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Exclude Certain Files When Creating A Tarball Using Tar Command

How can I keep out certain files when creating a tarball? For example:


How do I exclude zyz and abc file while using a tar command?

The GNU version of the tar archiving utility has –exclude and -X options. So to exclude abc and xyz file you need to type the command as follows:
$ tar -zcvf /tmp/mybackup.tar.gz --exclude='abc' --exclude='xyz' /home/me

If you have more than 2 files use -X option to specify multiple file names. It reads list of exclude file names from a text file. For example create a file called exclude.txt:
$ vi exclude.txtAppend file names:

Save and close the file. This lists the file patterns that need to be excluded. Now type the command:
$ tar -zcvf /tmp/mybackup.tar.gz -X exclude.txt /home/me


  • -X file.txt :exclude files matching patterns listed in FILE file.txt
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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • will August 4, 2008, 8:13 pm

    Is there a way to do the opposite? That is, tar up only files of a certain type and not everything else? Would like to preserve directory structure when doing so. Thanks!

  • aceqbaceq March 13, 2009, 1:30 pm

    common style using “tar+exclude” suggested in internet sources is like:

    tar \
    – -exclude… \
    – -exclude… \
    – -exclude… \
    – -exclude… \
    -cvpzf home_bup.tgz /home/username

    but i think it is a very annoying method.

    I suggest next:

    for fedora core

    tar cvpzPf /tmp/backup.tar.gz –exclude={/proc/*,/sys/*,/tmp/*,/dev/*} /

    for Debian

    tar cvfpP /tmp/debian2.tar –exclude={”/proc/*”,”/sys*”,”/tmp/*”,”/home/user/*”} /

    and more common if i need backup using ssh (ssh+nice+tar)

    ssh root@ “cd /;nice -n 10 tar cvpP –exclude={”/proc/*”,”/sys*”,”/tmp/*”,”/home/user/*”} /”>backup.tar.gz

    and before “exclude” we have two “-” not one.

  • Tokyo Joe June 24, 2009, 9:02 am

    Using the exclude.txt file is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Thank you very much!!

  • cmo-0 September 2, 2009, 8:13 pm


    you can use the ‘T’ option with ‘ -T selectedfiles.txt’ where selectedfiles.txt contains paths to the files you want to backup only.

  • chz January 13, 2012, 7:41 pm

    there’s a typo at the beginning of your article: change “execute” to “exclude”

  • Pavche January 15, 2015, 2:35 pm

    Thanks a lot for the exclude list.

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