Linux: Mastering File Compression

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A Guide to File Compression on Linux

Working with Windows compressed files is simple, there is zip and rar, but when it came to Linux, I kept coming across many compression types, each with their own commands. In this Linux guide we will walk you through each of the steps for file compression, decompression, and more…

File compression is a common and useful task in Linux for various purposes, such as saving disk space, reducing file transfer times, and bundling files for distribution. Two popular tools for file compression in Linux are gzip and tar but we will be covering more.

Working with Tar (Tape Archive) files

  • c to create archive.
  • r to append archive.
  • t to list contents of archive.
  • x to extract archive.
  • v verbose.
  • f file to use.

Creating a tar archive:

tar cvf archive.tar file1 file2 file3

Add a file to existing archive:

tar rvf archive.tar file4

Decompress tar archive:

tar -xvf archive.tar

Working with Gzip (GNU Zip) and Bzip

While gzip is a popular compression tool, you may also come across bzip they are very similar.

Compress a file with Gzip

gzip filename

or use -k to keep original file with

gzip -k filename

Decompress Gzip archive:

gzip -d filename.gz

Compress a file with Bzip:

bzip2 filename


bzip2 -z filename

Decompress Bzip archive:

bzip2 -d filename.bz2

Compress multiple files with Gzip:

gzip - tar zcvf compressed.tar.gz file1 file2 file3

Compress multiple files with Bzip:

bzip2 - tar jcvf compressed.tar.bz2 file1 file2 file3

Working with .xz files

You may need to install xz-utils with:

sudo apt install xz-utils

Compress files with Xz

xz file1

Decompress files with Xz

unxz fileName.xz

or to keep original file

unxz --keep fileName.xz


Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working with file compression in Linux:

  • Always make sure to back up important files before compression to avoid data loss.
  • Use appropriate compression tools and options depending on the size and type of files you are working with.
  • Consider using compression and archiving when transferring files over a network or when packaging multiple files for distribution.

Remember to check the man pages (man gzip, man tar, etc.) for more detailed information on these commands and their options.


In the world of Linux, mastering the art of file compression is a valuable skill. Whether you’re looking to free up disk space, streamline file transfers, or package files for distribution, the tools at your disposal are versatile and powerful.

With the gzip and tar commands as your allies, you have the means to compress individual files and create archives that encapsulate entire directories. These simple yet effective techniques can make managing your data a breeze.

As you delve deeper into the Linux universe, remember that file compression is just one aspect of the rich toolkit available to you. The knowledge you’ve gained here is but a stepping stone on your journey toward Linux expertise. So, explore, experiment, and embrace the countless possibilities that Linux offers.

That’s All Folks!

You can find all of our Linux guides here: Linux Guides

Luke Barber

Hello, fellow tech enthusiasts! I'm Luke, a passionate learner and explorer in the vast realms of technology. Welcome to my digital space where I share the insights and adventures gained from my journey into the fascinating worlds of Arduino, Python, Linux, Ethical Hacking, and beyond. Armed with qualifications including CompTIA A+, Sec+, Cisco CCNA, Unix/Linux and Bash Shell Scripting, JavaScript Application Programming, Python Programming and Ethical Hacking, I thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of coding, computers, and networks. As a tech enthusiast, I'm on a mission to simplify the complexities of technology through my blogs, offering a glimpse into the marvels of Arduino, Python, Linux, and Ethical Hacking techniques. Whether you're a fellow coder or a curious mind, I invite you to join me on this journey of continuous learning and discovery.

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