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Linux Basics: 14 Tar Command Examples in Linux

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I don’t think any Linux admin requires an introduction of Tar command. Anyway, in simple words, Tar (Tape Archive) is a widely used command line tool to create backup archives (collection of files and directories).

By default, a tar archive file contains uncompressed files. Together with gzip and bzip2, you can create a compressed archive.

14 Tar Command Examples

In this guide, we will see the essential tar commands examples which include how to create tar files with (tar, tar.gz, and tar.bz2) compression.

Let us start with simple to advanced tar command examples.

1. Create Tar Archive file

Below command will create a noncompressed .tar archive file called raj_home.tar from files present /home/raj/ directory.

tar -cvf raj_home.tar /home/raj/

Output:

/home/raj/
/home/raj/.bash_logout
/home/raj/.bash_profile
/home/raj/.bashrc
/home/raj/.bash_history
/home/raj/itzgeek_demo.sql
/home/raj/important.sh
/home/raj/myfile
/home/raj/epel-release-latest-6.noarch.rpm

c => Create a new archive file
f =>  File name of the archive file
v => Show progress of command

2. Create tar.gz Archive file

We can create a compressed archive .tar.gz/.tgz in two ways. Below command will create a compressed .tar archive file called raj_home.tar.gz from files present /home/raj/ directory.

Your system needs to have the gzip package installed.

New tar.gz archive file: Both .tar.gz and .tgz are same.

tar -zcvf raj_home.tar.gz /home/raj/

OR

tar -zcvf raj_home.tgz /home/raj/

z => Compress the .tar file with gzip

From an existing tar file: 

gzip raj_home.tar

3. Create tar.bz2 Archive file

The tar command with bzip2 creates a highly compressed archive file. The size of tar.bz2 file will be far less than .tar.gz. We can create a compressed archive tar.bz2/.tbz/.tb2 in two ways.

Below command will create compressed .tar archive file called raj_home.tar.bz2 from files present /home/raj/ directory.

Your system needs to have the bzip2 package installed.

New .tar.bz2 archive file:

tar -jcvf raj_home.tar.bz2 /home/raj/

OR

tar -jcvf raj_home.tbz /home/raj/

OR

tar -jcvf raj_home.tb2 /home/raj/

j => Compress the .tar file with bzip2

From an existing .tar file: 

bzip2 raj_home.tar

4. View tar Archive file

Below command will list the content of .tar archive file raj_home.tar without extracting.

tar -tvf raj_home.tar

5. View tar.gz Archive file

Below command will list the content of tar.gz/.tgz archive file without extracting.

# viw tar.gz file
tar -ztvf raj_home.tar.gz

# view .tgz file
tar -ztvf raj_home.tgz

6. View tar.bz2 Archive file

Below command will list the content of .tar.bz2/.tbz/.tb2 archive file without extracting.

# view tar.bz2 file
tar -jtvf raj_home.tar.bz2

# view tbz file
tar -jtvf raj_home.tbz

# view tb2 file
tar -jtvf raj_home.tb2

7. Extract tar Archive file

Below command will extract .tar archive file raj_home.tar in the current directory.

tar -xvf raj_home.tar

8. Extract tar.gz Archive file

Below command will extract .tar.gz/.tgz in the working directory.

tar -zxvf raj_home.tar.gz

9. Extract tar.bz2 Archive file

Below command will extract .tar.bz2/.tbz/.tb2 file in the current working directory.

tar -jxvf raj_home.tar.bz2

10. Extract particular file or folder from tar/tar.gz/tar.bz2 archive file

Extracting bigger archive files takes a lot of disk space and time-consuming task. You can save both disk space and time by extracting a particular file or folder from the tar file.

Before extracting the file, view the content of the archive file and decide which file you want to extract.

Below command extracts myfile from raj_home.tar{.gz,.bz2}.

You need to mention the whole path of myfile without leading /

Extract particular file or folder from tar:

tar -xvf raj_home.tar home/raj/myfile

Extract particular file or folder from tar.gz:

tar -zxvf raj_home.tar.gz home/raj/myfile

Extract particular file or folder from tar.bz2:

tar -jxvf raj_home.tar.bz2 home/raj/myfile

The extracted file or folder can be found in the current working directory with the same directory structure. ie. <CWD>/home/raj/myfile.

11. Extract multiple files or folders from tar/tar.gz/tar.bz2 archive file

Below command extracts myfile and rajfolder from raj_home.tar{.gz,.bz2}.

You need to mention the whole path of myfile and rajfolder without leading /.

Extract multiple files or folders from tar:

tar -xvf raj_home.tar "home/raj/myfile" "home/raj/rajfolder"

Extract multiple files or folders from tar.gz:

tar -zxvf raj_home.tar.gz "home/raj/myfile" "home/raj/rajfolder"

Extract multiple files or folders from tar.bz2:

tar -jxvf raj_home.tar.bz2 "home/raj/myfile" "home/raj/rajfolder"

Extracted files and folders can be found in the current working directory with the same directory structure. ie. <CWD>/home/raj/.

12. Extract tar/tar.gz/tar.bz2 file to another directory

By default, extracted files and folders are found in the current working directory. You can use below command to extract tar file to your desired directory.

Extract tar file to another directory:

tar -xvf raj_home.tar -C /tmp

Extract tar.gz file to another directory:

tar -zxvf raj_home.tar.gz -C /tmp

Extract tar.bz2 file to another directory:

tar -jxvf raj_home.tar.bz2 -C /tmp

13. Add file or folder to the existing tar archive file

Below command will add a file or folder to the end of an existing tar file.

tar -rvf raj_home.tar /var/log/message

14. Exclude certain files/folders tar archive file

You can use –exclude flag to exclude files and folders from archiving.

Excluding specific files/folders in a tar file:

tar --exclude="/home/raj/rajfolder" -cvf raj_new_home.tar /home/raj

Excluding specific files/folders in a tar.gz file:

tar --exclude="/home/raj/rajfolder" -zcvf raj_new_home.tar.gz /home/raj

Excluding specific files/folders in a tar.bz2 file:

tar --exclude="/home/raj/rajfolder" -jcvf raj_new_home.tar.bz2 /home/raj

That’s All. You can also use man tar command or see the online manual to get more information about tar.

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Linux Basics: 14 Tar Command Examples in Linux

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