Linux Tar Command

If you’ve ever wondered how to compress, extract, or simply navigate the complex world of file archiving in Linux, you’re in the right place. The ‘tar’ command is your trusty companion in this endeavor, and this guide will break down its essential commands and options. Let’s dive in!

Understanding Tar Basics

Creating an Archive

To bundle files into a neat package, use the following command:

tar cf archive.tar files

Here, ‘archive.tar’ is the name you give to your compressed file, and ‘files’ represents the content you want to include. This command is like wrapping your files in a digital gift box.

Extracting an Archive

When it’s time to unwrap your digital gift, use:

tar xf archive.tar

This command untangles the archive into your current directory, revealing the original files.

Displaying Archive Contents

Curious about what’s inside the box before opening it? Use:

tar tf archive.tar

This command provides a sneak peek into the contents of your archive.

Mastering Tar Options

-c: Create Archive

This option signifies that you’re in creation mode. For instance:

tar -cf archive.tar files

The ‘-c’ flag tells ‘tar’ to create a new archive, and ‘files’ are the items you’re adding to it.

-t: Table of Contents

Need a quick summary of what’s inside the archive? Use:

tar -tf archive.tar

The ‘-t’ option generates a table of contents, revealing the files within the archive.

-x: Extract

When it’s time to unpack your archive, deploy:

tar -xf archive.tar

The ‘-x’ flag signals the extraction process.

-z: Use Zip/Gzip

To compress your archive using gzip, add the ‘-z’ option:

tar -czf archive.tar.gz files

This command creates a gzip-compressed archive named ‘archive.tar.gz’.

-f: Specify Filename

When naming your archive, use the ‘-f’ option:

tar -cf backup.tar documents

Here, ‘backup.tar’ is the designated name for your archive, and ‘documents’ are the files being archived.

-j: Bzip2 Compression

For an alternative compression method using bzip2, include the ‘-j’ option:

tar -cjf backup.tar.bz2 documents

This creates a bzip2-compressed archive named ‘backup.tar.bz2’.

-w: Ask for Confirmation

To prompt for confirmation before overwriting an existing archive, add ‘-w’:

tar -cwv --remove-files -f backup.tar.gz documents

Here, the ‘-w’ option ensures you confirm the operation.

-k: Do Not Overwrite

Prevent accidental overwrites with the ‘-k’ option:

tar -ukf archive.tar new_files

If ‘archive.tar’ exists, this command won’t overwrite it.

-T: Files from File

Specify a list of files to include in the archive using ‘-T’:

tar -cf backup.tar -T file_list.txt

Here, ‘file_list.txt’ contains the names of files you want in your archive.

-v: Verbose

For a more detailed output during archive creation or extraction, use ‘-v’:

tar -cvf archive.tar files

The ‘-v’ option stands for verbose and provides a step-by-step rundown of the process.


Congratulations! You’ve just unlocked the power of the ‘tar’ command in Linux. Whether you’re compressing, extracting, or just exploring the contents of an archive, these commands and options will be your guiding stars. Experiment with them in your Linux terminal, and soon you’ll be a maestro of file archiving. Happy command-line adventures!