Sftp commands in Linux

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) was a widely used protocol for remotely transferring files or data in an unencrypted format, which is not a secure method of communication. As we all know, File Transfer Protocol is not at all secure because all transmissions occur in clear text, and the data can be read by anyone sniffing the network packets.

So, in general, FTP should only be used in specific situations or on networks that you trust. SCP and SSH have addressed this security ambiguity over time, adding a secure encrypted layer while transferring data between remote computers.

To establish a secure connection, SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) runs over SSH protocol on standard port 22 by default. SFTP has been integrated into a number of graphical user interface (GUI) tools (FileZilla, WinSCP, FireFTP etc.).

Security Caution: Please do not open the SSH port (Secure SHell) globally as this would be a security breach. You can only open for specific IP addresses from which you intend to transfer or manage files on the remote system, or vice versa.

This article will walk you through ten sftp command examples to use with an interactive command-line interface.

1. How to Connect to SFTP

The same SSH protocol is used by default to authenticate and establish an SFTP connection. At the command prompt, enter the username and remote hostname or IP address to begin an SFTP session. After successful authentication, you will see a shell with an sftp> prompt.

[root@tecmint ~]# sftp tecmint@

Connecting to
tecmint@'s password:

2. Getting Help

When you’re in the sftp prompt, check the available commands by typing ‘?’ or ‘help’ into the command prompt.

sftp> ?
Available commands:
cd path                       Change remote directory to 'path'
lcd path                      Change local directory to 'path'
chgrp grp path                Change group of file 'path' to 'grp'
chmod mode path               Change permissions of file 'path' to 'mode'
chown own path                Change owner of file 'path' to 'own'
help                          Display this help text
get remote-path [local-path]  Download file
lls [ls-options [path]]       Display local directory listing
ln oldpath newpath            Symlink remote file
lmkdir path                   Create local directory
lpwd                          Print local working directory
ls [path]                     Display remote directory listing
lumask umask                  Set local umask to 'umask'
mkdir path                    Create remote directory
put local-path [remote-path]  Upload file
pwd                           Display remote working directory
exit                          Quit sftp
quit                          Quit sftp
rename oldpath newpath        Rename remote file
rmdir path                    Remove remote directory
rm path                       Delete remote file
symlink oldpath newpath       Symlink remote file
version                       Show SFTP version
!command                      Execute 'command' in local shell
!                             Escape to local shell
?                             Synonym for help

3. Check Present Working Directory

The command ‘lpwd‘ is used to check the current working directory on the local machine, whereas the command ‘pwd‘ is used to check the remote working directory.

sftp> lpwd
Local working directory: /
sftp> pwd
Remote working directory: /tecmint/

4. Listing Files

Listing files and directories on the local and remote systems.

  • On Remote:
sftp> ls
  • On Local:
sftp> lls

5. Upload File

Insert one or more files into the remote system.

sftp> put local.profile
Uploading local.profile to /tecmint/local.profile

6. Upload Multiple Files

Adding several files to the remote system.

sftp> mput *.xls

6.1. Download Files

Obtaining single or multiple files from the local system

sftp> get SettlementReport_1-10th.xls
Fetching /tecmint/SettlementReport_1-10th.xls to SettlementReport_1-10th.xls

Get access to multiple files on a local system.

sftp> mget *.xls

Note: As we can see by default, getting a command downloads a file with the same name in the local system. We can download a remote file with a different name by including it at the end of the URL. (This only applies when downloading a single file.)

7. Switching Directories

Transferring files from one directory to another in both local and remote locations.

  • On Remote:
sftp> cd test
  • On Local:
sftp> lcd Documents

8. Create Directories

Making new directories in both local and remote areas.

sftp> mkdir test
sftp> lmkdir Documents

9. Remove Directories

Remove the remote system’s directory or file.

sftp> rm Report.xls
sftp> rmdir sub1

Please keep in mind that in order to remove or delete a directory from a remote location, the directory must be empty.

10. Exit sFTP Shell

The ‘!’ command takes us to a local shell where we can run Linux commands. Where we can see sftp> prompt return, type the command ‘exit‘.

sftp> !

[root@sftp ~]# exit
Shell exited with status 1


The SFTP protocol is a very useful tool for managing servers and transferring files to and from them (Local and Remote). We hope that these tutorials have helped you understand how to use SFTP to some extent.

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