Eliminate SCP Permission Denied Error in 5 Ways

SCP Permission Denied

The SCP permission denied is an error message that is displayed when the user tries to copy files or data from a remote host that he does not have permission to access or tries to store the data in the root directory of his system, which does not allow the user to store data in it. In either of the cases, permission to access the data is required.

The SCP (Secure Copy Protocol) is a data transfer protocol explicitly used to copy data from one host to another over the network. The protocol runs on top of SSH (secured shell), which uses asymmetric cryptography to protect the data during transfers. Today we show you how to deal with protocol’s scp permission denied error.

Defining SCP

SCP utility running on windows.
SCP utility running on windows.

SCP is shot for secure copy protocol. It is an application layer protocol that works on top of the SSH protocol, a security protocol implemented between the application layer and the transport layer (TCP in this case). Scp command is compatible with all mainstream operating systems like Windows, Linux, macOS, etc. There are other similar protocols to the scp, such as SFTP (secure file transfer protocol), which transfers the data and performs data management functions. SCP comes pre-installed on macOS, Linux, and Windows. The user must have appropriate rights and permissions to avoid an scp permission denied error.

How to copy files using SCP

The scp command is not very complicated and simple to use. To perform any actions using the SCP without facing any permission error, you must have at least read permission on the remote host and otherwise write permission on the localhost. You might receive an scp permission error. The syntax of the command is intuitive and straightforward to use. Follow the given syntax to copy a file to the target location using scp.

scp [OPTION] user@src_host:file1 user@dest_host:file2

The OPTIONs are additional options that can be used to perform tasks according to the provided arguments. user@src_host:file1 is the file’s name to be copied prefixed with the username and address of the source host. And user@dest_host:file2 is the name to the resultant file with the specified address prefixed with the target host username and machine address. Use the -r option to copy all the files and subdirectories inside the folder recursively.

scp permission denied

The scp permission denied error shows up when the users do not have the required rights or permission to perform a specific operation. Executable permissions are not required on any host while using the scp command. It requires read permissions on the source system and writing permission on the target system. There might be some ownership issue with the file or directory if you are receiving the scp permission denied error.

SCP permission denied ownership issue.

If the remote host’s directory from which the user is trying to copy the file or data is not owned by the username specified in the command, then an SCP permission denied error could be encountered. Follow the given steps to resolve this issue.

  • Login into the remost host with admin privileges.
  • Change the ownership of the directory to the USER instead of the root.
  • Use the chown (change owner) command to change the ownership.
  • Now run the scp command again.

Try using –verbose option

The -v or –verbose options are used to provide a detailed output of the program’s working. Use this option with the scp command to wisely observe the problems occurring under the hood and then troubleshoot the scp permission denied problem accordingly.

-v option along with the scp command.
-v option along with the scp command.

Use -P to specify the port number

Sometimes hidden or silent processes run on the arbitrary standard ports number on either host. For example, on the remote host, the chosen port number might be used by another process for another connection. Conflicting port numbers can also cause errors. Use the -P option to provide a specific arbitrary port number in such a case. NOTE – keep in mind that an uppercase -P is used to specify the port number while a lowercase -p is used for other purposes related to the original file.

Specifying the port number while using scp
Specifying the port number while using scp

SCP permission denied (publickey)

The SCP permission denied (public key) is an error message that the users are reported to face when they try to login to their AWS EC2 instance while using the passphrase-less authentication protocol such as ssh. The ssh passwordless authentication makes use of asymmetric cryptography to authenticate the user. If you provide the wrong private key to the scp utility, the scp permission denied error occurs. By default, the scp uses the default ssh private key directory to authenticate the user. Use the -i option to provide your specific private key file.

Scp permission denied resolved

Gcloud scp permission denied

Google provides cloud computing services in many forms. Google Compute Engine is one such way to use googles cloud services. The glcoud is a command-line utility tool that can interact with the cloud server. The cloud compute scp command is used to copy files from a google cloud virtual machine to your local computer. The syntax is almost similar to the SCP command. Complete documentation of the command can be found here.

If you receive an SCP permission error while copying data from your cloud host, then try downloading the content as the root user. Add @root before your destination or target address to resolve this issue.

gcloud compute scp /Users/File.tar root@local_machine:/home/Desktop

FAQs on SCP Permission Denied

Does the SCP utility come pre-installed with Windows?

Yes, it comes pre-installed on windows.

What is the extension of a private key file?

.pem, is the extension for private key files.

What is the shortcut for accessing the home directory in Linux?

~/, can be used in place of /home.


The SCP permission denied is one of the common errors that could happen during the use of SCP utility for copying files from one host to another. This article provided you with complete information regarding the SCP protocol. We discussed some of the ways and methods that could help in the scenario of the permission denied error.

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