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Latest revision as of 12:24, 14 June 2020

Best Practices and General Information

  • User scp for smaller files and sftp for larger files
  • For newly created accounts only the following directories exists: /home/<username> on the home file system and /data/<username> on the shared scratch file system. There is a symlink from your home directory to your shared scratch directory, i.e., /home/<username>/data can also be used.
  • You can use git on ALICE to clone repositories to your space on /home or /data.

Options for File transfer

ALICE supports large file transfer directly–through command-line based Linux utilities such as rsync and sftp. Additionally, you are welcome to install your file transfer applications in your project directory.

Between your computer and ALICE

For many ALICE users, the most convenient way to transfer files between their computer and ALICE is to use a GUI (graphical user interface)-based SFTP client. The SFTP client is installed and run on your computer. It works by connecting to the SFTP server running on, enabling you to transfer files back and forth.

ALICE login credentials are required for access. Most third-party SSH clients can maintain an open connection so as to minimize the number of authentication requests during a transfer session. Refer to the documentation for how to do this for your preferred client.

From the Internet to ALICE

You can transfer a file from the Internet directly to your project directory on ALICE (without first downloading to your computer). For example, if you want to transfer a repository from GitHub, use the command git clone REPOSITORY_URL, where REPOSITORY_URL is the link you copied from Github. If you want to transfer a file from a web page, you can use the command wget URL. If you need to transfer data from a private location (i.e., one that requires logging in), the site may or may not allow you to use wget for the transfer.

If you need to frequently transfer files, plan to move large amounts of data, or need assistance transferring data from a private location, feel free to contact us at for advice on how to.

Creating and Editing Files on ALICE

You can always create files on your personal computer and transfer them to ALICE but sometimes it is easiest to create them directly on ALICE.

HPC supports the vi/vim, gedit, nano and emacs text editors. Nano is used in HPC training sessions because it is an easy editor to learn. Gedit is a good option if you log in with “X11 forwarding” enabled which is pre-configured X-Win32 and enabled by XQuartz’s on Mac OS. Vi/vim, which comes standard on all UNIX/Linux machines, and emacs, which is a popular coding environment, both have steeper learning curves.

To edit a file, simply type the editors name, e.g., nano or gedit, at the command line and then type in your file’s text.

File transfer from and to Linux and Mac OS

Before you can transfer files you need access to the ALICE file transfer node. For details on setting up ssh login, see Login to cluster. Once you have successfully set up the ssh configuration, you can use two different methods to transfer data: SCP and SFTP.

SCP file transfer

You need to know to which file systems on ALICE you want to (and are allowed to) copy your files. See the Summary of available file systems for detail on which directory structures are available to you. Once you know where to/from you want to copy data use the Unix SCP command to perform the copy operation. Note: you have successfully made an ssh configuration hostname hpc1:

 scp <local_file_name> hpc1:data/<some_directory>

where <username> is your account name. If you do not have setup key-based authentication, scp will ask you for your password for the ssh-gateway and the login node. This copies a local file to ALICE assuming you have already created the directory <some_directory> in your directory /data/<username> on the shared scratch file system. If the directory does not exists yet, you have to create it first by connecting to ALICE with ssh

 ssh hpc1
 mkdir ./data/<some_directory>

The example here makes use of the fact that ssh will land you in your home-directory by default and that the home-directory contains a symbolic link to your directory on the shared scratch file system.

To copy a file on an ALICE file system back to your local desktop or storage medium use:
 scp hpc1:data/<username>/<remote_directory>/<remote_file_name> ./

where the . is representing the current directory.

You can also copy an entire directory (including its sub-directories) to ALICE. This only requires adding the -r option to scp. For example, copying from your local computer to ALICE can look something like this:

 scp -r <local_directory> hpc1:data/<username>/

or to copy from ALICE to your local computer while using your local computer

 scp -r hpc1:data/<username>/<remote_directory> ./

For more details on how to use scp te:

 man scp

SFTP file transfer

Data can also be transferred using the sftp copy program. Again we presume you have successfully configured the ssh login with key based authentication. In that case you can simply type:

 $ sftp hpc1:
                Welkom bij de SSH Gateway van de
                      Universiteit Leiden
        Deze gateway dient slechts als SSH toegang tot
        achterliggende systemen. Oneigenlijk gebruik van 
        deze server kan leiden tot het ontzeggen van toegang.
                Welcome to the SSH Gateway of the 
                    University of Leiden
        The only purpose of this gateway is SSH access to other
        systems. Improper use can lead to denial of access.
         Public Key authentication and more is possible,
         see for this SSH-README.txt
         Use screen at the destination.
         Voor vragen/For questions:
 Connected to hpc1.
 Changing to: /home/deuler/.

We can then use various commands to traverse and manipulate both file systems. A list of commands are listed below:

Command Function Example
cd Changes the directory of the remote computer cd remote_directory
lcd Changes the directory of the local computer lcd local_directory
ls Lists the contents of the remote directory ls
lls Lists the contents of the local directory lls
pwd Prints working directory of the remote computer pwd
lpwd Prints working directory of the local computer lpwd
get Copies a file from the remote directory to the local directory get remote_file
put Copies a file from the local directory to the remote directory put local_file
exit Closes the connection to the remote computer and exits the program exit
help Displays application information on using commands help

File transfer from and to Windows

You are welcome to use any SFTP client you wish. We frequently receive requests for help setting up FileZilla, Cyberduck and WinSCP. For convenience, these instructions are below.


You can download FileZilla from the vendor website at

Make sure to download FileZilla client. Once the installation is complete you will need to create an HPC profile. You can do so by going to the Site-Manager:

Create a new site and enable these settings:

  • Protocol: SFTP – SSH File Transfer Protocol
  • Host:
  • Logon Type: Interactive
  • User: Your ALICE username

After the General tab settings have been filled out, select the Transfer Settings tab:

  • Check Limit number of simultaneous connections
  • Maximum number of connections: 1

These settings will keep a single connection open so you will not have to re-authenticate.


You can download Cyberduck from the vendor website at

Save your HPC login setting by creating a new “bookmark” with these settings:

  • Server:
  • Username: Your ALICE username


To transfer files between your desktop and the ALICE file systems you first need to setup your ssh configurations to allow key-based login to the sshgw machine, including the ssh login tunnels as described in Login to cluster. After this you can startup WinSCP and configure a session to ALICE login node 1:


Select the 'New Site' and specify as Host Name: localhost and as Port number: 2222 (which are the settings for the tunnel you have running, since you have started putty with the ALICE_GW config). You can now setup the key-based authentication by clicking the Advanced button. In the new window, select SSH and then Authentication. In the Private key file box, you browse to the private key file you have previously created (see Login to cluster for details). You may choose from the File protocol drop-down menu either SCP or SFTP. It does not matter for the main window of WinSCP which protocol is used.


Once this has been done, save this configuration into a session config by clicking Ok and then clicking Save. Give this configuration a useful name, e.g. ALICE login1, and click Ok.


You can now click the Login button. On first access, you may be presented a confirmation window for key exchange. Click Ok.


Now you will be presented the WinSCP main window. On the left, you have the local file system and on the right, you have the remote file system on ALICE login node 1, your home directory.


Now you can transfer files to and from ALICE.