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How to unpack a tar file in Windows

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1 Introduction

Source code is often packed for download as a TAR (Tape ARchive) file, that is a standard format in the Unix/Linux world. These files have a .tar extension; they can also be compressed, the extension is .tar.gz or .tar.bz2 in these cases. There are several ways to unpack these files.

2 tar

If you have MinGW/MSYS or Cygwin installed, you can use the tar command to unpack such files:

  tar xvf  <.tar file>
  tar xzvf <.tar.gz file>
  tar xjvf <.tar.bz2 file>

See the tar man page for more information.

3 7-Zip

Another option is to install 7-Zip, which has a nice graphical user interface. 7-Zip can also be used to unpack many other formats and to create tar files (amongst others).

  1. Download and install 7-Zip from If you do not want to use 7-Zip as a command line tool, skip the next steps.
  2. Add the directory you installed 7-Zip into to your path (Start -> Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Environment Variables).
  3. Move the tar file to the directory you wish to unpack into (usually the tar file will put everything into a directory inside this directory).
  4. Open a command prompt, and cd to the directory.
  5. If the tar file is compressed, type 7z x filename.tar.gz at the command prompt (where filename.tar.gz is the name of the compressed tar file). This results in a tar file called filename.tar
  6. Type 7z x filename.tar at the command prompt (where filename.tar is the name of the tar file).

Instead of using 7-Zip on the command line, you can use the file manager and click on a .tar, .tar.gz, or.tar.bz2 file; 7-Zip will automatically start.

4 TarTool

A simple windows command line tool (no install , just unzip)

Its hosted on codeplex tartool, complete with the source code.

  1. to decompress and untar .tar.gz (.tgz) files or
  2. just untar .tar files


Usage :

>TarTool sourceFile destinationDirectory

>TarTool D:\sample.tar.gz ./

>TarTool sample.tgz temp

>TarTool -x sample.tar temp

TarTool 2.0 Beta supports bzip2 files such as tar.bz2 and .bz2 extraction.

TarTool -xj sample.tar.bz2 temp or TarTool -j sample.bz2

More details are on this post --