18 Tar Command Examples in Linux

The Linux “tar” stands for tape archive, which is used by a large number of Linux/Unix system administrators to deal with tape drives backup.

The tar command is used to rip a collection of files and directories into a highly compressed archive file commonly called tarball or tar, gzip and bzip in Linux.

The tar is the most widely used command to create compressed archive files and that can be moved easily from one disk to another disk or machine to machine.

Linux Tar Command Examples
Linux Tar Command Examples

In this article, we will be going to review and discuss various tar command examples including how to create archive files using (tar, tar.gz, and tar.bz2) compression, how to extract archive file, extract a single file, view content of the file, verify a file, add files or directories to the existing archive file, estimate the size of tar archive file, etc.

[ You might also like: 7-Zip – Compress and Uncompress Files with High Compression Ratio ]

The main purpose of this guide is to provide various tar command examples that might be helpful for you to understand and become an expert in tar archive manipulation.

1. Create tar Archive File in Linux

The below example command will create a tar archive file tecmint-14-09-12.tar for a directory /home/tecmint in the current working directory. See the example command in action.

# tar -cvf tecmint-14-09-12.tar /home/tecmint/

/home/tecmint/
/home/tecmint/cleanfiles.sh
/home/tecmint/openvpn-2.1.4.tar.gz
/home/tecmint/tecmint-14-09-12.tar
/home/tecmint/phpmyadmin-2.11.11.3-1.el5.rf.noarch.rpm
/home/tecmint/rpmforge-release-0.5.2-2.el5.rf.i386.rpm

Let’s discuss each option used in the above command to create a tar archive file.

  1. c – Creates a new .tar archive file.
  2. v – Verbosely show the .tar file progress.
  3. f – File name type of the archive file.

2. Create tar.gz Archive File in Linux

To create a compressed gzip archive file we use the option as z. For example, the below command will create a compressed MyImages-14-09-12.tar.gz file for the directory /home/MyImages. (Note: tar.gz and tgz both are similar).

# tar cvzf MyImages-14-09-12.tar.gz /home/MyImages
OR
# tar cvzf MyImages-14-09-12.tgz /home/MyImages

/home/MyImages/
/home/MyImages/Sara-Khan-and-model-Priyanka-Shah.jpg
/home/MyImages/RobertKristenviolent101201.jpg
/home/MyImages/Justintimerlake101125.jpg
/home/MyImages/Mileyphoto101203.jpg
/home/MyImages/JenniferRobert101130.jpg
/home/MyImages/katrinabarbiedoll231110.jpg
/home/MyImages/the-japanese-wife-press-conference.jpg
/home/MyImages/ReesewitherspoonCIA101202.jpg
/home/MyImages/yanaguptabaresf231110.jpg

3. Create tar.bz2 Archive File in Linux

The bz2 feature compresses and creates an archive file less than the size of the gzip. The bz2 compression takes more time to compress and decompress files than gzip, which takes less time.

To create a highly compressed tar file we use the option j. The following example command will create a Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 file for a directory /home/php. (Note: tar.bz2 and tbz is similar to tb2).

# tar cvfj Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 /home/php
OR
# tar cvfj Phpfiles-org.tar.tbz /home/php
OR 
# tar cvfj Phpfiles-org.tar.tb2 /home/php

/home/php/
/home/php/iframe_ew.php
/home/php/videos_all.php
/home/php/rss.php
/home/php/index.php
/home/php/vendor.php
/home/php/video_title.php
/home/php/report.php
/home/php/object.html
/home/php/video.php

4. Untar tar Archive File in Linux

To untar or extract a tar file, just issue the following command using option x (extract). For example, the below command will untar the file public_html-14-09-12.tar in the present working directory.

If you want to untar in a different directory then use option as -C (specified directory).

## Untar files in Current Directory ##
# tar -xvf public_html-14-09-12.tar

## Untar files in specified Directory ##
# tar -xvf public_html-14-09-12.tar -C /home/public_html/videos/

/home/public_html/videos/
/home/public_html/videos/views.php
/home/public_html/videos/index.php
/home/public_html/videos/logout.php
/home/public_html/videos/all_categories.php
/home/public_html/videos/feeds.xml

5. Uncompress tar.gz Archive File in Linux

To Uncompress tar.gz archive file, just run the following command. If we would like to untar in different directories, just use option -C and the directory path, as shown in the above example.

# tar -xvf thumbnails-14-09-12.tar.gz

/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/katdeepika231110.jpg
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/katrinabarbiedoll231110.jpg
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/onceuponatime101125.jpg
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/playbutton.png
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/ReesewitherspoonCIA101202.jpg
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/snagItNarration.jpg
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/Minissha-Lamba.jpg
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/Lindsaydance101201.jpg
/home/public_html/videos/thumbnails/Mileyphoto101203.jpg

6. Uncompress tar.bz2 Archive File in Linux

To Uncompress the highly compressed tar.bz2 file, just use the following command. The below example command will untar all the .flv files from the archive file.

# tar -xvf videos-14-09-12.tar.bz2

/home/public_html/videos/flv/katrinabarbiedoll231110.flv
/home/public_html/videos/flv/BrookmuellerCIA101125.flv
/home/public_html/videos/flv/dollybackinbb4101125.flv
/home/public_html/videos/flv/JenniferRobert101130.flv
/home/public_html/videos/flv/JustinAwardmovie101125.flv
/home/public_html/videos/flv/Lakme-Fashion-Week.flv
/home/public_html/videos/flv/Mileyphoto101203.flv
/home/public_html/videos/flv/Minissha-Lamba.flv

7. List Content of tar Archive File in Linux

To list the contents of the tar archive file, just run the following command with option t (list content). The below command will list the content of the uploadprogress.tar file.

# tar -tvf uploadprogress.tar

-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff   2276 2011-08-15 18:51:10 package2.xml
-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff   7877 2011-08-15 18:51:10 uploadprogress/examples/index.php
-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff   1685 2011-08-15 18:51:10 uploadprogress/examples/server.php
-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff   1697 2011-08-15 18:51:10 uploadprogress/examples/info.php
-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff    367 2011-08-15 18:51:10 uploadprogress/config.m4
-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff    303 2011-08-15 18:51:10 uploadprogress/config.w32
-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff   3563 2011-08-15 18:51:10 uploadprogress/php_uploadprogress.h
-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff  15433 2011-08-15 18:51:10 uploadprogress/uploadprogress.c
-rw-r--r-- chregu/staff   1433 2011-08-15 18:51:10 package.xml

8. List Content tar.gz Archive File in Linux

Use the following command to list the content of the tar.gz file.

# tar -tvf staging.tecmint.com.tar.gz

-rw-r--r-- root/root         0 2012-08-30 04:03:57 staging.tecmint.com-access_log
-rw-r--r-- root/root       587 2012-08-29 18:35:12 staging.tecmint.com-access_log.1
-rw-r--r-- root/root       156 2012-01-21 07:17:56 staging.tecmint.com-access_log.2
-rw-r--r-- root/root       156 2011-12-21 11:30:56 staging.tecmint.com-access_log.3
-rw-r--r-- root/root       156 2011-11-20 17:28:24 staging.tecmint.com-access_log.4
-rw-r--r-- root/root         0 2012-08-30 04:03:57 staging.tecmint.com-error_log
-rw-r--r-- root/root      3981 2012-08-29 18:35:12 staging.tecmint.com-error_log.1
-rw-r--r-- root/root       211 2012-01-21 07:17:56 staging.tecmint.com-error_log.2
-rw-r--r-- root/root       211 2011-12-21 11:30:56 staging.tecmint.com-error_log.3
-rw-r--r-- root/root       211 2011-11-20 17:28:24 staging.tecmint.com-error_log.4

9. List Content tar.bz2 Archive File in Linux

To list the content of the tar.bz2 file, issue the following command.

# tar -tvf Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2

drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/
-rw-r--r-- root/root      1751 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/iframe_ew.php
-rw-r--r-- root/root     11220 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/videos_all.php
-rw-r--r-- root/root      2152 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/rss.php
-rw-r--r-- root/root      3021 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/index.php
-rw-r--r-- root/root      2554 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/vendor.php
-rw-r--r-- root/root       406 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/video_title.php
-rw-r--r-- root/root      4116 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/report.php
-rw-r--r-- root/root      1273 2012-09-15 03:06:08 /home/php/object.html

10. Untar Single file from tar File in Linux

To extract a single file called cleanfiles.sh from cleanfiles.sh.tar use the following command.

# tar -xvf cleanfiles.sh.tar cleanfiles.sh
OR
# tar --extract --file=cleanfiles.sh.tar cleanfiles.sh

cleanfiles.sh

11. Untar Single file from tar.gz File in Linux

To extract a single file tecmintbackup.xml from the tecmintbackup.tar.gz archive file, use the command as follows.

# tar -zxvf tecmintbackup.tar.gz tecmintbackup.xml
OR
# tar --extract --file=tecmintbackup.tar.gz tecmintbackup.xml

tecmintbackup.xml

12. Untar Single file from tar.bz2 File in Linux

To extract a single file called index.php from the file Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 use the following option.

# tar -jxvf Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 home/php/index.php
OR
# tar --extract --file=Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 /home/php/index.php

/home/php/index.php

13. Untar Multiple files from tar, tar.gz, and tar.bz2 File

To extract or untar multiple files from the tar, tar.gz, and tar.bz2 archive file. For example, the below command will extract “file 1” “file 2” from the archive files.

# tar -xvf tecmint-14-09-12.tar "file1" "file2" 

# tar -zxvf MyImages-14-09-12.tar.gz "file1" "file2" 

# tar -jxvf Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 "file1" "file2"

14. Extract Group of Files using Wildcard in Linux

To extract a group of files we use wildcard-based extracting. For example, to extract a group of all files whose pattern begins with .php from a tar, tar.gz, and tar.bz2 archive file.

# tar -xvf Phpfiles-org.tar --wildcards '*.php'

# tar -zxvf Phpfiles-org.tar.gz --wildcards '*.php'

# tar -jxvf Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 --wildcards '*.php'

/home/php/iframe_ew.php
/home/php/videos_all.php
/home/php/rss.php
/home/php/index.php
/home/php/vendor.php
/home/php/video_title.php
/home/php/report.php
/home/php/video.php

15. Add Files or Directories to tar Archive File in Linux

To add files or directories to the existing tar archive files we use the option r (append). For example, we add file xyz.txt and directory php to the existing tecmint-14-09-12.tar archive file.

# tar -rvf tecmint-14-09-12.tar xyz.txt

# tar -rvf tecmint-14-09-12.tar php

drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2012-09-15 02:24:21 home/tecmint/
-rw-r--r-- root/root  15740615 2012-09-15 02:23:42 home/tecmint/cleanfiles.sh
-rw-r--r-- root/root    863726 2012-09-15 02:23:41 home/tecmint/openvpn-2.1.4.tar.gz
-rw-r--r-- root/root  21063680 2012-09-15 02:24:21 home/tecmint/tecmint-14-09-12.tar
-rw-r--r-- root/root   4437600 2012-09-15 02:23:41 home/tecmint/phpmyadmin-2.11.11.3-1.el5.rf.noarch.rpm
-rw-r--r-- root/root     12680 2012-09-15 02:23:41 home/tecmint/rpmforge-release-0.5.2-2.el5.rf.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- root/root 0 2012-08-18 19:11:04 xyz.txt
drwxr-xr-x root/root 0 2012-09-15 03:06:08 php/ 
-rw-r--r-- root/root 1751 2012-09-15 03:06:08 php/iframe_ew.php 
-rw-r--r-- root/root 11220 2012-09-15 03:06:08 php/videos_all.php 
-rw-r--r-- root/root 2152 2012-09-15 03:06:08 php/rss.php 
-rw-r--r-- root/root 3021 2012-09-15 03:06:08 php/index.php 
-rw-r--r-- root/root 2554 2012-09-15 03:06:08 php/vendor.php 
-rw-r--r-- root/root 406 2012-09-15 03:06:08 php/video_title.php

16. Add Files or Directories to tar.gz and tar.bz2 Files

The tar command doesn’t have an option to add files or directories to an existing compressed tar.gz and tar.bz2 archive file. If we do try will get the following error.

# tar -rvf MyImages-14-09-12.tar.gz xyz.txt

# tar -rvf Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 xyz.txt

tar: This does not look like a tar archive
tar: Skipping to next header
xyz.txt
tar: Error exit delayed from previous errors

17. How To Verify tar, tar.gz, and tar.bz2 Archive File

To verify any tar or compressed archived file we use the option W (verify). To do this, just use the following examples of commands. (Note: You cannot do verification on a compressed ( *.tar.gz, *.tar.bz2 ) archive file).

# tar tvfW tecmint-14-09-12.tar

tar: This does not look like a tar archive
tar: Skipping to next header
tar: Archive contains obsolescent base-64 headers
tar: VERIFY FAILURE: 30740 invalid headers detected
Verify -rw-r--r-- root/root    863726 2012-09-15 02:23:41 /home/tecmint/openvpn-2.1.4.tar.gz
Verify -rw-r--r-- root/root  21063680 2012-09-15 02:24:21 /home/tecmint/tecmint-14-09-12.tar
tar: /home/tecmint/tecmint-14-09-12.tar: Warning: Cannot stat: No such file or directory
Verify -rw-r--r-- root/root   4437600 2012-09-15 02:23:41 home/tecmint/phpmyadmin-2.11.11.3-1.el5.rf.noarch.rpm
tar: /home/tecmint/phpmyadmin-2.11.11.3-1.el5.rf.noarch.rpm: Warning: Cannot stat: No such file or directory
Verify -rw-r--r-- root/root     12680 2012-09-15 02:23:41 home/tecmint/rpmforge-release-0.5.2-2.el5.rf.i386.rpm
tar: /home/tecmint/rpmforge-release-0.5.2-2.el5.rf.i386.rpm: Warning: Cannot stat: No such file or directory
Verify -rw-r--r-- root/root         0 2012-08-18 19:11:04 xyz.txt
Verify drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2012-09-15 03:06:08 php/

18. Check the Size of the tar, tar.gz, and tar.bz2 Archive File

To check the size of any tar, tar.gz, and tar.bz2 archive file, use the following command. For example, the below command will display the size of the archive file in Kilobytes (KB).

# tar -czf - tecmint-14-09-12.tar | wc -c
12820480

# tar -czf - MyImages-14-09-12.tar.gz | wc -c
112640

# tar -czf - Phpfiles-org.tar.bz2 | wc -c
20480

Tar Usage and Options

  • c – create an archive file.
  • x – extract an archive file.
  • v – show the progress of the archive file.
  • f – filename of the archive file.
  • t – viewing the content of the archive file.
  • j – filter archive through bzip2.
  • z – filter archive through gzip.
  • r – append or update files or directories to the existing archive files.
  • W – Verify an archive file.
  • wildcards – Specify patterns in UNIX tar command.

That’s it for now, hope the above tar command examples are enough for you to learn, and for more information please use the man tar command.

If you are looking to split any large tar archive file into multiple parts or blocks, just go through this article:

If we’ve missed any examples please do share with us via the comment box and please don’t forget to share this article with your friends. This is the best way to say thanks…..

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95 thoughts on “18 Tar Command Examples in Linux”

  1. I wonder why you are calling Linux “tar“, tar is not part of Linux (Linux is a kernel) else it is part of the GNU project then you should call it: GNU tar otherwise you are confusing people.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the tutorial.

      We run Linux, the Puppy UpupBB +23 distribution. Our BackUp Routine in BASH script runs very well, but we want more “Progress” info for the user.

      We call “tar” from “BASH” this way :

      TAROPT="-c -z --checkpoint=1000" 
      tar ${TAROPT} -f ${lcPupSaveNameTrg} ${lcPupSaveNameSrc}
      

      We want to direct the progress “checkpoint” info into a text file, which can be displayed during the “tar” run.

      Any ideas? Any other approaches?

      Reply
  2. The wildcard is not working for me, it given an error called unmatched even when content is available in tar.

    e.g. content in work.tar.gz
             task/log/sum.log
    
    tar -zxvf  work.tar.gz --wildcards '*.log' , returns nothing but an error i.e. "UNMATCHED ."
    
    Reply
  3. There are a few errors in the article, such as “begin with .php” instead of “ended with .php” also several truncated commands and mixed-mashed command and switches which might mess up on some distribution. for example the .flv extract is nowhere specified on command line, you might mean “video directory” not *.flv. i counted several other errors, this article seriously needed polish. (I’ve posted this comment erroneously on the split article, sorry)

    Reply

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