How to Unzip and Extract a Tar File

If you’ve encountered a .tar file on your Linux system and are wondering how to unzip and extract its contents, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process to easily unzip and extract .tar files using the command line.

Understanding .tar Files

Before we begin, let’s understand what a .tar file is. A .tar file is an archive file format typically used on Unix and Linux systems to collect multiple files into one archive file. It doesn’t compress the files but combines them into a single file structure.

Step 1: Open Your Terminal

To start, open your terminal application. You can find it in your applications menu or use the shortcut Ctrl + Alt + T.

Step 2: Navigate to the Directory

Navigate (cd) to the directory where your .tar file is located. For instance, if your file is in the Downloads folder, type:

cd ~/Downloads

Step 3: Unzip and Extract the .tar File

Once you’re in the directory containing your .tar file, use the tar command to extract its contents. Here’s the breakdown of the command options:

  • -x: Extract files from an archive.
  • -v: Verbose mode to show the files being extracted (optional but helpful).
  • -f: Specifies the filename to operate on.

Combine these options with your file name to extract it. For example, if your file is named your_file.tar, the command will be:

tar -xvf your_file.tar

Replace your_file.tar with the actual name of your .tar file.

Step 4: Wait for Extraction

Depending on the size of the file and your system’s performance, the extraction process may take a moment. Once completed, the command prompt will return without any errors if the extraction was successful.

Step 5: Verify Extraction

After extraction, verify that the files have been extracted correctly. They should now be available in the same directory where your .tar file was located.


Unzipping and extracting .tar files in Linux is a straightforward process using the terminal and the tar command. This method allows you to efficiently manage and access multiple files bundled into a single .tar archive.

Next time you need to extract a .tar file on your Linux system, follow these steps to quickly and effectively access its contents. Enjoy exploring and managing your files with ease using this fundamental Linux command!