File transfer

Command Line Interface

Using the CLI, the easiest way to transfer files is using the scp command (Secure CoPy). scp is installed by default on all Linux and OSX machines and can be used in either direction. Because it's based on ssh, you will recognise the -i mykey.pem syntax.

Secure copy

scp -i mykey.pem <from> <to>

While scp can be used in either direction by changing which computer we run the command from and which is in the <from> field and which is in the <to> field, in practice we don't always have a public IP address on our computers. So we always want to be executing this command on our local computer so that we can use the cloud instance's public ip

Copy files from my computer to the cloud instance

scp -i .ssh/mykey.pem filename.txt ubuntu@

Copy files from the cloud instance to my computer. In this instance we will use a full stop character - . - to indicate "the directory I am currently in"

scp -i .ssh/mykey.pem ubuntu@ .

But you could just as easily type the whole path

scp -i .ssh/mykey.pem ubuntu@ /home/ubuntu/Desktop

On OSX you might see a path more like /Users/bernard/Desktop instead of /home/ubuntu/

To transfer multiple files

To transfer more than one file at a time, there are a number of options:

  • you can put multiple files in the <from> or <to> fields
  • you can create a loop to scp multiple files
  • you can use rsync to copy entire folders at a time

Backing up my Music folder to my cloud instance. This will create a directory called Music in the home directory in the cloud:

rsync -av /home/bernard/Music -e ssh ubuntu@

Copying my computation results from the cloud instance to my computer. Note that this will create a folder called results in my home directory:

rsync -ave ssh ubuntu@ /home/bernard/

Rsync has one distinguishing feature - if the copy is interrupted, you can resume where you left off. It synchronises files across the net.

There's a lot more to rsnyc and scp, but that should get you started.


On Windows, we use and recommend WinSCP FileZilla is another very good alternative but we will describe how to set up WinSCP.

If you don't have administrative privileges, you can use the "Portable" app that listed on that page.

Using WinSCP

When you start, you will see this screen. Fill out the details drop down the menu to choose SCP, put in the IP address and the user name, then click the Advanced drop down menu.


Within that menu, click the bold Advanced again.


From there, choose Authentication under SSH, and choose your file.


You will need to make the files visible by changing the visible file types. When you select your mykey.pem file, you will see a pop up message telling you that WinSCP will need to convert your file to a ppk file. You can allow this to happen - save it in the same folder as the mykey.pem. WinSCP will use the mykey.ppk.


If you then click login, you will be shown a warning that you can click yes on.


You will now see a traditional file browser with your local files on teh left and your cloud instance on the right. You can drag and drop files as you need.



On Apple's OSX you can use the command line above - but if you would like a GUI we use and recommend CyberDuck. You can use it for free but there will be ads poking you occassionally. FileZilla is another very good alternative but we will describe how to set up CyberDuck.

Using CyberDuck

When you open the softer you will immediately get the opportunity to fill out the neccesary details. You will need to drop down the top menu to choose SFTP.


Once you have successfully connected, you can save this as a Quick Connect link, so that you don't need to fill the details in every time.


The Quick Connect is a shortcut to thatgroup of settings.


Then you just drag and drop between Finder and CyberDuck.


You will see a screen like this once successfully completed.


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