I'd like to essentially tar/gz a directory on a remote machine and save the file to my local computer without having to connect back into my local machine from the remote one. Is there a way to do this over SSH? The tar file doesn't need to be stored on the remote machine, only on the local machine. Is this possible?

3 Answers 3


You can do it with an ssh command, just tell tar to create the archive on its standard output:

ssh remote.example.com 'cd /path/to/directory && tar -cf - foo | gzip -9' >foo.tgz

Another approach, which is more convenient if you want to do a lot of file manipulations on the other machine but is overkill for a one-shot archive creation, is to mount the remote machine's filesystem with SSHFS (a FUSE filesystem). You should enable compression at the SSH level.

mkdir ~/net/remote.example.com
sshfs -C remote.example.com:/ ~/net/remote.example.com
tar -czf foo.tgz -C ~/net/remote.example.com/path/to/directory foo
  • 3
    I'm just curious, why'd you recommend tar -cf - foo | gzip -9 instead of tar -czf - foo or tar -cz foo?
    – phemmer
    Jul 17, 2013 at 12:23
  • @Patrick Slightly more portable, e.g. it'll work on Solaris. Jul 17, 2013 at 13:20
  • Would you be so kind to describe all arguments? May 8, 2016 at 13:59
  • 5
    @RooticalV. tar -cf - foo creates (-c) archive on the standard output (-f -) from file foo. gzip -9 uses the best (slowest) compression method. If you don't care, you can just use ssh remote.example.com tar cz /path/to/directory/foo > foo.tar.gz.
    – arekolek
    Aug 19, 2016 at 12:18
  • @mhellmeier The command you posted does exclude foo/bar and the files beneath it, at least with GNU tar. Dec 25, 2020 at 14:46

Use this command to copy to a remote destination:

tar -c --zstd <src files> | ssh user@target_host "cd target_dir && tar -x --zstd"

Tar flags:

-c: create new tar'd output (defaults to stdout)

--zstd: use zstd compression (faster than gzip, the algorithm for tar)

-x: extract output (defaults to stdin)

Measure line rate for benchmarking:

tar -c --zstd <src files> | pv --timer --rate | ssh user@target_host "cd target_dir && tar -x --zstd"

Compression benchmark

Environment: local wifi between laptop and desktop (limited to ~40MiB/s)

Gzip: 0:04:59

Zstd: 0:03:04


For a simple way to copy a directory or file by compressing it only for the transport:

$ ssh domain.net 'ls foo'
file1   file2

$ ssh domain.net 'tar czf - foo' | tar xz

$ ls foo
file1   file2
  • 2
    This does not store the tar archive on the local machine, which was what was intended.
    – Kusalananda
    Oct 6, 2017 at 8:43
  • 1
    This is for people landing on this question (like me) when searching how to copy something through SSH with compression. There is just this additional tar xz out of the pipe with a simpler and more readable example. Oct 6, 2017 at 13:27

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