An urban mystic, pining for conifers in a jungle of concrete and steel.

rsync as root

It often happens, at least to me, that I need to synchronize a directory to another server while maintaining permissions and original ownership. While ssh root@box is a terrible idea™, you can use some epic hacks to do what you need to, securely.

I’ll first start out by SSHing into the server I’ll be grabbing files from:

ssh -o "ForwardAgent yes" naftuli@source

ForwardAgent is assumed to be necessary, because you’re really not entering passwords, are you?

If you want to make this more permanent, add the following entry to $HOME/.ssh/config:

Host source
    ForwardAgent yes

Next, run the synchronization on source to dest:

rsync -azvP --rsync-path "sudo rsync" /path/to/deployment/ \

This will use your current user locally to grab the files and transfer them to the remote server. On the remote server, rsync will run as sudo rsync, acquiring root for you without requiring you to directly SSH into the root account, because that should seriously be disabled on your box.

This should work about 75% of the time, unless your current user doesn’t have access to the files you’d like to send over the network.

In that case, run rsync with sudo, passing in the SSH_AUTH_SOCK environment variable so that SSH will still be able to use your agent to connect:

sudo SSH_AUTH_SOCK="$SSH_AUTH_SOCK" rsync -azvP --rsync-path "sudo rsync" \
    /path/to/deployment/ \

rsync will now acquire root locally to be able to read the unreadable, will SSH into the remote machine as naftuli, acquire root using sudo, and then install the files with the permissions and ownership as expected.

The need for SSH_AUTH_SOCK in the command is because sudo nukes environment variables.

Throw this in your toolbox :)