Understanding Tar Usage

The use of the tar command is a common activity when it comes to managing files on Linux systems, especially web servers. Tar, short for Tape ARchive, is a powerful tool used to compress and backup data quickly and efficiently. Despite its simplicity, tar can be a tricky command to use, and missteps can lead to data loss or other unwanted results.

At its most basic, the syntax of tar is:

tar -[option] [destination] [file/path]

The main options available are as follows:

  • -c – Create a new achive.
  • -u – Update existing archive.
  • -x – Extract an archive.
  • -z – Compress archives with gzip.
  • -j – Compress archives with bzip2.
  • -f – Use the tar archive from the specified file.

Let’s say you want to re-compress an existing tar archive called my_archive.tar using gzip. This could be done like so:

tar -czf my_archive.tar.gz my_archive.tar

This command would create a file called my_archive.tar.gz, which is the compressed tar archive. If you wanted to extract this archive you could use the following syntax:

tar -xzf my_archive.tar.gz

The -x option extracts the contents of the tar archive in the present working directory. If you want to extract the archive in another location, you could use the -C option as follows:

tar -xzf my_archive.tar.gz -C /temporary/directory

As always with navigating files and directories, it’s important to be very careful and triple check the target directories. If care is not taken you can mistakenly overwrite files in the wrong folders and cause irreversible damage.

The tar command is an incredibly powerful tool but it pays to be cautious when using it. Don’t be afraid to take the time to look up proper usage on the man page to ensure that things are done correctly.

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