Tar files are compressed archives. You’ll encounter them frequently while using a Linux distribution like Ubuntu or even while using the terminal on macOS. Here’s how to extract—or untar—the contents of a tar file, also known as a tarball.
What Does .tar.gz and .tar.bz2 Mean?
Files that have a
.tar.gz or a
.tar.bz2 extension are compressed archive files. A file with just a
.tar extension is uncompressed, but those will be very rare.
.tar portion of the file extension stands for tape archive, and is the reason that both of these file types are called tar files. Tar files date all the way back to 1979 when the
tar command was created to allow system administrators to archive files onto tape. Forty years later we are still using the
tar command to extract tar files on to our hard drives. Someone somewhere is probably still using
tar with tape.
.bz2 extension suffix indicates that the archive has been compressed, using either the
bzip2 compression algorithm. The
tar command will work happily with both types of file, so it doesn’t matter which compression method was used—and it should be available everywhere you have a Bash shell. You just need to use the appropriate
tar command line options.
Extracting Files from Tar Files
Let’s say you’ve downloaded two files of sheet music. One file is called
ukulele_songs.tar.gz , the other is called
guitar_songs.tar.bz2. These files are in the Downloads directory.
Let’s extract the ukulele songs:
tar -xvzf ukulele_songs.tar.gz
As the files are extracted, they are listed in the terminal window.
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Dave McKay