What Is a Tar File, Exactly?

What Is a Tar File, Exactly?

What TAR files are, how they differ from other archive formats, which tools can extract files from them, and how to convert one to another archive type are all covered in the article.

A Tar File Is What?

The Consolidated Unix Archive format is used by files with the TAR file extension, which stands for Tape Archive and is also frequently referred to as tarball. A TAR file must be opened using an application or command that can open archives.

The TAR file format, which allows for the storage of numerous files in a single file, is well-liked for both archiving and delivering large files over the internet, such as for software downloads.

In Linux and Unix systems, the TAR file format is popular, however, it can only be used to store data, not to compress it. After being formed, TAR files are frequently compressed; these TGZ files use the TGZ, TAR.GZ, or GZ extension.

What Is a Tar File, Exactly?

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Opening a Tar File

Since TAR files are a fairly widespread archive type, they can be opened using the majority of well-known zip/unzip programs. A few additional options can be found on this list of free file extractors, but PeaZip and 7-Zip are two of the better free file extractors that handle both opening and producing TAR files.

Two other TAR openers are B1 Online Archiver and ezyZip, although these operate through your browser as opposed to downloading software. To extract the contents, you upload the TAR to one of these two websites.

The following command, where file.tar is the name of the TAR file, can be used on Unix systems to open TAR files without the need for any additional software:

Tar file.tar -xvf

Making a Compressed Tar File: A How-To

On this page, we’ve only covered how to open or extract files from a TAR archive. The simplest approach to creating a TAR file from folders or files is to use a graphical application like 7-Zip.

  • Choose every folder and file you want to include in the TAR file.
  • Add to the archive can be chosen by right-clicking one of the highlighted items.
  • From the drop-down menu for Archive format, select tar.
  • Choose OK.

You can also use a command-line tool to create the TAR file if you’re running Linux. However, using this command will also result in the TAR file being compressed, creating a TAR.GZ file.

Using this command, you can create a TAR.GZ file from either a folder or a single file:

name-of-archive.tar.gz /path/to/folder-or-file tar -czvf

This command accomplishes the following:

  • -c: Produce a backup archive
  • -z: Compress the archive using gzip.
  • -v: Enable verbose mode to display the creation process’s progress.
  • -f: Allows you to provide the archive’s name.

If you want to “TAR a file” (create a TAR file) from the folder /myfiles/ and give it the name files.tar.gz, here is an example:

files.tar.gz /usr/local/myfiles tar -czvf

What Is a Tar File, Exactly?

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Converting a Tar File

Two free online sites that can convert TAR files to ZIP, 7Z, TAR.BZ2, TAR.GZ, YZ1, LZH, or CAB are Zamzar and Online-Convert.com. Since the majority of these formats are truly compressed formats and TAR is not, these services also serve to compress the TAR.

You must first upload the TAR file to one of those websites if you plan to use one of those online converters. You might be better off using a specialized, offline converting program if the file is huge.

All things considered, using the free AnyToISO application would be the best way to convert TAR to ISO. You can also choose to convert a TAR file to an ISO file from the right-click context menu by simply clicking on the file.

Since the ISO format is essentially the same as TAR files, which are single-file compilations of many files, TAR to ISO conversions makes the most sense. However, ISO images are considerably more widely used and supported than TAR, particularly in Windows.

Does Your File Still Refuse to Open?

The fact that your file doesn’t open as mentioned above is most likely due to the fact that it doesn’t actually end in the.TAR file extension. Make sure the suffix is correct by checking it twice because some file extensions have extremely similar spellings to other file formats.

For instance, while using two of the three file extensions that TAR possesses, a TAB file is completely unrelated to the format. Instead, they are either Typinator Set, MapInfo TAB, Guitar Tab, or Tab Separated Data files, all of which require different software to access and none of which are file extraction utilities like 7-Zip.

If you’re working with a file that isn’t a Tape Archive file, the best course of action is to look up that particular file extension on Lifewire or another website, and you should be able to discover whatever programs are required to open or convert the file.

The likelihood is that your file extractor won’t recognize the format when you double-click a TAR file if it won’t open with the aforementioned options. To open an archive or extract files when using 7-Zip, right-click the file and select 7-Zip from the menu that appears.


Kimberly is a freelance writer with a love of writing and traveling. She has been writing for most of her life and has been published in various magazines and online publications. She writes about entertainment, technology, and lifestyle-related topics at Gadgetgrapevine.com. Kimberly is always looking for new writing opportunities and loves learning about new cultures and experiences.

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