script and with simple command ...

mkdir -p /destination-folder/ && cp file-name /destination-folder/

Solution 18

Just had the same issue. My approach was to just tar the files into an archive like so:

tar cf your_archive.tar file1 /path/to/file2 path/to/even/deeper/file3

tar automatically stores the files in the appropriate structure within the archive. If you run

tar xf your_archive.tar

the files are extracted into the desired directory structure.

Solution 19

Copy from source to an non existing path

mkdir p /destination && cp r /source/ $_

NOTE: this command copies all the files

cp r for copying all folders and its content

$_ work as destination which is created in last command

Solution 20

Oneliner to create a small script that can be used as subcommand, in find for instance:

set +H; echo -e "#!/bin/sh\nmkdir -p \$(dirname \"\$2\"); cp \"\$1\" \"$2\"\;" > ~/local/bin/cpmkdir; chmod +x ~/local/bin/cpmkdir

You can then use it like:

find -name files_you_re_lookin_for.* -exec cpmkdir {} ../extracted_copy/{} \;

Solution 21

rsync file /path/to/copy/file/to/is/very/deep/there

This might work, if you have the right kind of rsync.

Solution 22

You can use find with Perl. Command will be like this:

find file | perl -lne '$t = "/path/to/copy/file/to/is/very/deep/there/"; /^(.+)\/.+$/; `mkdir -p $t$1` unless(-d "$t$1"); `cp $_ $t$_` unless(-f "$t$_");'

This command will create directory $t if it doesn't exist. And than copy file into $t only unless file exists inside $t.

Solution 23

This works on GNU /bin/bash version 3.2 on MacOS (tested on both Catalina and Big Sur)

cp -Rv <existing-source-folder>/   <non-existing-2becreated-destination-folder>

the "v" option is for verbose.

And I think of the "-R" option as "Recursive".

man's full description of -R is:

If source_file designates a directory, cp copies the directory and the entire subtree connected at that point. If the source_file ends in a /, the contents of the directory are copied rather than the directory itself. This option also causes symbolic links to be copied, rather than indirected through, and for cp to create special files rather than copying them as normal files. Created directories have the same mode as the corresponding source directory, unmodified by the process' umask.

In -R mode, cp will continue copying even if errors are detected.

Note that cp copies hard-linked files as separate files. If you need to preserve hard links, consider using tar(1), cpio(1), or pax(1) instead.

In the example below, I'm using a "/" at the end of existingfolder so that it copies all the contents of existingfolder (and not the folder itself) into newfolder:

cp -Rv existingfolder/  newfolder

Try it.

Solution 24

Only for macOS

rsync -R <source file path> destination_folder

For macOS --parents option of cp doesn't work

Solution 25

Many of the other solutions don't work on files or folders which need escaping. Here is a solution which works for files and folders, and escapes spaces and other special characters. Tested in a busybox ash shell which doesn't have access to some of the fancier options.

export file="annoying folder/bar.txt"
export new_parent="/tmp/"

# Creates /tmp/annoying folder/
mkdir -p "$(dirname "$new_folder/$file")"

# Copies file to /tmp/annoying folder/bar.txt
cp -r "$file" "$new_folder/$file"

This should also work if you omit bar.txt if you need the recursive copy of a whole folder.

Solution 26

Let's say you are doing something like

cp file1.txt A/B/C/D/file.txt

where A/B/C/D are directories which do not exist yet

A possible solution is as follows

DIR=$(dirname A/B/C/D/file.txt)
# DIR= "A/B/C/D"
mkdir -p $DIR
cp file1.txt A/B/C/D/file.txt

hope that helps!

Solution 27


cp -a * /path/to/dst/

should do the trick.