Transferring files to Linux VMs


To transfer files to Compute Engine VM instances, different options are available depending on your workstation OS and the target VM instance OS.

Transfer from To Linux VMs
Linux or macOS
Windows

Transfer files through Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage buckets can be a convenient intermediate transfer point between you and your VMs.

This file transfer method works on almost all operating systems and VM types as long as your VM has access to your Cloud Storage bucket through a service account or through your personal user credentials.

Upload your files from your workstation to a Cloud Storage bucket. Then, download those files from the bucket to your instances.

  1. Create a Cloud Storage bucket or identify an existing bucket that you want to use to transfer files.
  2. From your workstation, upload files to the bucket.
  3. Connect to your VM using SSH.
  4. On your VM, download files from the bucket.

If you need to transfer files in the other direction, reverse the process. Upload the files from your VM, and then download those files to your workstation.

Transfer files using SSH in the browser

If you can establish an SSH connection to a VM using the SSH from the Browser window, you can use that connection to transfer files to the VM.

  1. In the Cloud Console, go to the VM instances page.

    Go to VM instances

  2. In the list of virtual machine instances, click SSH in the row of the instance that you want to connect to.

    SSH button next to instance name.

  3. After the connection is established, click the gear icon in the upper right of the SSH from the Browser window and select Upload file. Alternatively, select Download file to download a file from the VM.
    Gear icon menu.
  4. The transfer dialog opens. Specify which file you want to transfer.

If you uploaded a file, the file is in your user's /home/$USER directory.

If you downloaded a file, the file is in the default download folder on your local workstation.

Transfer files using the gcloud command-line tool

The gcloud command-line tool provides an SCP file transfer utility, creating an SSH key pair for you the first time you connect. Your private key is stored on your local device and its corresponding public key is copied to project or VM instance metadata.

To transfer files using SCP, you must have a firewall rule on the network that your VM uses that allows SSH connections on port 22. You can verify that this firewall rules exists by looking for a firewall rule that allows tcp:22 connections in the Google Cloud Console.

Go to Firewall rules

If you don't have a firewall rule that allows SSH connections on port 22, create the firewall rule.

You can install the gcloud tool and use it to copy files and directories to your VM using the scp command.

The following example copies a file from your workstation to the home directory of the VM.

gcloud compute scp LOCAL_FILE_PATH VM_NAME:~

Replace the following:

  • LOCAL_FILE_PATH: the path to the file on your workstation
  • VM_NAME: the name of your VM

You can also copy files and directories from a VM to your local workstation. The following example recursively copies a directory from your VM (the source) to your local workstation (the destination).

gcloud compute scp --recurse VM_NAME:REMOTE_DIR LOCAL_DIR

Replace the following:

  • VM_NAME: the name of the VM
  • REMOTE_DIR: the path to the directory on your VM
  • LOCAL_DIR: the path where you want to put the directory on your workstation

For more information, see the gcloud compute scp reference documentation.

Transfer files using SCP on Linux and macOS workstations

The scp command-line tool works similarly to the gcloud compute scp command but requires you to manually manage your SSH keys.

To transfer files using SCP, you must have a firewall rule on the network that your VM uses that allows SSH connections on port 22. You can verify that this firewall rules exists by looking for a firewall rule that allows tcp:22 connections in the Google Cloud Console.

Go to Firewall rules

If you don't have a firewall rule that allows SSH connections on port 22, create the firewall rule.

The scp tool uses the same key files that you use to connect to your instances using standard SSH.

  1. If you have not yet applied a public key to your Google Cloud Console project or VM instance, obtain an SSH key pair and apply the public SSH key file to your project or VM instance.

  2. Find the external IP for the VM that you want to send files to. In the Google Cloud Console, go to the VM instances page.

    Go to VM instances

  3. Use the scp tool to copy a file from your workstation to the home directory of the target VM. For this example, the private key is at ~/.ssh/my-ssh-key.

    scp -i ~/.ssh/my-ssh-key LOCAL_FILE_PATH USERNAME@IP_ADDRESS:~
    

    Replace the following:

    • LOCAL_FILE_PATH: the name of the local file that you want to upload
    • USERNAME: your username
    • IP-ADDRESS: the external IP address for your VM

You can also copy files from a VM to your local workstation by reversing the source and destination variables. For this example, copy a file from your VM to a path on your workstation.

scp -i ~/.ssh/my-ssh-key USERNAME@IP_ADDRESS:REMOTE_FILE_PATH LOCAL_FILE_PATH

Replace the following:

  • USERNAME: your username
  • IP_ADDRESS: the external IP address for your VM
  • REMOTE_FILE_PATH: the name of the remote file that you want to download
  • LOCAL_FILE_PATH: the location on your workstation where you want to download the file to

Transfer files using WinSCP on Windows workstations

On Windows workstations, the WinSCP client lets you manage files on your instances through a graphical file browser interface.

WinSCP uses the same key files that you use to connect to your instances using PuTTY.

  1. Do the following if you haven't configured key-based SSH authentication for your instance:

    1. Create an SSH key pair.

    2. Add your public SSH key to your project's metadata or to your VM's metadata. For more information, see Adding or removing project-wide public SSH keys or Adding or removing instance-level public SSH keys.

  2. Find the external IP for the VM that you want to send files to.

    1. In the Google Cloud Console, go to the VM instances page.

      Go to VM instances

    2. In the list of VMs, find the external IP address in the External IP column for your VM.
  3. Download and install WinSCP. The default install settings work for most users.

  4. Start the WinSCP program. A login window opens where you can configure your connection settings.

  5. In WinSCP, configure your connection settings.

    1. Select SCP as the file transfer protocol in the File protocol field.

    2. In the Host Name field, specify the external IP address for the VM that you want to connect to.

    3. In the User name field, specify the Google username that you use to access your project. For this example, the user is example-user.

      Setting the file protocol to SCP, the host name to 104.196.31.103, and the user name to example-user.

  6. Click the Advanced drop-down list to open the advanced settings, and navigate to SSH > Authentication.

  7. In the Private key file box, specify the path to your private key file of the SSH key pair that you created for the VM. If you don't know the path of your SSH private key, see Locating an SSH key. For this example, the key file is my-ssh-key.ppk.

    Setting the private key file to my-ssh-key.ppk in the Advanced Site Settings dialog.

  8. Click Ok to save the advanced settings.

  9. Click Login to connect to your VM. If the connection is successful, the window opens your local file system on the left and the VM's file system on the right. You can navigate to different directories in these file systems and drag files to transfer them to and from your VM.

  10. You likely do not have permission to manage most files outside of your home directory of the VM. Navigate to the home directory of the VM:

    /home/USERNAME
    
  11. Use the WinSCP interface to move files between your workstation and the VM.

  12. After you copy your files to the VM, connect to your instance so that you can execute or move files with full sudo permissions.

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