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tar program provides the ability to create
archives, as well as various other kinds of manipulation. For example,
you can use
tar on previously created archives to extract files,
to store additional files, or to update or list files which were already
tar archives were used to store files conveniently on
magnetic tape. The name
tar comes from this use; it stands for
archiver. Despite the utility's name,
direct its output to available devices, files, or other programs (using
tar may even access remote devices or files (as archives).
You can use
tar archives in many ways. We want to stress a few
of them: storage, backup, and transportation.
See the following table entries need a bit of work.
tar archives are used to store related files for
convenient file transfer over a network. For example, the
GNU Project distributes its software bundled into
tar archives, so that all the files relating to a particular
program (or set of related programs) can be transferred as a single
A magnetic tape can store several files in sequence. However, the tape
has no names for these files; it only knows their relative position on
the tape. One way to store several files on one tape and retain their
names is by creating a
tar archive. Even when the basic transfer
mechanism can keep track of names, as FTP can, the nuisance of handling
multiple files, directories, and multiple links makes
Archive files are also used for long-term storage. You can think of
this as transportation from the present into the future. (It is a
science-fiction idiom that you can move through time as well as in
space; the idea here is that
tar can be used to move archives in
all dimensions, even time!)
Because the archive created by
tar is capable of preserving
file information and directory structure,
tar is commonly
used for performing full and incremental backups of disks. A backup
puts a collection of files (possibly pertaining to many users and
projects) together on a disk or a tape. This guards against
accidental destruction of the information in those files.
tar has special features that allow it to be
used to make incremental and full dumps of all the files in a
You can create an archive on one system, transfer it to another system, and extract the contents there. This allows you to transport a group of files from one system to another.
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