Creating a Tar Archive Excluding Files and Directories

In Unix-like operating systems, creating compressed archives (tarballs) of directories is a common task for backup or distribution purposes. However, there are scenarios where you may need to exclude specific files or directories from being included in the tar archive. Here’s how you can achieve this using shell commands:

Using tar with Exclusions

  1. Basic tar Command: The tar command is used to create tar archives. Here’s a basic syntax:
tar -cvf archive.tar directory
  • -c: Create a new archive.
  • -v: Verbose mode (optional, shows files being processed).
  • -f: Specify the archive file name. Replace archive.tar with the desired name of your archive and directory with the directory you want to archive.
  1. Excluding Files and Folders: To exclude specific files or directories from the tar archive, use the --exclude option followed by a pattern:
tar --exclude='pattern' -cvf archive.tar directory
  • --exclude='pattern': Specifies a pattern to exclude files or directories matching that pattern.
  • pattern: Can be a filename, wildcard pattern, or directory name.
  1. Example Usage: Suppose you have a directory named mydata and you want to create a tar archive named backup.tar, excluding the private directory within it:
  tar --exclude='mydata/private' -cvf backup.tar mydata

This command creates a tar archive backup.tar of the mydata directory but excludes the mydata/private directory and its contents from the archive.

  1. Handling Multiple Exclusions: You can exclude multiple files or directories by specifying multiple --exclude options:
   tar --exclude='pattern1' --exclude='pattern2' -cvf archive.tar directory

Replace pattern1, pattern2, etc., with the actual patterns or names of files/directories you want to exclude.


Using tar with the --exclude option provides flexibility in creating archives while excluding specific files or directories. This capability is valuable for creating streamlined backups or distributing archives without unnecessary files. By mastering these techniques, you can efficiently manage tar archives in Unix-like systems, ensuring your backups and distributions meet your specific requirements.