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?


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
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    I'm just curious, why'd you recommend tar -cf - foo | gzip -9 instead of tar -czf - foo or tar -cz foo? – Patrick Jul 17 '13 at 12:23
  • @Patrick Slightly more portable, e.g. it'll work on Solaris. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jul 17 '13 at 13:20
  • Would you be so kind to describe all arguments? – Rootical V. May 8 '16 at 13:59
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    @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 '16 at 12:18

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
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    This does not store the tar archive on the local machine, which was what was intended. – Kusalananda Oct 6 '17 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. – Pierre de LESPINAY Oct 6 '17 at 13:27

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