How can I extract files from a .tar.gz archive while keeping a trace of the extracted files?

For example, let's say I have the following file structure...

 ╠═▶ children
 ║    ╠═▶ joe.txt
 ║    ╚═▶ george.txt
 ╠═▶ bar.txt
 ╠═▶ foo.txt
 ╚═▶ A̲R̲C̲H̲I̲V̲E̲.t̲a̲r̲.b̲z̲
      ├─▷ children
      │    ├─▷ joe.txt
      │    └─▷ bob.txt
      ├─▷ hello.txt
      ├─▷ world.txt
      └─▷ foo.txt

Now, if I extract the files from the archive while keeping the newer files in place I'd like to know which ones have been extracted so I can do something like this:
tar xf ./ARCHIVE.tar.gz --keep-newer-files | xargs -I EXTRACTED_FILE echo EXTRACTED_FILE

2 Answers 2


I will use the option --to-command to trigger the print of all extracted files

the argument is a command that will use the env variable TAR_FILENAME to have the file name , and will receive thee file on STDIN

So you must read STDIN and create the extracted file , you can print on STDOUT the file you created

tar -xzf ../ARCH.tgz --keep-newer-files \
   --to-command="sh -c $(printf '%q' \
  'mkdir -p "$(dirname "$TAR_FILENAME")";dd of="$TAR_FILENAME" >/dev/null 2>&1;echo "#EXTRACTED#$TAR_FILENAME" ')" > output_tar.txt

and in output_tar.txt you will have a line for each extracted file .

See Writing to an External Program for more details

  • I tried it and I thought it worked for a second but I realized output_tar.txt contains the list of files that would be extracted has expected but nothing is extracted from the archive.It does not extract the files.
    – Elie G.
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 14:31
  • This why in my example , the command has 2 parts . one part for a dd command , and one part to echo the filename Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 16:27
  • Sorry, maybe I'm dumb but I don't understand. I tried to redirect stderr of dd into a file and it says dd: failed to open 'file/in/archive.txt': No such file or directory for every file that should be extracted
    – Elie G.
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 16:34
  • I managed to fix this issue by making sure the file pre-existed before calling dd. Here is the command I used for the --to-command argument of tar: sh -c $(printf '%q' 'mkdir -p $(dirname $TAR_FILENAME) ; touch $TAR_FILENAME ; dd of="$TAR_FILENAME" >/dev/null 2>&1 ; echo "#EXTRACTED#$TAR_FILENAME" ')
    – Elie G.
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 16:55

Depending of my requirement, I sometimes need to list all available extracted files matching the archive content (whether or not newer).

In that case, I can list the files effectively extracted, once the tar extraction was performed (or not).

I do it like this:

tar -xzf ./ARCH.tgz --keep-newer-files
for file in $(tar -tf ./ARCH.tgz 2>/dev/null)
  if [[ -e $file && ! -d $file ]]
    echo $file
done > output_tar.txt

A maybe less explicit but concise solution using xargs is:

tar -tf ./ARCH.tar 2>/dev/null | xargs -L1 bash -c 'if [[ -e $0 && ! -d $0 ]]; then echo $0; fi;'

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .