File Compression using 'tar' command

tar command-line options

Common Options

  • -c –create Create a new archive.
  • -x –extract Extract files from an archive.
  • -t –list List the contents of an archive.
  • -f –file= ARCHIVE Use archive file or dir ARCHIVE.
  • -v –verbose Verbosely list files processed.

Compression Options

  • -a –auto-compress Use archive suffix to determine the compression program.
  • -j –bzip2 Filter the archive through bzip2.
  • -J –xz –lzma Filter the archive through xz.
  • -z –gzip Filter the archive through gzip.

Compress a folder

This creates a simple archive of a folder:

tar -cf. /my-archive.tar. /my-folder/

Verbose output shows which files and directories are added to the archive, use the -v option:

tar -cvf. /my-archive.tar. /my-folder/

For archiving a folder compressed ‘gzip’, you have to use the -z option :

tar -czf. /my-archive.tar.gz. /my-folder/

You can instead compress the archive with ‘bzip2’, by using the -j option:

tar -cjf. /my-archive.tar.bz2. /my-folder/

Or compress with ‘xz’, by using the -J option:

tar -cJf. /my-archive.tar.xz. /my-folder/

Extract a folder from an archive

There is an example for extract a folder from an archive in the current location :

tar -xf archive-name.tar

If you want to extract a folder from an archive to a specific destination :

tar -xf archive-name.tar -C ./directory/destination

List contents of an archive

List the contents of an archive file without extracting it:

tar -tf archive.tar.gz

List archive content

There is an example of listing content :

tar -tvf archive.tar

The option -t is used for the listing. For listing the content of a tar.gz archive, you have to use the -z option anymore:

tar -tzvf archive.tar.gz

Compress and exclude one or multiple folder

If you want to extract a folder, but you want to exclude one or several folders during the extraction, you can use the --exclude option.

tar -cf archive.tar. /my-folder/ --exclude="my-folder/sub1" --exclude="my-folder/sub3"

With this folder tree:


The result will be :


Strip leading components

To strip any number of leading components, use the –strip-components option:

    strip NUMBER leading components from file names on extraction

For example to strip the leading folder, use:

tar -xf --strip-components= 1 archive-name.tar

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