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tar - The GNU version of the tar archiving utility


tar <operation> [options]

[-]A --catenate --concatenate
[-]c --create
[-]d --diff --compare
[-]r --append
[-]t --list
[-]u --update
[-]x --extract --get

Common Options:
-C, --directory DIR
-f, --file F
-j, --bzip2
-p, --preserve-permissions
-v, --verbose
-z, --gzip

All Options:
[ --atime-preserve ] [ -b, --blocking-factor N ] [ -B, --read-fullrecords ] [ --backup BACKUP-TYPE ] [ --block-compress ] [ -C, --directory DIR ] [ --check-links ] [ --checkpoint ] [ -f, --file [HOSTNAME:]F

] [ -F, --info-script F --new-volume-script F ] [ --force-local
] [ --format FORMAT ] [ -g, --listed-incremental F ] [ -G, --incremental ] [ --group GROUP ] [ -h, --dereference ] [ --help ] [ -i, --ignore-zeros ] [ --ignore-case ] [ --ignore-failed-read ] [ --index-file FILE ] [ -j, --bzip2 ] [ -k, --keep-old-files ] [ -K, --starting-file F ] [ --keep-newer-files ] [ -l, --one-file-system ] [ -L, --tape-length N ] [ -m, --touch, --modification-time ] [ -M, --multi-volume ] [ --mode PERMISSIONS ] [ -N, --after-date DATE, --newer DATE ] [ --newer-mtime DATE ] [ --no-anchored ] [ --no-ignore-case ] [ --no-recursion ] [ --no-same-permissions ] [ --no-wildcards ] [ --no-wildcards-match-slash
] [ --null
] [ --numeric-owner ] [ -o, --old-archive, --portability, --no-same-owner ] [ -O, --to-stdout ] [ --occurrence NUM ] [ --overwrite ] [ --overwrite-dir ] [ --owner USER ] [ -p, --same-permissions, --preserve-permissions ] [ -P, --absolute-names ] [ --pax-option KEYWORD-LIST ] [ --posix ] [ --preserve ] [ -R, --block-number ] [ --record-size SIZE ] [ --recursion ] [ --recursive-unlink ] [ --removefiles ] [ --rmt-command CMD ] [ --rsh-command CMD ] [ -s, --same-order, --preserve-order ] [ -S, --sparse ] [ --same-owner ] [ --show-defaults ] [ --show-omitted-dirs ] [ --strip-components NUMBER, --strip-path NUMBER (1) ] [ --suffix SUFFIX ] [ -T, --files-from F ] [ --totals ] [ -U, --unlink-first ] [ --use-compress-program PROG ] [ --utc ] [ -v, --verbose ] [ -V, --label NAME ] [ --version ] [ --volno-file F ] [ -w, --interactive, --confirmation ] [ -W, --verify ] [ --wildcards ] [ --wildcards-match-slash ] [ --exclude PATTERN ] [ -X, --exclude-from FILE ] [ -Z, --compress, --uncompress ] [ -z, --gzip, --gunzip, --ungzip ] [ -[0-7][lmh] ]

(1) tar-1.14 uses --strip-path, tar-1.14.90+ uses --strip-components


This manual page documents the GNU version of tar, an archiving program designed to store and extract files from an archive file known as a tarfile. A tarfile may be made on a tape drive, however, it is also common to write a tarfile to a normal file. The first argument to tar must be one of the options Acdrtux, followed by any optional functions. The final arguments to tar are the names of the files or directories which should be archived. The use of a directory name always implies that the subdirectories below should be included in the archive.


tar -xvf foo.tar
verbosely extract foo.tar

tar -xzf foo.tar.gz
extract gzipped foo.tar.gz

tar -cjf foo.tar.bz2 bar/
create bzipped tar archive of the directory bar called foo.tar.bz2

tar -xjf foo.tar.bz2 -C bar/
extract bzipped foo.tar.bz2 after changing directory to bar

tar -xzf foo.tar.gz blah.txt
extract the file blah.txt from foo.tar.bz2

Function Letters

One of the following options must be used:

-A, --catenate, --concatenate
append tar files to an archive

-c, --create
create a new archive

-d, --diff, --compare
find differences between archive and file system

-r, --append
append files to the end of an archive

-t, --list
list the contents of an archive

-u, --update
only append files that are newer than the existing in archive

-x, --extract, --get
extract files from an archive

delete from the archive (not for use on mag tapes!)

Common Options

-C, --directory DIR
change to directory DIR

-f, --file [HOSTNAME:]F
use archive file or device F (default “-", meaning stdin/stdout)

-j, --bzip2
filter archive through bzip2, use to decompress .bz2 files

-p, --preserve-permissions
extract all protection information

-v, --verbose
verbosely list files processed

-z, --gzip, --ungzip
filter the archive through gzip

All Options

don’t change access times on dumped files

-b, --blocking-factor N
block size of Nx512 bytes (default N=20)

-B, --read-full-blocks
reblock as we read (for reading 4.2BSD pipes)

--backup BACKUP-TYPE
backup files instead of deleting them using BACKUP-TYPE simple or numbered

block the output of compression program for tapes

-C, --directory DIR
change to directory DIR

warn if number of hard links to the file on the filesystem mismatch the number of links recorded in the archive

print directory names while reading the archive

-f, --file [HOSTNAME:]F
use archive file or device F (default “-", meaning stdin/stdout)

-F, --info-script F --new-volume-script F
run script at end of each tape (implies --multi-volume)

archive file is local even if has a colon

--format FORMAT
selects output archive format v7 - Unix V7 oldgnu - GNU tar <=1.12 gnu - GNU tar 1.13 ustar - POSIX.1-1988 posix - POSIX.1-2001

-g, --listed-incremental F
create/list/extract new GNU-format incremental backup

-G, --incremental
create/list/extract old GNU-format incremental backup

-h, --dereference
don’t dump symlinks; dump the files they point to

--help like this manpage, but not as cool

-i, --ignore-zeros
ignore blocks of zeros in archive (normally mean EOF)

ignore case when excluding files

don’t exit with non-zero status on unreadable files

--index-file FILE
send verbose output to FILE instead of stdout

-j, --bzip2
filter archive through bzip2, use to decompress .bz2 files

-k, --keep-old-files
keep existing files; don’t overwrite them from archive

-K, --starting-file F
begin at file F in the archive

do not overwrite files which are newer than the archive

-l, --one-file-system
stay in local file system when creating an archive

-L, --tape-length N
change tapes after writing N*1024 bytes

-m, --touch, --modification-time
don’t extract file modified time

-M, --multi-volume
create/list/extract multi-volume archive

apply PERMISSIONS while adding files (see chmod(1) )

-N, --after-date DATE, --newer DATE
only store files newer than DATE

--newer-mtime DATE
like --newer, but with a DATE

match any subsequenceof the name’s components with --exclude

use case-sensitive matching with --exclude

don’t recurse into directories

apply user’s umask when extracting files instead of recorded permissions

don’t use wildcards with --exclude

wildcards do not match slashes (/) with --exclude

--null --files-from reads null-terminated names, disable --directory

always use numbers for user/group names

-o, --old-archive, --portability
like --format=v7; -o exhibits this behavior when creating an archive (deprecated behavior)

-o, --no-same-owner
do not attempt to restore ownership when extracting; -o exhibits this behavior when extracting an archive

-O, --to-stdout
extract files to standard output

--occurrence NUM
process only NUM occurrences of each named file; used with --delete, --diff, --extract, or --list

overwrite existing files and directory metadata when extracting

overwrite directory metadata when extracting

--owner USER
change owner of extraced files to USER

-p, --same-permissions, --preserve-permissions
extract all protection information

-P, --absolute-names
don’t strip leading ‘/’s from file names

--pax-option KEYWORD-LIST
used only with POSIX.1-2001 archives to modify the way tar handles extended header keywords

like --format=posix

like --preserve-permissions --same-order

-R, --record-number
show record number within archive with each message

--record-size SIZE
use SIZE bytes per record when accessing archives

recurse into directories

remove existing directories before extracting directories of the same name

remove files after adding them to the archive

--rmt-command CMD
use CMD instead of the default /usr/sbin/rmt

--rsh-command CMD
use remote CMD instead of rsh(1)

-s, --same-order, --preserve-order
list of names to extract is sorted to match archive

-S, --sparse
handle sparse files efficiently

create extracted files with the same ownership

display the default options used by tar

print directories tar skips while operating on an archive

--strip-components NUMBER, --strip-path NUMBER
strip NUMBER of leading components from file names before extraction

(1) tar-1.14 uses --strip-path, tar-1.14.90+ uses --strip-components

--suffix SUFFIX
use SUFFIX instead of default ‘~’ when backing up files

-T, --files-from F
get names to extract or create from file F

print total bytes written with --create

-U, --unlink-first
remove existing files before extracting files of the same name

--use-compress-program PROG
access the archive through PROG which is generally a compression program

display file modification dates in UTC

-v, --verbose
verbosely list files processed

-V, --label NAME
create archive with volume name NAME

print tar program version number

--volno-file F
keep track of which volume of a multi-volume archive its working in FILE; used with --multi-volume

-w, --interactive, --confirmation
ask for confirmation for every action

-W, --verify
attempt to verify the archive after writing it

use wildcards with --exclude

wildcards match slashes (/) with --exclude

--exclude PATTERN
exclude files based upon PATTERN

-X, --exclude-from FILE
exclude files listed in FILE

-Z, --compress, --uncompress
filter the archive through compress

-z, --gzip, --gunzip, --ungzip
filter the archive through gzip

--use-compress-program PROG
filter the archive through PROG (which must accept -d)

specify drive and density


The GNU folks, in general, abhor man pages, and create info documents instead. The maintainer of tar falls into this category. Thus this man page may not be complete, nor current, and was included in the Red Hat CVS tree because man is a great tool :). This man page was first taken from Debian Linux and has since been loving updated here.

Reporting Bugs

Please report bugs via

See Also

The full documentation for tar is maintained as a Texinfo manual. If the info and tar programs are properly installed at your site, the command

info tar

should give you access to the complete manual.


Debian Linux
Mike Frysinger <>

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