Linux Commands Comparison: curl vs wget

Table of Contents

When it comes to downloading files and interacting with remote resources on the command line in Linux, two prominent utilities stand out: curl and wget. These tools serve similar purposes, yet they have distinct features and functionalities that cater to different use cases. In this article, we’ll delve into the differences between curl and wget, exploring their strengths, syntax, and practical applications.

1. Introduction

Both curl and wget are command-line utilities that facilitate fetching data from remote servers or URLs. They offer a variety of options for downloading files, making HTTP requests, and performing other network-related tasks. While their primary purpose is similar, the ways they achieve these goals and the additional features they provide set them apart.

2. Understanding curl

curl, short for “Client for URLs,” is a versatile and powerful command-line tool for transferring data to or from a server using various protocols. It supports a wide range of protocols, including HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, FTPS, SCP, SFTP, and more. curl can handle a myriad of tasks, such as downloading files, sending HTTP requests with custom headers, performing authentication, and even testing APIs.

# Download a file using curl
curl -O

# Send a GET request and display response headers
curl -I

# Perform a POST request with data
curl -X POST -d "param1=value1¶m2=value2"

3. Exploring wget

wget, short for “GNU Wget,” is another widely-used command-line utility specifically designed for retrieving files from the web. It supports HTTP, HTTPS, and FTP protocols and focuses primarily on the task of downloading files. wget is known for its simplicity and ease of use.

# Download a file using wget

# Limit download speed
wget --limit-rate=200k

4. Key Differences

Protocol Support

  • curl supports a broader range of protocols, making it suitable for a wide array of tasks, including more complex interactions like sending requests with custom headers and data.
  • wget focuses primarily on downloading files and supports fewer protocols compared to curl.

Simplicity vs. Flexibility

  • wget is often favored for its simplicity and ease of use, making it a suitable choice for straightforward file downloads.
  • curl provides more flexibility and customization options, making it suitable for complex tasks that involve different protocols and interactions.

5. Use Cases and Examples

Use Case 1: Simple File Download

# Using curl
curl -O

# Using wget

Use Case 2: Downloading with Limited Speed

# Using wget
wget --limit-rate=200k

6. Performance and Features

Both curl and wget have unique performance considerations and additional features:

  • curl excels in tasks requiring complex interactions, such as API testing and sending various types of requests with custom headers.
  • wget is optimized for simple file downloads, offering the ability to resume interrupted downloads and limit download speeds.

7. Downloading Multiple Files

Both curl and wget offer ways to download multiple files simultaneously, which can be useful for batch operations or mirroring websites.

Using curl to Download Multiple Files

# Download multiple files using curl
curl -O -O

Using wget to Download Multiple Files

# Download multiple files using wget

8. Authentication and Cookies

Both utilities support handling authentication and cookies when interacting with websites.

Using curl with Authentication and Cookies

# Authenticate with username and password
curl -u username:password

# Using cookies for authentication
curl -c cookies.txt
curl -b cookies.txt

Using wget with Authentication and Cookies

# Authenticate with username and password
wget --user=username --password=password

# Using cookies for authentication
wget --save-cookies cookies.txt --post-data 'user=username&pass=password'
wget --load-cookies cookies.txt

9. Recursive Download and Mirroring

wget is particularly well-suited for recursively downloading entire directories or mirroring websites.

# Mirror a website using wget
wget --mirror --convert-links --page-requisites --no-parent

10. Summary

In this comparison of curl and wget, we’ve explored their functionalities, syntax, and practical use cases. Both tools excel in specific areas and offer unique features that cater to different scenarios. Whether you need a simple tool for downloading files (wget) or a versatile utility for various network interactions (curl), understanding their strengths and capabilities empowers you to make the right choice for your command-line tasks.

11. External Resources

To further deepen your knowledge of curl and wget, consider these external resources:

By referring to these resources, you can expand your expertise and unlock more advanced features and techniques when using curl and wget on the Linux command line.

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