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There are many archival tools for Unix, with varying degrees of availability. To make matters more confusing, many of them can write each other's formats.

I am seeking more information on their relative merits, and why I would want one over another (in differing circumstances).

The landscape of archivers, as I understand it (only considering F/LOSS software):

Tar family archivers

CPIO family archivers


  • The MirBSD PAX included w/ Linux distros


  • dump included with your OS/distro

Other Archivers

  • 7zip
  • zip
  • dar

The Question

I am aware of this comparison, showing that dump beats (old) tar and cpio for dealing with various anomalies in the file system and exactly replicating its contents. However, dump is mostly oriented towards file-system-level archiving and doesn't get great support on Linux (at least Linus isn't very interested in keeping it running).

In general, why would I choose one of these archivers, particularly tar/cpio/pax, over another, and why? Which one should I generally reach for first?

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closed as not a real question by Hauke Laging, slm, Chris Down, Anthon, htor May 18 '13 at 10:18

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This question is too broad. A short look at the article which you have linked makes clear that a "complete" answer does not fit the Q&A format of this site. –  Hauke Laging May 17 '13 at 22:05

1 Answer 1

cpio is a standard format, each of the others (except possibly for pax) has quirks. Second best (because it is very portable) is GNU tar.

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