What's the Difference?

SCP (Secure Copy Protocol) and SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) are both secure file transfer protocols used to transfer files between remote servers and clients. However, there are some key differences between the two. SCP is a simple and straightforward protocol that provides basic file transfer functionality, allowing users to securely copy files between hosts. On the other hand, SFTP is a more advanced protocol that offers a wider range of features, including file management, directory listing, and remote file editing capabilities. SFTP also provides better security measures, such as encryption and authentication, making it a more secure option for transferring files. Overall, while SCP is suitable for simple file transfers, SFTP is a more comprehensive and secure protocol for managing and transferring files.


ProtocolSecure Copy ProtocolSSH File Transfer Protocol
SecurityUses SSH for secure data transferUses SSH for secure data transfer
AuthenticationUsername and password or SSH keyUsername and password or SSH key
PortDefault: 22Default: 22
File TransferAllows copying files between hostsAllows copying files between hosts
Directory ListingDoes not support directory listingSupports directory listing
File PermissionsPreserves file permissionsPreserves file permissions
File ResumeDoes not support file resumeSupports file resume
File Size LimitNo specific file size limitNo specific file size limit

Further Detail


When it comes to secure file transfer protocols, SCP (Secure Copy) and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) are two popular options. Both protocols offer secure file transfer capabilities, but they have distinct differences in terms of functionality, security features, and ease of use. In this article, we will compare the attributes of SCP and SFTP to help you understand their strengths and weaknesses.


SCP is a simple and straightforward protocol that allows users to securely copy files between hosts using the SSH (Secure Shell) protocol. It provides basic file transfer functionality, allowing users to upload and download files to and from remote servers. On the other hand, SFTP is a more advanced protocol that offers a wider range of features. It not only supports file transfer but also allows users to perform file management operations such as renaming, deleting, and creating directories on the remote server. SFTP also supports resume functionality, which means that if a file transfer is interrupted, it can be resumed from where it left off.

Security Features

Both SCP and SFTP are designed to provide secure file transfer over a network. However, SFTP offers more robust security features compared to SCP. SCP relies solely on SSH for encryption and authentication, whereas SFTP adds an additional layer of encryption using the SSH protocol. This extra encryption layer ensures that the data transferred between the client and the server remains confidential and protected from eavesdropping. SFTP also supports public key authentication, which provides a more secure method of authentication compared to password-based authentication used by SCP.


SCP is widely supported by most Unix-like operating systems, including Linux and macOS. It is also supported by some Windows-based SSH clients. On the other hand, SFTP is supported by a broader range of platforms, including Unix-like systems, Windows, and even some embedded systems. This makes SFTP a more portable option, allowing users to transfer files securely across different operating systems and devices.

Ease of Use

SCP is known for its simplicity and ease of use. It has a straightforward command-line interface, making it easy for users to quickly transfer files using basic commands. However, SCP lacks some advanced features and can be less user-friendly for those who require more control over their file transfers. SFTP, on the other hand, provides a more user-friendly interface with features like directory browsing and drag-and-drop functionality in graphical SFTP clients. This makes it easier for users to navigate and manage their files on the remote server.


When it comes to performance, SCP is generally faster than SFTP. SCP uses a simpler protocol, which results in lower overhead and faster file transfers. However, this speed advantage comes at the cost of limited functionality. SFTP, while slightly slower due to the additional encryption layer, offers more advanced features and flexibility. The choice between SCP and SFTP depends on the specific requirements of the file transfer, with SCP being more suitable for simple and quick transfers, and SFTP being preferred for more complex operations.


In conclusion, both SCP and SFTP are secure file transfer protocols that offer different attributes and cater to different needs. SCP is a simple and fast protocol suitable for basic file transfers, while SFTP provides more advanced features and enhanced security. The choice between SCP and SFTP depends on factors such as the level of functionality required, the need for advanced file management operations, and the level of security needed for the file transfer. Understanding the attributes of both protocols will help you make an informed decision based on your specific requirements.

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