What does the -f parameter do in the tar command

When using tar I always include -f in the parameters but I have no idea why.

I looked up the man and it said;

-f, --file [HOSTNAME:]F

use archive file or device F (default
"-", meaning stdin/stdout)

But to be honest I have no idea what that means. Can anyone shed any light on it?

Asked By: Toby


It lets you specify the file or device you’re going to be working with. Either creating, updating or extracting things from it depending on other supplied flags.
For example:

# Create a tar file with the contents of somepath/
tar -cvf filename.tar somepath/

# Extract the tar file.
tar -xvf filename.tar
Answered By: signine

The -f option tells tar that the next argument is the file name of the archive, or standard output if it is -.

Answered By: ddeimeke

Quite simple. If you omit the -f parameter, output is passed to stdout:

gammy@denice:/tmp/demo$ tar -c a b c
a0000644000175000017500000000000011435437117010223 0ustar  gammygammyb0000644000175000017500000000000011435437117010224 0ustar  gammygammyc0000644000175000017500000000000011435437117010225 0ustar  gammygammygammy@denice:/tmp/demo$ ls
a  b  c

…what a mess!

The -f-parameter (as you quoted) expects a filename (and optionally a hostname), hence the first argument after it is the output filename:

gammy@denice:/tmp/demo$ tar -cf output.tar a b c
gammy@denice:/tmp/demo$ ls
a  b  c  output.tar
Answered By: gamen
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