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8.3.9 Large or Negative Values

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The above sections suggest to use ‘oldest possible’ archive format if in doubt. However, sometimes it is not possible. If you attempt to archive a file whose metadata cannot be represented using required format, GNU tar will print error message and ignore such a file. You will than have to switch to a format that is able to handle such values. The format summary table (see section Controlling the Archive Format) will help you to do so.

In particular, when trying to archive files 8 GiB or larger, or with timestamps not in the range 1970-01-01 00:00:00 through 2242-03-16 12:56:31 UTC, you will have to chose between GNU and POSIX archive formats. When considering which format to choose, bear in mind that the GNU format uses two’s-complement base-256 notation to store values that do not fit into standard ustar range. Such archives can generally be read only by a GNU tar implementation. Moreover, they sometimes cannot be correctly restored on another hosts even by GNU tar. For example, using two’s complement representation for negative time stamps that assumes a signed 32-bit time_t generates archives that are not portable to hosts with differing time_t representations.

On the other hand, POSIX archives, generally speaking, can be extracted by any tar implementation that understands older ustar format. The exceptions are files 8 GiB or larger, or files dated before 1970-01-01 00:00:00 or after 2242-03-16 12:56:31 UTC

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