If I use the following command:

cd /Users/you/foo 
tar c /Users/you/x/y/z | tar x

it will write /Users/you/x/y/z to the local directory to this path:


how can I change one of the tar commands, so the file gets written here instead:


man tar on my MacOS machine did not yield any obvious solutions to this one, and I am not sure if this behavior can be changed.

  • Your actual and desired paths are exactly the same. – Patrick May 14 '18 at 21:30
  • ah thanks for the correction, that was a typo, I think I have an answer, the one I posted seems to work – Alexander Mills May 14 '18 at 21:32
  • Can you use pax? It can write tar files (with the -x ustar option), and the -s option can be used to rewrite pathnames. When we needed to make archives that could be read and written on Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, and Mac OS X, pax was a great, portable solution – Mark Plotnick May 14 '18 at 21:53
  • @MarkPlotnick thanks, I am on MacOS, and have to support other ppl, so if many ppl don't already have pax then prob not easy to incorporate pax. One problem I have is that the -O options seems only support one file being written on. If tar c <file1> <file2> ... <filex> is used then it doesn't seem to work. – Alexander Mills May 14 '18 at 21:55
  • I added the new problem I am seeing as part of my answer to the OP – Alexander Mills May 14 '18 at 21:57

What I do when copying stuff around is:

tar c here/is/the/stuff | (cd /where/it/should/go; tar x)

Explanation: The first tar packages to standard output, this is piped to the second command, which is a subshell (the ( starts it) which changes directory and then runs the second tar. This is nice if you want to use e.g. file completion for messy names. Or you could use the -C option to change directory before doing the operation, like:

tar c here/is/the/stuff | tar -C /where/it/should/go -x
  • 1
    Correct, one of the main rules: Thou shalt not use absolute path names in tar archives – schily May 31 '18 at 14:36

I think I got this to work using the -O option of tar x which allows you to write the output to stdout, so that looks like:

tar c /Users/you/x/y/z | tar x -O > z.tgz

one problem with this technique is that it doesn't seem to support writing out multiple files:

tar c z1 z2 z3 | tar x -O > z.tgz

it looks like z.tgz will just represent z3...

  • tar x -O makes no sense, and the result definitely won't be a gzipped tarfile. – vonbrand May 17 '18 at 17:10

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