The intersection of technology and leadership

Synchronising two external hard drives with rsync on a mac

This is more of a reminder for myself so I don’t need to keep googling or looking at man when I need to look up the syntax.

Let’s assume you have two hard drives, ones called PHOTOS the other other PHOTOS_BACKUP. You can use the following command to sychronise photos (including removing all files that were deleted on PHOTOS to PHOTOS_BACKUP.) also ignoring backup files (.* files).

rsync -av --delete --exclude=".*" /Volumes/PHOTOS/ /Volumes/BACKUP

It’s nice to test this on a smaller folder first if you like. You should note the slash and lack of slash matters. To do a dry run try:

rsync -avn --delete --exclude=".*" /Volumes/PHOTOS/ /Volumes/BACKUP

or alternatively:

rsync -av --dry-run --delete --exclude=".*" /Volumes/PHOTOS/ /Volumes/BACKUP

Happy backups!


  1. Bill

    Thanks Pat! I was looking to do exactly this for my external drive with my media library. What is the purpose of excluding * files?

  2. Patrick

    Great. It’s not to exclude all files (*), but to ignore dot-star (.*) files which are often the backup or hidden files (e.g. IMG.JPG.bak) or on mac, there is always this .DS_Store file that gets created that I want to ignore by default

  3. Greg Lawrence

    Thanks Pat, I’m looking to do this but am not a programmer – and wanted to check – do I type these commands in Terminal?
    Thanks! Greg

  4. Patrick

    Hi Greg! Yes, you’re right. These should be typed in the command line which can be done via Terminal

  5. Chris

    Thanks a lot for this! For the people who want to put it in a little automator script app see:

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