Filtering, includes and excludes

Filter flags determine which files rclone sync, move, ls, lsl, md5sum, sha1sum, size, delete, check and similar commands apply to.

They are specified in terms of path/file name patterns; path/file lists; file age and size, or presence of a file in a directory. Bucket based remotes without the concept of directory apply filters to object key, age and size in an analogous way.

Rclone purge does not obey filters.

To test filters without risk of damage to data, apply them to rclone ls, or with the --dry-run and -vv flags.

Rclone filter patterns can only be used in filter command line options, not in the specification of a remote.

E.g. rclone copy "remote:dir*.jpg" /path/to/dir does not have a filter effect. rclone copy remote:dir /path/to/dir --include "*.jpg" does.

Important Avoid mixing any two of --include..., --exclude... or --filter... flags in an rclone command. The results may not be what you expect. Instead use a --filter... flag.

Patterns for matching path/file names

Pattern syntax

Rclone matching rules follow a glob style:

*         matches any sequence of non-separator (/) characters
**        matches any sequence of characters including / separators
?         matches any single non-separator (/) character
[ [ ! ] { character-range } ]
          character class (must be non-empty)
{ pattern-list }
          pattern alternatives
c         matches character c (c != *, **, ?, \, [, {, })
\c        matches reserved character c (c = *, **, ?, \, [, {, })

character-range:

c         matches character c (c != \, -, ])
\c        matches reserved character c (c = \, -, ])
lo - hi   matches character c for lo <= c <= hi

pattern-list:

pattern { , pattern }
          comma-separated (without spaces) patterns

character classes (see Go regular expression reference) include:

Named character classes (e.g. [\d], [^\d], [\D], [^\D])
Perl character classes (e.g. \s, \S, \w, \W)
ASCII character classes (e.g. [[:alnum:]], [[:alpha:]], [[:punct:]], [[:xdigit:]])

If the filter pattern starts with a / then it only matches at the top level of the directory tree, relative to the root of the remote (not necessarily the root of the drive). If it does not start with / then it is matched starting at the end of the path/file name but it only matches a complete path element - it must match from a / separator or the beginning of the path/file.

file.jpg   - matches "file.jpg"
           - matches "directory/file.jpg"
           - doesn't match "afile.jpg"
           - doesn't match "directory/afile.jpg"
/file.jpg  - matches "file.jpg" in the root directory of the remote
           - doesn't match "afile.jpg"
           - doesn't match "directory/file.jpg"

The top level of the remote may not be the top level of the drive.

E.g. for a Microsoft Windows local directory structure

F:
├── bkp
├── data
│   ├── excl
│   │   ├── 123.jpg
│   │   └── 456.jpg
│   ├── incl
│   │   └── document.pdf

To copy the contents of folder data into folder bkp excluding the contents of subfolder exclthe following command treats F:\data and F:\bkp as top level for filtering.

rclone copy F:\data\ F:\bkp\ --exclude=/excl/**

Important Use / in path/file name patterns and not \ even if running on Microsoft Windows.

Simple patterns are case sensitive unless the --ignore-case flag is used.

Without --ignore-case (default)

potato - matches "potato"
       - doesn't match "POTATO"

With --ignore-case

potato - matches "potato"
       - matches "POTATO"

How filter rules are applied to files

Rclone path/file name filters are made up of one or more of the following flags:

  • --include
  • --include-from
  • --exclude
  • --exclude-from
  • --filter
  • --filter-from

There can be more than one instance of individual flags.

Rclone internally uses a combined list of all the include and exclude rules. The order in which rules are processed can influence the result of the filter.

All flags of the same type are processed together in the order above, regardless of what order the different types of flags are included on the command line.

Multiple instances of the same flag are processed from left to right according to their position in the command line.

To mix up the order of processing includes and excludes use --filter... flags.

Within --include-from, --exclude-from and --filter-from flags rules are processed from top to bottom of the referenced file.

If there is an --include or --include-from flag specified, rclone implies a - ** rule which it adds to the bottom of the internal rule list. Specifying a + rule with a --filter... flag does not imply that rule.

Each path/file name passed through rclone is matched against the combined filter list. At first match to a rule the path/file name is included or excluded and no further filter rules are processed for that path/file.

If rclone does not find a match, after testing against all rules (including the implied rule if appropriate), the path/file name is included.

Any path/file included at that stage is processed by the rclone command.

--files-from and --files-from-raw flags over-ride and cannot be combined with other filter options.

To see the internal combined rule list, in regular expression form, for a command add the --dump filters flag. Running an rclone command with --dump filters and -vv flags lists the internal filter elements and shows how they are applied to each source path/file. There is not currently a means provided to pass regular expression filter options into rclone directly though character class filter rules contain character classes. Go regular expression reference

How filter rules are applied to directories

Rclone commands are applied to path/file names not directories. The entire contents of a directory can be matched to a filter by the pattern directory/* or recursively by directory/**.

Directory filter rules are defined with a closing / separator.

E.g. /directory/subdirectory/ is an rclone directory filter rule.

Rclone commands can use directory filter rules to determine whether they recurse into subdirectories. This potentially optimises access to a remote by avoiding listing unnecessary directories. Whether optimisation is desirable depends on the specific filter rules and source remote content.

Directory recursion optimisation occurs if either:

  • A source remote does not support the rclone ListR primitive. local, sftp, Microsoft OneDrive and WebDav do not support ListR. Google Drive and most bucket type storage do. Full list

  • On other remotes (those that support ListR), if the rclone command is not naturally recursive, and provided it is not run with the --fast-list flag. ls, lsf -R and size are naturally recursive but sync, copy and move are not.

  • Whenever the --disable ListR flag is applied to an rclone command.

Rclone commands imply directory filter rules from path/file filter rules. To view the directory filter rules rclone has implied for a command specify the --dump filters flag.

E.g. for an include rule

/a/*.jpg

Rclone implies the directory include rule

/a/

Directory filter rules specified in an rclone command can limit the scope of an rclone command but path/file filters still have to be specified.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --include /directory/ will not match any files. Because it is an --include option the --exclude ** rule is implied, and the /directory/ pattern serves only to optimise access to the remote by ignoring everything outside of that directory.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --filter-from filter-list.txt with a file filter-list.txt:

- /dir1/
- /dir2/
+ *.pdf
- **

All files in directories dir1 or dir2 or their subdirectories are completely excluded from the listing. Only files of suffix pdf in the root of remote: or its subdirectories are listed. The - ** rule prevents listing of any path/files not previously matched by the rules above.

Option exclude-if-present creates a directory exclude rule based on the presence of a file in a directory and takes precedence over other rclone directory filter rules.

When using pattern list syntax, if a pattern item contains either / or **, then rclone will not able to imply a directory filter rule from this pattern list.

E.g. for an include rule

{dir1/**,dir2/**}

Rclone will match files below directories dir1 or dir2 only, but will not be able to use this filter to exclude a directory dir3 from being traversed.

Directory recursion optimisation may affect performance, but normally not the result. One exception to this is sync operations with option --create-empty-src-dirs, where any traversed empty directories will be created. With the pattern list example {dir1/**,dir2/**} above, this would create an empty directory dir3 on destination (when it exists on source). Changing the filter to {dir1,dir2}/**, or splitting it into two include rules --include dir1/** --include dir2/**, will match the same files while also filtering directories, with the result that an empty directory dir3 will no longer be created.

--exclude - Exclude files matching pattern

Excludes path/file names from an rclone command based on a single exclude rule.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order filter flags are processed in.

--exclude should not be used with --include, --include-from, --filter or --filter-from flags.

--exclude has no effect when combined with --files-from or --files-from-raw flags.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --exclude *.bak excludes all .bak files from listing.

E.g. rclone size remote: "--exclude /dir/**" returns the total size of all files on remote: excluding those in root directory dir and sub directories.

E.g. on Microsoft Windows rclone ls remote: --exclude "*\[{JP,KR,HK}\]*" lists the files in remote: with [JP] or [KR] or [HK] in their name. Quotes prevent the shell from interpreting the \ characters.\ characters escape the [ and ] so an rclone filter treats them literally rather than as a character-range. The { and } define an rclone pattern list. For other operating systems single quotes are required ie rclone ls remote: --exclude '*\[{JP,KR,HK}\]*'

--exclude-from - Read exclude patterns from file

Excludes path/file names from an rclone command based on rules in a named file. The file contains a list of remarks and pattern rules.

For an example exclude-file.txt:

# a sample exclude rule file
*.bak
file2.jpg

rclone ls remote: --exclude-from exclude-file.txt lists the files on remote: except those named file2.jpg or with a suffix .bak. That is equivalent to rclone ls remote: --exclude file2.jpg --exclude "*.bak".

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order filter flags are processed in.

The --exclude-from flag is useful where multiple exclude filter rules are applied to an rclone command.

--exclude-from should not be used with --include, --include-from, --filter or --filter-from flags.

--exclude-from has no effect when combined with --files-from or --files-from-raw flags.

--exclude-from followed by - reads filter rules from standard input.

--include - Include files matching pattern

Adds a single include rule based on path/file names to an rclone command.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order filter flags are processed in.

--include has no effect when combined with --files-from or --files-from-raw flags.

--include implies --exclude ** at the end of an rclone internal filter list. Therefore if you mix --include and --include-from flags with --exclude, --exclude-from, --filter or --filter-from, you must use include rules for all the files you want in the include statement. For more flexibility use the --filter-from flag.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --include "*.{png,jpg}" lists the files on remote: with suffix .png and .jpg. All other files are excluded.

E.g. multiple rclone copy commands can be combined with --include and a pattern-list.

rclone copy /vol1/A remote:A
rclone copy /vol1/B remote:B

is equivalent to:

rclone copy /vol1 remote: --include "{A,B}/**"

E.g. rclone ls remote:/wheat --include "??[^[:punct:]]*" lists the files remote: directory wheat (and subdirectories) whose third character is not punctuation. This example uses an ASCII character class.

--include-from - Read include patterns from file

Adds path/file names to an rclone command based on rules in a named file. The file contains a list of remarks and pattern rules.

For an example include-file.txt:

# a sample include rule file
*.jpg
file2.avi

rclone ls remote: --include-from include-file.txt lists the files on remote: with name file2.avi or suffix .jpg. That is equivalent to rclone ls remote: --include file2.avi --include "*.jpg".

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order filter flags are processed in.

The --include-from flag is useful where multiple include filter rules are applied to an rclone command.

--include-from implies --exclude ** at the end of an rclone internal filter list. Therefore if you mix --include and --include-from flags with --exclude, --exclude-from, --filter or --filter-from, you must use include rules for all the files you want in the include statement. For more flexibility use the --filter-from flag.

--exclude-from has no effect when combined with --files-from or --files-from-raw flags.

--exclude-from followed by - reads filter rules from standard input.

--filter - Add a file-filtering rule

Specifies path/file names to an rclone command, based on a single include or exclude rule, in + or - format.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order filter flags are processed in.

--filter + differs from --include. In the case of --include rclone implies an --exclude * rule which it adds to the bottom of the internal rule list. --filter...+ does not imply that rule.

--filter has no effect when combined with --files-from or --files-from-raw flags.

--filter should not be used with --include, --include-from, --exclude or --exclude-from flags.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --filter "- *.bak" excludes all .bak files from a list of remote:.

--filter-from - Read filtering patterns from a file

Adds path/file names to an rclone command based on rules in a named file. The file contains a list of remarks and pattern rules. Include rules start with + and exclude rules with - . ! clears existing rules. Rules are processed in the order they are defined.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order filter flags are processed in.

Arrange the order of filter rules with the most restrictive first and work down.

E.g. for filter-file.txt:

# a sample filter rule file
- secret*.jpg
+ *.jpg
+ *.png
+ file2.avi
- /dir/Trash/**
+ /dir/**
# exclude everything else
- *

rclone ls remote: --filter-from filter-file.txt lists the path/files on remote: including all jpg and png files, excluding any matching secret*.jpg and including file2.avi. It also includes everything in the directory dir at the root of remote, except remote:dir/Trash which it excludes. Everything else is excluded.

E.g. for an alternative filter-file.txt:

- secret*.jpg
+ *.jpg
+ *.png
+ file2.avi
- *

Files file1.jpg, file3.png and file2.avi are listed whilst secret17.jpg and files without the suffix .jpgor.png` are excluded.

E.g. for an alternative filter-file.txt:

+ *.jpg
+ *.gif
!
+ 42.doc
- *

Only file 42.doc is listed. Prior rules are cleared by the !.

--files-from - Read list of source-file names

Adds path/files to an rclone command from a list in a named file. Rclone processes the path/file names in the order of the list, and no others.

Other filter flags (--include, --include-from, --exclude, --exclude-from, --filter and --filter-from) are ignored when --files-from is used.

--files-from expects a list of files as its input. Leading or trailing whitespace is stripped from the input lines. Lines starting with # or ; are ignored.

Rclone commands with a --files-from flag traverse the remote, treating the names in --files-from as a set of filters.

If the --no-traverse and --files-from flags are used together an rclone command does not traverse the remote. Instead it addresses each path/file named in the file individually. For each path/file name, that requires typically 1 API call. This can be efficient for a short --files-from list and a remote containing many files.

Rclone commands do not error if any names in the --files-from file are missing from the source remote.

The --files-from flag can be repeated in a single rclone command to read path/file names from more than one file. The files are read from left to right along the command line.

Paths within the --files-from file are interpreted as starting with the root specified in the rclone command. Leading / separators are ignored. See --files-from-raw if you need the input to be processed in a raw manner.

E.g. for a file files-from.txt:

# comment
file1.jpg
subdir/file2.jpg

rclone copy --files-from files-from.txt /home/me/pics remote:pics copies the following, if they exist, and only those files.

/home/me/pics/file1.jpg        → remote:pics/file1.jpg
/home/me/pics/subdir/file2.jpg → remote:pics/subdir/file2.jpg

E.g. to copy the following files referenced by their absolute paths:

/home/user1/42
/home/user1/dir/ford
/home/user2/prefect

First find a common subdirectory - in this case /home and put the remaining files in files-from.txt with or without leading /, e.g.

user1/42
user1/dir/ford
user2/prefect

Then copy these to a remote:

rclone copy --files-from files-from.txt /home remote:backup

The three files are transferred as follows:

/home/user1/42       → remote:backup/user1/important
/home/user1/dir/ford → remote:backup/user1/dir/file
/home/user2/prefect  → remote:backup/user2/stuff

Alternatively if / is chosen as root files-from.txt will be:

/home/user1/42
/home/user1/dir/ford
/home/user2/prefect

The copy command will be:

rclone copy --files-from files-from.txt / remote:backup

Then there will be an extra home directory on the remote:

/home/user1/42       → remote:backup/home/user1/42
/home/user1/dir/ford → remote:backup/home/user1/dir/ford
/home/user2/prefect  → remote:backup/home/user2/prefect

--files-from-raw - Read list of source-file names without any processing

This flag is the same as --files-from except that input is read in a raw manner. Lines with leading / trailing whitespace, and lines starting with ; or # are read without any processing. rclone lsf has a compatible format that can be used to export file lists from remotes for input to --files-from-raw.

--ignore-case - make searches case insensitive

By default rclone filter patterns are case sensitive. The --ignore-case flag makes all of the filters patterns on the command line case insensitive.

E.g. --include "zaphod.txt" does not match a file Zaphod.txt. With --ignore-case a match is made.

Quoting shell metacharacters

Rclone commands with filter patterns containing shell metacharacters may not as work as expected in your shell and may require quoting.

E.g. linux, OSX (* metacharacter)

  • --include \*.jpg
  • --include '*.jpg'
  • --include='*.jpg'

Microsoft Windows expansion is done by the command, not shell, so --include *.jpg does not require quoting.

If the rclone error Command .... needs .... arguments maximum: you provided .... non flag arguments: is encountered, the cause is commonly spaces within the name of a remote or flag value. The fix then is to quote values containing spaces.

Other filters

--min-size - Don't transfer any file smaller than this

Controls the minimum size file within the scope of an rclone command. Default units are KiB but abbreviations K, M, G, T or P are valid.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --min-size 50k lists files on remote: of 50 KiB size or larger.

--max-size - Don't transfer any file larger than this

Controls the maximum size file within the scope of an rclone command. Default units are KiB but abbreviations K, M, G, T or P are valid.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --max-size 1G lists files on remote: of 1 GiB size or smaller.

--max-age - Don't transfer any file older than this

Controls the maximum age of files within the scope of an rclone command. Default units are seconds or the following abbreviations are valid:

  • ms - Milliseconds
  • s - Seconds
  • m - Minutes
  • h - Hours
  • d - Days
  • w - Weeks
  • M - Months
  • y - Years

--max-age can also be specified as an absolute time in the following formats:

  • RFC3339 - e.g. 2006-01-02T15:04:05Z or 2006-01-02T15:04:05+07:00
  • ISO8601 Date and time, local timezone - 2006-01-02T15:04:05
  • ISO8601 Date and time, local timezone - 2006-01-02 15:04:05
  • ISO8601 Date - 2006-01-02 (YYYY-MM-DD)

--max-age applies only to files and not to directories.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --max-age 2d lists files on remote: of 2 days old or less.

--min-age - Don't transfer any file younger than this

Controls the minimum age of files within the scope of an rclone command. (see --max-age for valid formats)

--min-age applies only to files and not to directories.

E.g. rclone ls remote: --min-age 2d lists files on remote: of 2 days old or more.

Other flags

--delete-excluded - Delete files on dest excluded from sync

Important this flag is dangerous to your data - use with --dry-run and -v first.

In conjunction with rclone sync, --delete-excluded deletes any files on the destination which are excluded from the command.

E.g. the scope of rclone sync -i A: B: can be restricted:

rclone --min-size 50k --delete-excluded sync A: B:

All files on B: which are less than 50 KiB are deleted because they are excluded from the rclone sync command.

--dump filters - dump the filters to the output

Dumps the defined filters to standard output in regular expression format.

Useful for debugging.

Exclude directory based on a file

The --exclude-if-present flag controls whether a directory is within the scope of an rclone command based on the presence of a named file within it.

This flag has a priority over other filter flags.

E.g. for the following directory structure:

dir1/file1
dir1/dir2/file2
dir1/dir2/dir3/file3
dir1/dir2/dir3/.ignore

The command rclone ls --exclude-if-present .ignore dir1 does not list dir3, file3 or .ignore.

--exclude-if-present can only be used once in an rclone command.

Common pitfalls

The most frequent filter support issues on the rclone forum are:

  • Not using paths relative to the root of the remote
  • Not using / to match from the root of a remote
  • Not using ** to match the contents of a directory