While cp hasn't got this functionality, you can use pv to do this:

pv my_big_file > backup/my_big_file

Note: this method will lose the file's permissions and ownership. Files copied this way will have the same permissions as if you'd created them yourself and will belong to you.

In this example, pv basically just outputs the file to stdout*, which you redirect to a file using the > operator. Simultaniously, it prints information about the progress to the terminal when you do that.

This is what it looks like:

stefano@ubuntu:~/Data$ pv my_big_file > backup/my_big_file
 138MB 0:00:01 [73.3MB/s] [=================================>] 100% 

You may need to  Install pv (alternatively, type sudo apt-get install pv) on your system.


*: The technical bit

There are three important streams of data in a unix-like system: stdout (standard output), stderr (standard error) and stdin (standard input). Every program has all three, so to speak. The pipe-operator redirects a programs output to another programs input. The > operator redirects a programs standard output to a file. cp basically does nothing fancier than

cat source > destination

(where cat just reads a file and prints it to stdout). pv is just like cat, but if you redirect it's output stream somewhere else, it will print progress information to stdout instead.

Take a look at man pv to learn more about it.


Another option, as alt textDoR suggests in this answer, is to use rsync instead:

rsync -ah --progress source-file destination

alt text

This will preserve the files permissions/ownership while showing progress.




If you want to see if your files are transferring correctly you could use gcp and gcp is like cp but by default gives you a progress bar so that you can see what is being copied. As the program's wiki notes, gcp has several useful features such as

  • transfer progression indication
  • continuous copying on error (skip to next file)
  • copy status logging: gcp logs all its actions so that it is possible to know which files have been successfully copied
  • name mangling to handle target filesystem limitations (for example deletion of incompatible characters "*" or "?" on FAT)

However, even when the progress bar has reached 100% when using the tool, you must wait until your terminal prompt reappears before safely removing your media so that you can ensure that the transfer process has successfully finished.

gcp is used to copy files and has options such as --preserve so that various attributes and permissions can be preserved and --recursive so that whole directories can be copied. More information on its options can be found by entering man gcp or by going to the Ubuntu manpages online. A tutorial is also available on this site.

Install gcp from the repositories with

sudo apt-get install gcp

(Note: in Ubuntu 12.10 the new automount point is, for example, /media/user/usbdisk)

You can copy a file to your media by entering

gcp /home/mike/file.mp4 /media/usb

and copy a folder to your media with

gcp -rv ~/Podcasts /media/Mik2

Sample output from gcp with the progress bar:

gcp ~/Videos_incIplayer/mars.flv /media/Mik2
Copying 168.57 MiB 100% |########################################################|   7.98 M/s Time: 00:00:22

You can of course specify multiple files or folders to copy to your disk, and there are a lot of other options covered in man gcp.