gzip - Linux


gzip stands for “GNU zip,” a popular data compression program widely used on Linux and Unix-like systems. It is primarily used to compress files, optimizing storage space and speeding up file transfers. gzip is most effective when used on large text files, where it can significantly reduce file size.


The basic syntax for gzip is:

gzip [options] [files]

gzip can be run with several options that modify its behavior, and you can specify one or multiple files to compress. If no file is mentioned, it reads from the standard input.


  • -d, --decompress, --uncompress: Decompress files
  • -f, --force: Force compression or decompression even if the file has multiple links or the corresponding file already exists
  • -k, --keep: Keep (don’t delete) input files during compression or decompression
  • -l, --list: List compressed file details
  • -r, --recursive: Operate recursively on directories
  • -t, --test: Test compressed file integrity
  • -v, --verbose: Provide detailed output
  • -c, --stdout, --to-stdout: Output to standard output, keeping original files unchanged
  • -1 to -9: Set the compression level. -1 or --fast indicates the fastest compression method (less compression) and -9 or --best indicates the slowest compression method (best compression)
  • -q, --quiet: Suppress all warnings


Compress a file:

gzip myfile.txt

Decompress a file:

gzip -d myfile.txt.gz

Compress multiple files:

gzip *.txt

Keep original files after compression:

gzip -k myfile.txt

Compress files and output to standard out (stdout):

gzip -c myfile.txt > myfile.txt.gz

Compress with maximum compression level:

gzip -9 largefile.txt

Common Issues

  • Existing File: When the target compressed or decompressed file already exists, gzip will, by default, prompt for overwrite permission unless -f is used.
  • Memory Usage: Using very high compression levels (-9) can significantly increase memory and CPU usage.
  • File Permissions: Running gzip without appropriate file permissions can lead to errors. Ensure you have write permissions for the directory where you are compressing or decompressing files.


gzip can be piped with other commands for robust functionality:

tar cvf - directory/ | gzip > directory.tar.gz

This command combines tar (archives files) with gzip (compresses the archive) into a single .tar.gz file.

  • gunzip: An alias to gzip -d, used for decompressing files.
  • zcat: Equivalent to gzip -dc, used to display the content of a compressed file.
  • tar: Often used with gzip to archive multiple files into a single compressed file.

For further reading and more detailed options, you can refer to the GNU gzip manual.