Compress And Extract File Using Tar Command In Linux

Written By:- Santosh Prasad

Tar command is used to create .tar.gz or .tgt archive files in Linux. It is also called tarballs. There are lots of option with tar command that can be use, but you just need to remember a few of them to quickly create tar file. Tar command is also used to extract the tar file.

In this article I will describe some useful tar command example.

Compress an Entire Directories or Single File

Follow the below command to create a tar archive using directory, adding all files in it and sub directories as well.

# tar -cvf data.tar data

c :- Create a tar file
v :- Verbose mode
z :- Gzipped File
f :- Use the following tar archive for the operation

Above command does not create a compressed archive. It does only make plain archive with multiple files without any compression.

If you want compress, Follow the below command.

# tar -zcvf data.tar data

Extension of the file name does not matter. You can use tar.gz and tgz because both are common extensions which is used for files compression with gzip. “.tar.bz2” and “.tbz” are commonly used extensions for bzip compression files.

Confirmation Before Adding Files Into Archive

You can use “w” option to confirmation before adding every files into archive.

Only those file will be added which are given “yes” answer. Default is “No” if you don’t enter anything.

Add only needed files

# tar -czw -f data.tar.gz /data/*
add ‘./data/abc.txt’?y
add ‘./data/cde.txt’?y
add ‘./data/newfile.txt’?n
add ‘./data/santosh’?y
add ‘./data/dantosh/in.txt’?n

Listing added files

# tar -t -f abc.tar.gz 

Adding Files Into Existing Archives

You can also add file in archives using -r option without having to create new tar file.

# tar -rv -f data.tar newfile.txt

Note:- You can add new file only in plain tar archive, but you can not add any file into compressed archives (gz or bzip).

Adding Files Into Compressed Archives

I have already mentioned you can not add in any new file in compressed archives, but it can be done with some simple trick. First use the gunzip command to un-compress the archive, add new file to archive and compress it again.

# gunzip data.tar.gz
# tar -rf data.tar newfile.txt
# gzip data.tar

Verify Archive Files During Creation

You can verify the files while creation using “W” option.

# tar -cvW -f data.tar data
Verify ./data/
Verify ./data/cde.txt
Verify ./data/santosh/
Verify ./data/santosh/in.txt
Verify ./data/newfile.txt                                                                                                                              
Verify ./data/abc.txt

Note:- Verification can not be done on compressed archives. It works only with uncompressed tar archives.

Extract a .tar.gz Archive

Follow the below command to extract tar files.

# tar -xvzf data.tar.gz

x :- Extract files
v :- Verbose mode
z :- Gzipped File
f :- Use the following tar archive for the operation

Extract .tar.bz2 Files

bzip algorithm is used to make bz2 compression files and tar command can deal with them as well. You can use” j “option to extract bz2 archives.

# tar -xvjf data.tar.bz2

Extract .tar.gz File On Specific Location

You can use -C option to extract file .tar file on specific location.

# mkdir /opt/directory
# tar -xvzf data.tar.gz -C /opt/directory/

Extract single file from .tar.gz file

Follow the below command to extract single file from tarballs.

# tar -xz -f data.tar.gz "/data/abc.txt"

For multiple files

# tar -xv -f data.tar.gz "/data/cde.txt" "/data/abc.txt"

Extract Multiple Files With Wildcards

You can use the wildcards to extract bunch of files matching the given wildcards.


# tar -xv -f data.tar.gz --wildcards "*.txt"

Listing The Contents Of The tar File

You can list out the content of the tar file without extracting them, use -t option.

# tar -tz -f data.tar.gz


For additional details use “v” option.

# tar -tvz -f data.tar.gz | grep abc.txt
-rw-rw-r-- opt/backup 0 2017-04-98 11:40 ./data/abc.txt

I hope this article will help you to compress and extract files in Linux. If you have more option to tar and untar file please share with us using comment section.


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Santosh Prasad

Hi! I'm Santosh and I'm here to post some cool article for you. If you have any query and suggestion please comment in comment section.

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