How to Tar a Folder in Linux: A Comprehensive Guide

Hello fellow Linux enthusiasts! Today, let’s dive into one of our most reliable and often underappreciated tools in the Linux toolkit: the tar command. Whether you’re a seasoned sysadmin or a Linux hobbyist, understanding how to efficiently use tar for handling folders can be a real game-changer. So, grab your favorite beverage, and let’s get started on this journey together!

What’s tar and Why Should You Care?

tar, short for Tape Archive, is more than just a command; it’s a staple in the Linux world. It allows us to bundle up a bunch of files and directories into one neat package, known as a tarball. Think of it like a digital Swiss Army knife for your files and directories!

The Basics of tar

The general syntax of tar is pretty straightforward:


  • [options] tell tar what you want it to do.
  • [archive-file] is the resulting tarball.
  • [what to tar] are the files or directories you’re wrapping up.

Creating Your First Tarball

Packing Up a Single Folder

Let’s say you have a folder named Photos that you want to archive. Here’s how you do it:

This command breaks down as:

  • -c for create,
  • -v for verbose (so you see what’s happening),
  • -f for file, followed by the name of your tarball.

Wrapping Multiple Folders Together

What if you want to archive both Photos and Documents? Just list them:

Adding Some Squeeze with Compression

To save space, let’s add compression. For gzip compression, just add a z:

And for bzip2 compression, switch that to a j:

Unboxing: Extracting Tarballs

To open up a tarball and get your files back, use:

tar is smart enough to figure out if it’s gzipped or bzip2-compressed.

Some Cool tar Tricks

Peek Inside a Tarball

Curious about what’s inside a tarball without opening it? Use:

Keep Out the Unwanted

To exclude files when creating a tarball, like those pesky temp files, use --exclude:

Incremental Backups for the Win

tar is also great for backups. To make an incremental backup:

This creates a record of what’s backed up, handy for the next backup.

Wrapping Up

And there you have it! tar isn’t just about squashing files into a smaller space. It’s about organizing, securing, and managing our digital lives with ease. Remember, the best way to learn is by doing. So, open up your terminal and start playing around with tar. Who knows what you’ll discover!

Until next time, happy tarring! 🐧💻