Is there a way to convert a zip archive to a tar archive without extracting to a temporary directory first? (and without writing my own implementation of tar or unzip)


5 Answers 5


This is now available as installable command from PyPI, see the end of this post.

I don't know of any "standard" utility that does so, but when I needed this functionality I wrote the following Python script to go from ZIP to Bzip2 compressed tar archives without extracting anything to disk first:

#! /usr/bin/env python
"""zip2tar """

import sys
import os
from zipfile import ZipFile
import tarfile
import time

def main(ifn, ofn):
    with ZipFile(ifn) as zipf:
        with tarfile.open(ofn, 'w:bz2') as tarf:
            for zip_info in zipf.infolist():
                #print zip_info.filename, zip_info.file_size
                tar_info = tarfile.TarInfo(name=zip_info.filename)
                tar_info.size = zip_info.file_size
                tar_info.mtime = time.mktime(tuple(zip_info.date_time) +
                                         (-1, -1, -1))

input_file_name = sys.argv[1]
output_file_name = os.path.splitext(input_file_name)[0] + '.tar.bz2'

main(input_file_name, output_file_name)

Just save it to zip2tar and make it executable or save it to zip2tar.py and run python zip2tar.py. Provide the ZIP filename as an argument to the script, the output filename for xyz.zip will be xyz.tar.bz2.

The Bzip2 compressed output is normally much smaller than the zip file because the latter doesn't use compression patterns over multiple files, but there is also less chance of recovering later file if something in the Bzip2 file is wrong.

If you don't want the output compressed, remove :bz2 and .bz2 from the code.

If you have pip installed in a python3 environment, you can do:

pip3 install ruamel.zip2tar

to get a zip2tar commandline utility doing the above (disclaimer: I am the author of that package).

  • 3
    Nice one. It looks like the script does not make any attempt to copy metadata such as file modification time and permissions across the archive format change, but I think you could add that quite easily.
    – Celada
    Jul 24, 2014 at 6:11
  • 1
    @Celada I added the file modification time (missed that while copy and pasting from my orginal code), I am not sure if the ZIP standard actually has permissions, AFAIK (modern) tar is more complete in that respect with ZIP more being Windows oriented.
    – Anthon
    Jul 24, 2014 at 6:24
  • Exactly what I was looking for. I expected one utility like this to be available from standard unix packages. What is the license of this? I would like to propose it to be included in some packages (e.g., Debian's devutils), perhaps after some generalizations.
    – rbrito
    Jul 1, 2015 at 13:04
  • Another comment: the reference to time lacks an import.
    – rbrito
    Jul 1, 2015 at 13:06
  • 1
    @rbrito I uploaded this to bitbucket, and it is now installable from PyPI
    – Anthon
    Jul 5, 2015 at 12:24

The tar command deals with file systems. It's input is a list of files that it then reads from a file system (including a lot of metadata). You would need to present the zip file as a file system for the tar command to read it.

A Virtual File System - AVFS will allow any program to look inside archived or compressed files via a standard file system interface via FUSE.

There's some detailed information in the avfs-fuse readme and some distributions have packages for it.

One you have AVFS installed, then you can

cd ~/.avfs/path/to/somefile.zip#
tar -cvf /path/whatever.tar .

AVFS will fill in any information for the file system that is missing from the zip, like file ownership, that tar will pick up.


Linux has a great set of tools that work through stdin and stdout through pipes.

unzip -p ./fzs-2015-03-18.zip | bzip2 > fzs-2015-03-18.bz

Check if a temporary file has been created

ps -ef | grep unzip
auser      44260    6666  3 11:18 pts/2    00:00:02 unzip -p ./fzs-2015-03-18.zip
auser      44434   44370  0 11:19 pts/1    00:00:00 grep --color=auto unzip

lsof -p 44260
unzip   44260 auser  cwd    DIR  259,6      4096 3015712 /home/auser/Documents/shares/logs
unzip   44260 auser  rtd    DIR  259,5      4096       2 /
unzip   44260 auser  txt    REG  259,5    178072  680357 /usr/bin/unzip
unzip   44260 auser  mem    REG  259,5   3040368  744942 /usr/lib/locale/locale-archive
unzip   44260 auser  mem    REG  259,5   2146832  666811 /usr/lib/libc-2.31.so
unzip   44260 auser  mem    REG  259,5     74440  751069 /usr/lib/libbz2.so.1.0.8
unzip   44260 auser  mem    REG  259,5    203056  665072 /usr/lib/ld-2.31.so
unzip   44260 auser    0u   CHR  136,2       0t0       5 /dev/pts/2
unzip   44260 auser    1w  FIFO   0,13       0t0  436437 pipe
unzip   44260 auser    2u   CHR  136,2       0t0       5 /dev/pts/2
unzip   44260 auser    3r   REG  259,6 513348882 3015900 /home/auser/Documents/shares/logs/fzs-2015-03-18.zip

ps -ef | grep bzip2
auser      44262    6666 99 11:18 pts/2    00:06:42 bzip2
auser      45111   44370  0 11:25 pts/1    00:00:00 grep --color=auto bzip2

⟩ lsof -p 44262
bzip2   44262 auser  cwd    DIR  259,6     4096 3015712 /home/auser/Documents/shares/logs
bzip2   44262 auser  rtd    DIR  259,5     4096       2 /
bzip2   44262 auser  txt    REG  259,5    38744  655763 /usr/bin/bzip2
bzip2   44262 auser  mem    REG  259,5  2146832  666811 /usr/lib/libc-2.31.so
bzip2   44262 auser  mem    REG  259,5    74440  751069 /usr/lib/libbz2.so.1.0.8
bzip2   44262 auser  mem    REG  259,5   203056  665072 /usr/lib/ld-2.31.so
bzip2   44262 auser    0r  FIFO   0,13      0t0  436437 pipe
bzip2   44262 auser    1w   REG  259,6 97325056 3015902 /home/auser/Documents/shares/logs/fzs-2015-03-18.bz
bzip2   44262 auser    2u   CHR  136,2      0t0       5 /dev/pts/2

Just the pipe |, 436437 pipe

Super simple.

You can replace bzip2 with gzip or some other utill that accepts a piped input via stdin

This zip file contains thousands of text files.

  • 2
    How could this possibly work? I assume there are many files in the zip, so unless unzip -p converts the zip to an uncompressed tar, this won't work?
    – Oskar Skog
    Jun 22, 2020 at 10:37

Here’s a small snippet that converts a ZIP archive to a matching TAR.GZ archive OnTheFly.

Convert ZIP archive to TAR archive on the fly

# File: zip2tar.py
# Convert ZIP archive to TAR.GZ archive.
# Written by Fredrik Lundh, March 2005.

# helpers (tweak as necessary)

def getuser():
    # return user name and user id
    return "anonymous", 1000

def getmode(name, data):
    # return mode ("b" or "t") for the given file.
    # you can do this either by inspecting the name, or
    # the actual data (e.g. by looking for non-ascii, non-
    # line-feed data).
    return "t" # assume everything's text, for now

# main

import tarfile
import zipfile

import glob, os, StringIO, sys, time

now = time.time()

user = getuser()

def fixup(infile):

    file, ext = os.path.splitext(infile)

    outfile = file + ".tar.gz"
    dirname = os.path.basename(file)

    print outfile

    zip = zipfile.ZipFile(infile, "r")

    tar = tarfile.open(outfile, "w:gz")
    tar.posix = 1

    for name in zip.namelist():

        if name.endswith("/"):

        data = zip.read(name)
        if getmode(name, data) == "t":
            data = data.replace("\r\n", "\n")

        tarinfo = tarfile.TarInfo()
        tarinfo.name = name
        tarinfo.size = len(data)
        tarinfo.mtime = now
        tarinfo.uname = tarinfo.gname = user[0]
        tarinfo.uid = tarinfo.gid = user[1]
        tar.addfile(tarinfo, StringIO.StringIO(data))


# convert all ZIP files in the current directory
for file in glob.glob("*.zip"):



With libarchive's bsdtar:

bsdtar -zcf file.tar.gz @file.zip

From the manual:

tar creates and manipulates streaming archive files. This implementation can extract from tar, pax, cpio, zip, jar, ar, xar, rpm, 7-zip, and ISO 9660 cdrom images and can create tar, pax, cpio, ar, zip, 7-zip, and shar archives.

(c and r modes only) The specified archive is opened and the entries in it will be appended to the current archive. As a simple example,

tar -c -f - newfile @original.tar

writes a new archive to standard output containing a file newfile and all of the entries from original.tar. In contrast,

tar -c -f - newfile original.tar

creates a new archive with only two entries. Similarly,

tar -czf - --format pax @-

reads an archive from standard input (whose format will be determined automatically) and converts it into a gzip-compressed pax-format archive on stdout. In this way, tar can be used to convert archives from one format to another.

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