Categories:- Unix Commands

Linux/Unix tar Command with Practical Examples


Tar  is archiving utility in Linux. With tar command we can archive multiple files and directories into a single file, extension of that file is “.tar”. gzip and bzip compression techniques can be used with tar command. 



So in this article we will cover all possible examples of tar.



Synatx :


# tar  [options]  [name of tar file to be created] [list of files & directories to be included]




     -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


     --delete ---> delete from the archive (not on mag tapes!)


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


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


     --test-label ---> test the archive volume label and exit


     -u, --update ---> only append files newer than copy in archive


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



Example:1 Create an Archive File
Syntax : #  tar  cvf  <archive-Name>.tar  /<file-OR-Directories To Be archived>


# tar  cvf    /mnt/backup.tar       /etc /usr  


Above command will archive all the files and directories of /etc and /usr in backup.tar file.


Example:2  Extract the data from the archive file.


# tar  xpvf   backup.tar  -C   /mnt/


Above Command will extract files or directories in /mnt folder.


Example:3  List archive file contents without extracting


# tar   tvf    /mnt/backup.tar


Example:4  Create archive using gzip compression technique.


#  tar  zcpvf    /mnt/backup-$(date +%d-%m-%Y).tar.gz     /etc /usr


#  tar  zcpvf    /mnt/backup-$(date +%d-%m-%Y).tgz     /etc /usr


Above Command will take the backup or archive of  /etc &  /usr folder according the current date  & also compress the tar file using gzip.



Example:5  Create archive using bzip compression technique.


#  tar  jcpvf    /mnt/backup-$(date +%d-%m-%Y).tar.bz2     /etc /usr




#  tar  jcpvf    /mnt/backup-$(date +%d-%m-%Y).tbz    /etc /usr


Above Command will take the backup or archive of  /etc &  /usr folder according the current date  & also compress the tar file using bzip.


Example :6  Extract  data from .tar.gz  or  .tgz  and   .tar.bz2 or  .tbz


#  tar  zxpvf    /mnt/backup-21-03-2013.tgz  -C  /location-where-to-extract


#  tar  jxpvf    /mnt/backup-21-03-2013.tbz  -C  /location-where-to-extract


Example:7  Extract Particular file and directory from the archive (.tar.gz  or  .tgz  and   .tar.bz2 or .tbz)


# tar  jxpvf  backup-21-03-2013.tbz    etc/passwd


Above Command will extract passwd file from the backup tar file in the current directory.


#  tar jxpvf backup-21-03-2013.tbz    etc/apache2


Above command will extract the directory apache2 in the current directory



Example:8  Append  new file or directory to the existing archive file using -r option


We cannot add file or directory to a compressed archive , so first we have to uncompress it , so that it has an extension of “.tar”


#  tar rvf  /mnt/backup-21-03-2013.tar   vmlinuz-3.2.0-38-generic


Above command will  append the vmlinuz file to backup tar file , to append directory to an archive replace the file with directory name  in the above command.


Example:9  Excluding files & Directories while taking backup using tar


There are some scenarios where we have to take the backup of a directory and have to exclude particular  file in that directory.


Example : Take the backup of /etc directory & exclude a subdirectory directory (/etc/sysconfig/network-scripts).


# tar  -zcpvf   etc-$(date +%d-%m-%Y).tgz  --exclude /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/  /etc/


Excluding files and directories using a file , this can be done via (--exclude-from or short form -X ).Create a file exclude.txt under /root folder, should have content:




# tar  -zcpvf   etc-$(date +%d-%m-%Y).tgz  -X  /root/exclude.txt   /etc/


Above command will take the backup of /etc folder excluding subdirectory“/etc/sysconfig/network-scripts”


Example:10 Backup using -T & -X option in tar




-T : get names to extract or create from FILE
-X : exclude patterns listed in FILE

In Some scenario , where we want to specify the files to be backed up and some files to be excluded from the backup.


Create file /root/include.txt ,



Create a file /root/exclude.txt



Now Take the backup using below command


# tar -zcpvf backup-$(date +%d-%m-%Y).tgz -T /root/include.txt -X /root/exclude.txt


Above command will take the backup of all files and directories mentioned in include.txt and will exculde files & directories mentioned in the exclude.txt file.

Sid on, 2013-04-02 03:06:17
Nice doc....Thanks
sushant on, 2013-04-03 12:03:34
good notes..thanx
vimal on, 2013-04-05 14:32:23
very usefull and thks.
sushant on, 2013-04-03 12:02:02
good notes..thanx
tarun kumar on, 2013-04-08 06:11:47
absolutely great information. Thanks
sampath on, 2013-04-30 16:32:02
Its really the good one...
jay on, 2013-08-22 06:47:02
gr8 , Example 9 and Example 10 are kind of new .Good stuff
Magesh M on, 2013-12-05 06:56:52
@ jay, To take automatic backup using tar command use the below link.
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