tar - The GNU version of the tar archiving utility


tar [ - ] A --catenate --concatenate | c --create | d --diff --compare | --delete | r --append | t --list | u --update | x --extract --get [ options ] pathname [ pathname ... ]


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 -xvvf foo.tar
extract foo.tar
tar -xvvzf foo.tar.gz
extract gzipped foo.tar.gz
tar -cvvf foo.tar foo/
tar contents of folder foo in foo.tar


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
delete from the archive (not for use on mag tapes!)
-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 copy in archive
-x, --extract, --get            
extract files from an archive


re-enable handling of GNUTYPE_NAMES which is now disabled by default
force exclusion patterns to match initial subsequences
don't change access times on dumped files
-a, --auto-compress
with --create, selects compression algorithm basing on the suffix of the archive file name
-b, --blocking-factor N
use record size of Nx512 bytes (default N=20)
-B, --read-full-records
reblock as we read (for reading 4.2BSD pipes)
back up files instead of overwriting (TYPE=numbered, existing, simple)
-C, --directory DIR     
change to directory DIR
print periodic checkpoints
this action allows to specify an action to be executed upon hitting a checkpoint. Recognized actions are: dot, echo (the default), echo=string, ttyout=string, exec=cmdline, and sleep=value. Any number of `--checkpoint-action' options can be specified, the actions will be executed in order of their appearance in the command line.
enables comparing device numbers. This is the default.
disables comparing device numbers during preparatory stage of an incremental dump. This allows to avoid creating full dumps if the device numbers change (e.g. when using an LVM snapshot)
exclude files matching PATTERN
-f, --file [HOSTNAME:]F 
use archive file or device F (otherwise value of TAPE environment variable; if unset, "-", meaning stdin/stdout)
-F, --info-script F, --new-volume-script F
run script at end of each tape (implies -M)
archive file is local even if it has a colon
-G, --incremental       
create/list/extract old GNU-format incremental backup
-g, --listed-incremental F
create/list/extract new GNU-format incremental backup
--group G
set group to G while adding files
-h, --dereference       
don't dump symlinks; dump the files they point to
during archive creation, dereferences hard links and stores the files they refer to, instead of creating usual hard link members (type '1')
print help message
-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
-j, --bzip2
filter archive through bzip2, use to decompress .bz2 files. WARNING: some previous versions of tar used option -I to filter through bzip2. When writing scripts, use --bzip2 instead of -j so that both older and newer tar versions will work.
-k, --keep-old-files    
keep existing files; don't overwrite them from archive
-K, --starting-file F   
begin at file F in the archive
selects LZMA compression algorithm
-l, --check-links
print a message if not all links are dumped
-L, --tape-length N     
change tapes after writing N*1024 bytes
-m, --touch
don't extract file modified time
--transform expr
applies filename transformations. The argument to this option can be a list of replace expressions, separated by semicolon (as in `sed'). Filename transformations are applied to symbolic link targets during both creation and extraction. This option may be specified any number of times, the specified transofrmations will be applied in turn.
-M, --multi-volume      
create/list/extract multi-volume archive
--mode M
set permissions to M while adding files
-N, --after-date DATE, --newer DATE
only store files newer than DATE
--newer-mtime DATE
only store files whose contents have changed after DATE
allow exclusion patterns to match any substring (the default)
match patterns case sensitively (the default)
do not recurse into subdirectories
-o, --no-same-owner
extract files with owner set to current user (the default for non-root users)
apply umask to extracted files (the default for non-root users)
do not use wildcards when excluding files
don't let wildcards match "/" when excluding files
for -T, use "NUL" instead of newline as filename terminator
always use numbers for user/group names
--old-archive, --portability    
write a V7 format archive, rather than ANSI format. These options are
deprecated, please use --format=v7 instead.
stay in local file system when creating an archive
--owner O
set owner to O while adding files
-O, --to-stdout         
extract files to standard output
-p, --same-permissions, --preserve-permissions
ignore umask when extracting files (the default for root)
-P, --absolute-names
don't strip leading `/'s from file names
create POSIX compliant archive. This option is deprecated, please use --format=posix instead.
like -p -s
-R, --block-number      
show block number within archive with each message
--record-size SIZE
use SIZE bytes per record
recurse into directories (the default)
remove existing directories before extracting directories of the same name
remove files after adding them to the archive
Use remote COMMAND instead of `rsh'. This option exists so that people who use something other than the standard `rsh' (e.g., a Kerberized `rsh') can access a remote device.
-S, --sparse            
handle sparse files efficiently
-s, --same-order, --preserve-order      
list of names to extract is sorted to match archive
extract files with owner as specified in archive (the default for
mention directories that are being skipped over
--strip-components n
Strip the given number of leading directory components
--strip, --strip-components N
Strips the first N components from archive members' pathnames when unpacking.
--suffix SUFFIX
append SUFFIX to make backup files (default ~)
-T, --files-from F      
get names to extract or archive from file F
display total bytes written after creating an archive
-U, --unlink-first
unlink & recreate files instead of overwriting
--use-compress-program PROG
filter the archive through PROG (which must accept -d)
-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 current volume (of a multi-volume archive) in F
-w, --interactive, --confirmation       
ask for confirmation for every action
-W, --verify            
attempt to verify the archive after writing it
use wildcards when excluding files (the default)
allow wildcards to match "/" (the default)
-X, --exclude-from=FILE 
exclude files matching patterns listed in FILE
-Z, --compress, --uncompress       
filter the archive through compress
-z, --gzip, --gunzip, --ungzip          
filter the archive through gzip
specify drive and density


The behavior of tar is controlled by the following environment variables, among others:
Device or file to use for the archive if --file is not specified. If this environment variable is unset, use stdin or stdout instead.
Options to prepend to those specified on the command line, separated by whitespace. Embedded backslashes may be used to escape whitespace or backslashes within an option.

In addition, the value of the blocking factor is made available to info and checkpoint scripts via environment variable TAR_BLOCKING_FACTOR.


The GNU folks, in general, abhor man pages, and create info documents instead. Unfortunately, the info document describing tar is licensed under the GFDL with invariant cover texts, which violates the Debian Free Software Guidelines. As a result, the info documentation for tar is not included in the Debian package.

If you want to read the complete documentation for GNU tar, please refer to the online version at


This man page was created for the Debian distribution. It does not describe all of the functionality of tar, and it is often out of date. Patches to improve the coverage and/or accuracy of this man page are appreciated, and should be filed as wishlist severity bugs against the Debian tar package, not submitted to the GNU tar maintainers.