How to Zip and Unzip Files in Linux with Examples

How to Zip and Unzip Files in Linux

Managing files efficiently is a crucial skill for any web server administrator or webmaster. One of the most common tasks when dealing with large amounts of data or transferring files is compressing and decompressing them.

In Linux, popular tools for this purpose are zip and unzip. These tools not only save storage space but also reduce the time it takes to transfer files between servers or download them.

In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through the process of zipping and unzipping files in Linux.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Installing zip and unzip

Before you can use the zip and unzip commands, you need to ensure they are installed on your Linux system.

sudo apt update
sudo apt install zip unzip

This will install the required packages on Debian-based distributions. For other distributions, replace apt with the appropriate package manager, such as yum for CentOS.

Step 2: Creating Zip Archives

To create a zip archive, use the zip command followed by the name of the archive and the files or directories you want to include.

zip file1 file2 directory1

Basic Zipping

To zip a single file, use the following command:

zip file_to_zip.txt

This will create a zip archive named containing the file_to_zip.txt.

Zipping Multiple Files

To zip multiple files into a single archive:

zip file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt

Zipping Directories

To zip an entire directory, including all its files and subdirectories:

zip -r directory_name/

The -r flag stands for “recursive,” ensuring all files and subdirectories are included.

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Excluding Files

If you want to zip a directory but exclude certain files:

zip -r directory_name/ -x \*.log

This command will zip the entire directory_name but exclude all .log files.

Zipping with Compression Levels

You can specify the compression level using a scale from 0 (no compression) to 9 (maximum compression):

zip -9 file_to_zip.txt

Adding Files to an Existing Zip Archive

If you want to add more files to an existing zip archive:

zip -u new_file.txt

The -u flag updates the zip archive by adding the new_file.txt.

Step 3: Unzipping a Zip Archive

To extract the contents of a zip archive, use the unzip command followed by the name of the archive.


Basic Unzipping

To unzip a standard zip archive:


This will extract all the contents of to the current directory.

Unzipping to a Specific Directory

To extract the contents of a zip archive to a specific directory:

unzip -d /path/to/directory

Listing the Contents of a Zip Archive

Before extracting, you might want to view the contents of a zip archive:

unzip -l

Unzipping Specific Files

If you want to extract only specific files from an archive:

unzip file1.txt file2.txt

This will extract only file1.txt and file2.txt from

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Overwriting Existing Files

By default, unzip will prompt you if a file with the same name exists in the directory. To overwrite existing files without prompting:

unzip -o

Excluding Files While Unzipping

To extract an archive but exclude certain files:

unzip -x file_to_exclude.txt

Zip Commands Mentioned

  • zip – Command to create zip archives.
  • -r – Flag to zip directories recursively.
  • -x – Flag to exclude specific files or patterns.
  • -9 – Flag to set maximum compression level.
  • -u – Flag to add files to an existing zip archive.

Unzip Commands Mentioned

  • unzip – Command to extract zip archives.
  • -d – Flag to specify the directory for extraction.
  • -l – Flag to list the contents of a zip archive.
  • -o – Flag to overwrite existing files without prompting.
  • -x – Flag to exclude specific files during extraction.


  1. How can I zip multiple files at once?

    You can zip multiple files by listing them one after the other, separated by spaces, after the `zip` command. For example: `zip file1 file2 file3`.

  2. Is it possible to password-protect a zip archive?

    Yes, you can use the `-e` option with the `zip` command to password-protect your archive. You’ll be prompted to enter and verify a password.

  3. How do I unzip to a specific directory?

    Use the `-d` option followed by the directory path with the `unzip` command. For example: `unzip -d /path/to/directory`.

  4. Can I zip directories recursively?

    Yes, the `zip` command zips directories recursively by default. Just specify the directory name, and it will include all files and subdirectories.

  5. What if I don’t have the `unzip` command installed?

    If you don’t have the `unzip` command installed, you can install it using your distribution’s package manager. For Debian-based systems, use `sudo apt install unzip`.

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Managing, compressing, and decompressing files are foundational skills in the realm of Linux. For both seasoned web server administrators and budding webmasters, mastering the zip and unzip commands is indispensable.

These tools play a pivotal role in streamlining storage and data transfer, especially in high-demand environments like dedicated servers and VPS hosting. Their ability to create compact archives and extract specific files with precision showcases their versatility.

However, as with all tools, the key lies in understanding their nuances and employing them judiciously. This comprehensive guide aimed to provide you with the knowledge and insights to harness these commands effectively.

As you continue your journey in the vast landscape of Linux, remember the immense power of command-line tools. With great power comes great responsibility. Use these commands wisely, and they will prove to be invaluable allies in your Linux endeavors.


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