How to Tar a Directory Without Including the Directory Itself

Hi folks! Today, let’s unravel a neat tar trick that’s often asked about: how do you tar files and folders inside a directory without including the parent directory in the tarball? This is especially useful when you want just the contents, not the folder structure.

The Classic Tar Puzzle

Imagine you have a directory Data filled with files and other folders. You want to create a Data.tar archive of everything inside Data but without the Data directory itself being part of the archive. Sounds tricky, right? Not really!

Dive into the Command Line

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Navigate to the Parent Directory: First, you need to be in the directory that contains Data.
   cd /path/to/parent
  1. Use Tar with Wildcards: The trick is to use wildcards. Instead of telling tar to archive Data, you tell it to archive everything inside Data.
   tar -cvf Data.tar -C Data .

Here, -C Data changes the directory to Data first and . means everything inside it.

Why This Matters

This method is handy for various reasons:

  • Selective Archiving: You get the contents without the extra folder layer, perfect for specific backup or deployment scenarios.
  • Flexibility: It allows for more control over the structure of your archived data.
  • Clean and Tidy: Ideal when you want to unpack files without creating an additional directory.

Now Let’s explore some of the other scenarios.

Scenario 1: Tar Specific File Types

Suppose you want to tar only certain types of files within the directory. You can combine find command with tar:

cd /path/to/parent
tar -cvf Data.tar -C Data $(find . -name "*.txt" -type f)

This command archives only .txt files from the Data directory.

Scenario 2: Excluding Certain Files

If you want to exclude specific files or patterns:

cd /path/to/parent
tar --exclude='*.log' -cvf Data.tar -C Data .

This excludes all .log files from the archive.

Scenario 3: Tar and Compress on the Fly

For compressing the tarball immediately:

cd /path/to/parent
tar -czvf Data.tar.gz -C Data .

This creates a gzipped tarball of the contents of Data.

Scenario 4: Incremental Backup

If you’re doing incremental backups of the content:

cd /path/to/parent
tar --listed-incremental=/path/to/snapshot.file -cvf Data.tar -C Data .

This creates a tarball while recording changes from the last backup.

Wrapping Up

These scenarios illustrate the versatility of tar. Whether you’re managing backups, deploying software, or just organizing files, tar offers a solution tailored to your needs. Always remember to navigate to the correct directory and use wildcards or specific commands to control what gets included in your tarball.

Explore, experiment, and master these tricks to make your Linux journey more efficient and enjoyable!