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how to untar/tar 11 February 1999
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NOTE: See also this Backing up Files with Tar by Dru Lavigne. It covers much more detail than this article does.

tar is used to create a Tape ARchive.  The resulting file is known as a tarball.  It's pretty much the same concept as a ZIP file, if you know what they are, but without the compression.  To get the files out of a tarball, you can use the following commands:

tar xvf something.tar

If the tarball has also been gzipped (compressed), you can use the following command:

tar xvfz something.tar.gz

If you only want certain directories from the tarball, do this:

tar xvzf something.tar.gz */dir.you.want/*

If you have a .tar.bz2 file, then you need bzip2 installed (/usr/ports/archivers/bzip2), and you issue this command:

tar yxf something.tar.bz2
    
tar
To tar up *.db in the current directory into a tarball called blah.tar.gz, issue this command:
tar cfz blah.tar.gz *.db

The z option compresses.

listing the contents
To see a list of the files within a tarball, issue the following command:
tar -tzf blah.tar.gz

The -t provides a list.  the -z indicates that the tarball is compressed.   The -f identifies the tarball.

Here's an example:

# tar -tzf makeworld.991126.tgz 
etc/
etc/protocols
etc/aliases
etc/services
etc/hosts

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