How to Extract Tar Gz File on Ubuntu

If you are a Linux user, day by day you will interact more and more with shell commands. They are much faster and more efficient than graphic applications that have GUIs. Therefore, you will want to learn more and more commands to know how to perform various actions in Linux distributions. One of these actions is the extraction of compressed files, and the tar.gz file is a common type of compressed file. In this tutorial, I will show you how to extract tar gz file in Ubuntu.

Video Tutorial:

The Challenge of Extracting Tar Gz File on Ubuntu

When you download software or documents or any other items from the internet, they are often packaged into a single file. Tar Gz files are one of the most common types of files that contain multiple files and directories. Some of the challenges you might experience during this process include:

  • Not knowing how to extract these files, especially if you are new to Ubuntu.
  • Extracting files in the wrong directory
  • Struggles with syntaxes and proper use of commands

This tutorial aims to teach you how to extract tar.gz files and avoid scenarios such as files being extracted to the wrong directory.

Things You Should Prepare for

Before extracting any files, there are things that you should prepare. These will ensure that the process goes seamlessly, and that you can avoid any possible errors. These include:

1. Having a stable internet connection. Since you are most likely downloading the tar gz file from the internet, a stable internet will ensure that there are no errors in the download process

2. Ensuring that you have enough disk space. Before you start extracting files, it is essential to ensure that you have enough space to avoid errors.

3. Familiarizing yourself with the terminal if you are new to Ubuntu or Linux, this will give you a smooth time when executing commands.

Method 1: Via Command Line

To open the command line interface on your Ubuntu version, press CTRL + ALT + T keys simultaneously. Alternatively, go to the Applications menu, select Accessories, and then Terminal.

Step 1: Navigate to the folder where the tar gz file is located. (Note: Navigate to the folder where the file is and do not include the file name when typing in the path.)

$ cd ~/documents


  • Fast and efficient way to extract files
  • You have more control over the actions you perform
  • You can execute more tasks at the same command prompt


  • It may be challenging for new users to remember commands
  • If you are not sure about a command, you may end up causing unintended consequences

Method 2: Via Archive Manager

The Archive Manager offers an easy way to extract files. It is a graphical user interface tool, so the process is more straightforward than using the command line.

Step 1: Browse to the file and double-click on the tar gz file
Step 2: The Archive Manager window pops up, select the Extract button on the top menu bar
Step 3: Select the destination folder where you want the files to be extracted and Click on the Select button.
Step 4: A pop-up notification informs you that the files have been successfully extracted.


  • Easy to use, even for new Ubuntu users
  • There are fewer possible mistakes when using the graphical interface
  • You can modify settings in the process of extraction


  • The Archive Manager may not be available to some Ubuntu versions by default

Method 3: Via Right-clicking

This method is the fastest of the three, and it is convenient if you need to extract a few files.

Step 1: Locate and right-click on the tar.gz file
Step 2: A dropdown menu appears. Select “Extract here” or “Extract to” for a destination folder
Step 3: Wait for the file to be extracted


  • The easiest and quickest method of the three
  • It only needs Ubuntu default settings


  • Can only work with Ubuntu's built-in support for archive formats
  • May not be applicable to advanced file extraction situations

Why Can't I Extract My Tar Gz File?

Below are some reasons why you may not be able to extract your tar.gz file and how to fix it.

1. The filename may have an error: Ensure that you have typed the file name correctly, including its extension. This error typically occurs when you rename a file.

2. The file location has an error: Ensure that you are located in the right path of the file location.

3. Permission issues: Tar gz files may have different permissions; hence, ensure that you have the right user permissions to access the file. Use the chmod command to change the file permissions.


  • Double-check the file name and its extension
  • Navigate to the document where the file is located to ensure and correct any errors with the path
  • Use chmod commands to amend the permission issue

Additional Tips

  • Be careful with spaces and special characters when naming files or creating folders
  • Archive files should be kept at a separate location rather than mixed with other files
  • Use tar then gzip rather than vice versa to save time and avoid errors

5 FAQs about Extracting Tar Gz File on Ubuntu

Q1: Do I need to install any software to extract tar.gz files?

A: No, Ubuntu comes with built-in support for extracting tar gz files.

Q2: Do I need to extract all files from the tar.gz file?

A: No, you can extract selected files by specifying the file name or location.

Q3: How can I view the contents of a tar gz file?

A: You can view the contents of tar.gz file by using the " tar -tf filename.tar.gz" command.

Q4: What if I forget the command to extract files?

A: Type "man tar" or "tar --help" to show manual pages or help pages.

Q5: Can I extract tar.bz2 files with these methods?

A: No, you need to use the bzip2 utility to extract tar.bz2 files.

In Conclusion

Extracting tar gz files is a routine task that Ubuntu users regularly perform. The methods outlined above offer easy and efficient ways to extract files. It is essential to prepare beforehand, familiarize yourself with the Ubuntu terminal, and be cautious with naming files. Follow the methods and tips provided above, and you will have a seamless experience extracting tar gz files on Ubuntu.