I'm trying to copy the entire Documents folder from a Mac to an external USB drive using the terminal. I'm using the Terminal because the machine will not load any users (it just shows Other) and the Documents directory is the only thing I need before reinstalling.

I've called the USB drive "USB" and formatted it properly as Mac OS Extended (Journaled)

When I try:

cp -R Documents /usb

It returns the entire list of everything that needs copying with: "No such file or directory" on the end.

For example

usb/Pics: No such file or directory

The first two lines when I run the CP command are

/usb: Read only file system
Unable to copy extended attributes to /usb: Read-only file system

So that's probably the problem, but it lets me create directories on the USB through the terminal, which would suggest it's not read only?

Anyhow, I'm lost, and would appreciate any help.

  • 1
    Welcome to Ask Different :) First, try to find the location where the USB drive is mounted. It should likely be under /Volumes.
    – Nimesh Neema
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 8:45
  • Try running the command cp -R Documents /Volumes/USB where USB is the mounter drive name.
    – Nimesh Neema
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 8:48
  • If you know what your username is, do Command-Shift-G in Finder and type /Users/(yourusername). Maybe the folder is just hidden.
    – SYGMAH
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 21:45

1 Answer 1


Connected external storages are mounted under /Volumes directory under the root directory. Try running the following command:

cp -R Documents /Volumes/USB

where, USB is the name for the mounted external drive.

-R flag would cause the entire Documents directory hierarchy to be copied.

  • 2
    Also worth mentioning that the stick needs to be ejected either via Finder or Terminal afterwards.
    – nohillside
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 9:10

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