How to Extract tar.gz Files in Linux

Extract tar.gz Files


This guide will show you not only how to extract tar.gz files but it will also tell you what they are and why you would use them.

What Is a tar.gz File?

A file with the extension gz has been compressed using the gzip command

You can zip up any file using the gzip command as follows:


For example:

gzip image1.png

The above command will compress the file image1.png and the file will now be called image1.png.gz.

You can uncompress a file which has been compressed with gzip by using the gunzip command as follows:

gunzip image1.png.gz

Imagine now that you wanted to compress all of the images in a folder. You could use the following command:

gzip *.png *.jpg *.bmp

This would compress every file with the extension png, jpg or bmp. All of the files, however, would remain as individual files.

It would be good if you could create a single file containing all of the files and then compress that using gzip.

That is where the tar command comes in. A tar file which is often known as a tarball is a method of creating an archive file which contains many other files.

A tar file on its own is not compressed.

If you have a folder full of images you can create a tar file for the images using the following command:

 tar -cvf images.tar ~/Pictures

The above command creates a tar file called images.tar and populates it with all the files in the pictures folder.

Now that you have a single file with all of your images you can now compress it using the gzip command:

gzip images.tar

The filename for the images file will now be images.tar.gz.

You can create a tar file and compress it using a single command as follows:

tar -cvzf images.tar.gz ~/Pictures

How to Extract tar.gz Files

Now you know a tar.gz file is a compressed tar file and that you know a tar file is a nice way of grouping files and folders.

The first thing to do then to extract a tar.gz file is to decompress the file as follows:


For example:

gunzip images.tar.gz

To extract the files from a tar file use the following command:

tar -xvf

For example:

tar -xvf images.tar

You can, however, decompress the gzip file and extract the files from the tar file using a single command as follows:

tar -xvzf images.tar.gz

Listing the Contents of a tar.gz File

You should be careful about extracting tar.gz files that you receive from other people or from download links as they may either deliberately or inadvertently destroy your system.

You can view the contents of a tar file using the following syntax:

tar -tzf images.tar.gz

The above command will show you the names and locations of the files that will be extracted. 

In summary, tar.gz files are great for backup purposes as they keep the files and paths intact within the tar file and the file is compressed to make it smaller.