There is a .tgz archive on a remote server. I only want to download this file if it is more recent than the local copy of its contents that I have. If I kept the old copy of the .tgz around, I could use wget -N. But instead, I only keep the extracted contents. How can I use the equivalent of wget -N while keeping only a copy of the contents? The solution should be as cross-platform as possible.

One thing I tried was:

  • storing the extracted content in a unique directory
  • setting access/modified timestamps on the directory to be the same as that of the tarball
  • when checking for a new version, touch -r <directory> <tarball> to create a fake version of the target file with the appropriate timestamps
  • wget -N

But this failed because wget -N checks both the file size and the timestamps, and my fake tarball doesn't have the right size.

2 Answers 2


Is there a reason you don’t want to keep the old tarball? That’s really the easiest and most foolproof method.

On Linux, you could use dd to create a file of the right size pretty easily and use touch to fix the time stamp.

Save the time stamp and size before you delete the tarball:

wc -c tar.tgz | awk ‘{ print $1 }’ > ref_file
touch -r tar.tgz ref_file

Recreate dummy of right size:

dd of=tar.tgz seek=$(cat ref_file) count=0
touch -r ref_file tar.tgz

Can you try with curl instead of wget?

$ curl --time-cond <directory> --remote-time --output <tarball> <download_url>

--time-cond can be either a time string or a filename.

--remote-time sets the time of the downloaded file to the same as the remote.

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