tar - macOS


tar is a powerful command-line utility on macOS used for creating, modifying, and extracting archive files. These archives can be compressed or uncompressed, providing a convenient way to store multiple files or directories as a single package.


tar [options] [command] [archive-name] [files/directories]


Creation Options:

  • -c: Create a new archive
  • -v: Verbose output during creation
  • -z: Compress the archive using GZIP
  • -j: Compress the archive using BZIP2
  • -P: Preserve file permissions

Extraction Options:

  • -x: Extract the archive
  • -t: List the archive’s contents
  • -r: Append files to an existing archive
  • -f: Specify the archive file to work on
  • -p: Preserve file permissions during extraction
  • -C: Change to the specified directory before extracting

Common Options:

  • -h: Display help information
  • -V: Display version information
  • –ignore-failed-read: Ignore read errors
  • –exclude: Exclude files/directories from the archive
  • –include: Only include files/directories matching the pattern


Create a compressed archive:

tar -czf my_archive.tar.gz /path/to/files

Extract the archive to the current directory:

tar -xf my_archive.tar.gz

List the archive’s contents:

tar -tf my_archive.tar.gz

Append files to an existing archive:

tar -rf my_archive.tar.gz /path/to/more_files

Extract the archive to a specific directory:

tar -C /destination/dir -xf my_archive.tar.gz

Common Issues

  • Permission denied: Ensure you have the necessary permissions to access the archive or extract files.
  • File not found: Check the path and spelling of the archive file.
  • Invalid file format: The archive may be corrupted or created using an unsupported format.


tar can be integrated with other commands for advanced tasks:

  • Find files within the archive:

    tar tvf my_archive.tar.gz | grep filename
  • Extract specific files using a script:

    for file in $(tar -tf my_archive.tar.gz); do tar -xf my_archive.tar.gz $file; done
  • zip: A compression and archiving tool
  • 7z: An open-source file archiver with high compression ratios
  • pkzip: A popular commercial file archiving tool