How to Extract a tar.gz file on RHEL 6


In Linux systems, files are often compressed to save disk space and reduce the time required to transfer them over a network. The tar (tape archive) utility is commonly used for creating archive files, and gzip is used for compressing files. A .tar.gz file is a combination of both, representing a gzip-compressed tar archive.

In this guide, we will show you how to extract a .tar.gz file on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6. By following these steps, you will learn how to decompress and extract the contents of a .tar.gz file using the tar command. The desired outcome is to successfully extract the files from the archive and access their contents.

Step 1: Locate the tar.gz file

First, use the terminal to navigate to the directory where the .tar.gz file is located. For example, if the file is in the /home/user/downloads directory, run the following command:

cd /home/user/downloads

Step 2: Extract the tar.gz file

Now that you’re in the directory containing the .tar.gz file, use the tar command to extract its contents. Replace filename.tar.gz with the actual name of the file you wish to extract:

tar -xzf filename.tar.gz

Here’s an explanation of the options used in the command:

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-x: Extract files from the archive.
-z: Use gzip to decompress the archive.
-f: Specify the archive file to process.
Once the command completes, the contents of the .tar.gz file will be extracted to the current directory.

Step 3: Access the extracted files

After extracting the archive, you can navigate to the newly created directory (if the archive contained a directory) or access the extracted files directly. If the extracted content is a single directory, you can use the cd command to change to that directory:

cd extracted_directory

Replace extracted_directory with the actual name of the extracted directory. Once inside the directory, you can use commands like ls to list the contents and perform other file operations as needed.

Most Common Options for the Tar Command

Option 1: Create a tar archive

You can create a tar archive using the -c (create) option. To create a tar archive named archive.tar containing the files file1.txt and file2.txt, run:

tar -cf archive.tar file1.txt file2.txt

Option 2: List the contents of a tar archive

To list the contents of a tar archive without extracting it, use the -t (list) option. For example, to list the contents of an archive named archive.tar, run:

tar -tf archive.tar

Option 3: Create a gzip-compressed tar archive

To create a gzip-compressed tar archive, use the -z option in conjunction with the -c option. For example, to create a compressed archive named archive.tar.gz containing the files file1.txt and file2.txt, run:

tar -czf archive.tar.gz file1.txt file2.txt

Option 4: Create a bzip2-compressed tar archive

To create a bzip2-compressed tar archive, use the -j option instead of the -z option. For example, to create a compressed archive named archive.tar.bz2 containing the files file1.txt and file2.txt, run:

tar -cjf archive.tar.bz2 file1.txt file2.txt

Option 5: Extract a tar archive to a specific directory

To extract the contents of a tar archive to a specific directory, use the -C (change directory) option followed by the target directory. For example, to extract the contents of archive.tar to the /tmp directory, run:

tar -xf archive.tar -C /tmp

Option 6: Preserve file permissions when extracting

To preserve the original file permissions when extracting a tar archive, use the –preserve-permissions or –same-permissions option. For example, to extract archive.tar while preserving file permissions, run:

tar --preserve-permissions -xf archive.tar

These examples illustrate some of the most common options used with the tar command. The tar utility is highly versatile and provides numerous options for creating, extracting, and managing archive files in Linux. For a complete list of options, consult the tar manual by running man tar in the terminal.

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Programs Mentioned:

  • tar – A utility for creating and manipulating archive files in Linux, which is widely used for packaging files together and compressing them for easier distribution and storage.
  • gzip – A file compression utility in Linux that is commonly used in conjunction with the tar utility to create compressed archives with the `.tar.gz` extension.


By following this guide, you have successfully extracted a .tar.gz file on RHEL 6 using the tar command. You can now access the extracted files and directories to utilize their contents as needed. Extracting files from archives is a fundamental skill when working with Linux systems, as it enables you to manage and deploy compressed files effectively.

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