I have a couple of big files that I would like to compress. I can do this with for example

tar cvfj big-files.tar.bz2 folder-with-big-files

The problem is that I can't see any progress, so I don't have a clue how long it will take or anything like that. Using v I can at least see when each file is completed, but when the files are few and large this isn't the most helpful.

Is there a way I can get tar to show more detailed progress? Like a percentage done or a progress bar or estimated time left or something. Either for each single file or all of them or both.

16 Answers 16


I prefer oneliners like this:

tar cf - /folder-with-big-files -P | pv -s $(du -sb /folder-with-big-files | awk '{print $1}') | gzip > big-files.tar.gz

It will have output like this:

4.69GB 0:04:50 [16.3MB/s] [==========================>        ] 78% ETA 0:01:21

For OSX (from Kenji's answer)

tar cf - /folder-with-big-files -P | pv -s $(($(du -sk /folder-with-big-files | awk '{print $1}') * 1024)) | gzip > big-files.tar.gz
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  • 2
    On OSX, du does not take -b argument, needed to fallback to : $((du -sk /folder-with | awk '{print $1}') * 1024)) – ıɾuǝʞ Nov 29 '13 at 10:14
  • 7
    Nice, a one liner. Can you explain it? Or does it just magically work somehow? – Kissaki Oct 4 '14 at 18:02
  • 1
    Can you write command to extract tar file like above? – Krzysztof Szewczyk Nov 26 '14 at 13:47
  • 2
    Ok, I have it pv $FILE.tgz | tar xzf - -C $DEST_DIR – Krzysztof Szewczyk Nov 28 '14 at 7:57
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    Note that the progress doesn't show until the du command finishes which could take a while depending on the size, complexity, and fragmentation of the directory. – Rooster242 Jan 10 '19 at 20:11

You can use pv to achieve this. To report the progress correctly, pvneeds to know how much bytes you are throwing at it. So, the first step is to calculate the size (in kbyte). You can also completely drop the progress bar and just let pv tell you how much bytes it has seen; it would report a 'done that much and that fast'.

% SIZE=`du -sk folder-with-big-files | cut -f 1`

And then:

% tar cvf - folder-with-big-files | pv -p -s ${SIZE}k | \ 
     bzip2 -c > big-files.tar.bz2
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  • Cool. pv doesn't seem to come with Mac OS X, but will try this out once I have a computer with MacPorts on it. Could you explain what you are doing there though? Not quite sure what the first line does exactly. – Svish Jul 28 '10 at 12:10
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    first line: fetch info about how many bytes will be handled. second line: use the size from the first line to allow pv to render 'progress'. since you are piping data, pv does not know how many more bytes will come. – akira Jul 22 '11 at 10:25
  • One addition: SIZE=$(($SIZE * 1000 / 1024)) - I don't know whether or not this is a quirk on my particular platform, so I'm not adding it to the answer: du returns size where 1 kb = 1024 bytes, while pv seems to be expecting 1 kb = 1000 bytes. (I'm on Ubuntu 10.04) – Izkata Dec 11 '11 at 2:27
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    @lzkata you could always ask du to use your preferred blocksize, e.g. du -s --block-size=1000, or just work with plain bytes, e.g. drop the k's from the du and pv calls. Nevertheless, I would expect both to use 1024 unless told otherwise, e.g. the --si switch on du, for example. – Legolas Feb 23 '12 at 11:05
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    or just drop the k-stuff and just use plain bytes (du -sb and pv -s without any modifier). that should end all the confusion. – akira Feb 23 '12 at 11:10

better progress bar..

apt-get install pv dialog

(pv -n file.tgz | tar xzf - -C target_directory ) \
2>&1 | dialog --gauge "Extracting file..." 6 50

enter image description here

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  • 2
    This is works for extraction, but you still need to do one of the more complicated commands for creation (which was the original question). It could still be combined with those; it's just more complicated. – Daniel H Aug 9 '14 at 5:05

Check out the --checkpoint and --checkpoint-action options in the tar info page (as for my distribution, the description for these options is not contained in the man page → RTFI).

See https://www.gnu.org/software/tar/manual/html_section/tar_26.html

With these (and maybe the functionality to write your own checkpoint command), you can calculate a percentage…

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  • 3
    This should be the correct answer. Others just explain extra tools (not installed by default, besides) to achieve something similar. – Carmine Giangregorio Nov 15 '16 at 14:47
  • @Sardathrion Maybe because it's GNU-tar specific. – phk Feb 24 '17 at 11:52

Inspired by helper’s answer

Another way is use the native tar options

FROMSIZE=`du -sk ${FROMPATH} | cut -f 1`;
CHECKPOINT=`echo ${FROMSIZE}/50 | bc`;
echo "Estimated: [==================================================]";
echo -n "Progess:   [";
tar -c --record-size=1K --checkpoint="${CHECKPOINT}" --checkpoint-action="ttyout=>" -f - "${FROMPATH}" | bzip2 > "${TOFILE}";
echo "]"

the result is like

Estimated: [==================================================]
Progess:   [>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

a complete example here

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Using only tar

tar has the option (since v1.12) to print status information on signals using --totals=$SIGNO, e.g.:

tar --totals=USR1 -czf output.tar input.file
Total bytes written: 6005319680 (5.6GiB, 23MiB/s)

The Total bytes written: [...] information gets printed on every USR1 signal, e.g.:

pkill -SIGUSR1 tar


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  • And to know the total original size, we can use du -hs /path. But how can we estimate the total bytes to be written when using the -z flag? I assume it would be less than the original size – lucidbrot Nov 11 '19 at 17:07
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    I have asked a Q related to my comment on unix.se – lucidbrot Nov 12 '19 at 19:27

Just noticed the comment about MacOS, and while I think the solution from @akira (and pv) is much neater I thought I'd chase a hunch and a quick playaround in my MacOS box with tar and sending it a SIGINFO signal. Funnily enough, it worked :) if you're on a BSD-like system, this should work, but on a Linux box, you might need to send a SIGUSR1, and/or tar might not work the same way.

The down side is that it will only provide you with an output (on stdout) showing you how far through the current file it is since I'm guessing it has no idea about how big the data stream it's getting is.

So yes, an alternative approach would be to fire up tar and periodically send it SIGINFOs anytime you want to know how far it's gotten. How to do this?

The ad-hoc, manual approach

If you want to be able to check status on an ad-hoc basis, you can hit control-T (as Brian Swift mentioned) in the relevant window which will send the SIGINFO signal across. One issue with that is it will send it to your entire chain I believe, so if you are doing:

% tar cvf - folder-with-big-files | bzip2 -c > big-files.tar.bz2

You will also see bzip2 report it's status along with tar:

a folder-with-big-files/big-file.imgload 0.79  cmd: bzip2 13325 running 
      14 0.27u 1.02s 

      adding folder-with-big-files/big-file.imgload (17760256 / 32311520)

This works nicely if you just want to check if that tar you're running is stuck, or just slow. You probably don't need to worry too much about formatting issues in this case, since it's only a quick check..

The sort of automated approach

If you know it's going to take a while, but want something like a progress indicator, an alternative would be to fire off your tar process and in another terminal work out it's PID and then throw it into a script that just repeatedly sends a signal over. For example, if you have the following scriptlet (and invoke it as say script.sh PID-to-signal interval-to-signal-at):


SIGNAL=29      # excuse the voodoo, bash gets the translation of SIGINFO, 
               # sh won't..

kill -0 $PID   # invoke a quick check to see if the PID is present AND that
               # you can access it..

echo "this process is $$, sending signal $SIGNAL to $PID every $INTERVAL s"
while [ $? -eq 0 ]; do
     sleep $INTERVAL;
     kill -$SIGNAL $PID;    # The kill signalling must be the last statement
                            # or else the $? conditional test won't work
echo "PID $PID no longer accessible, tar finished?"

If you invoke it this way, since you're targeting only tar you'll get an output more like this

a folder-with-big-files/tinyfile.1
a folder-with-big-files/tinyfile.2
a folder-with-big-files/tinyfile.3
a folder-with-big-files/bigfile.1
adding folder-with-big-files/bigfile.1 (124612 / 94377241)
adding folder-with-big-files/bigfile.1 (723612 / 94377241)

which I admit, is kinda pretty.

Last but not least - my scripting is kinda rusty, so if anyone wants to go in and clean up/fix/improve the code, go for your life :)

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  • 2
    If running tar on the command line, typing control-T will send it a SIGINFO. If this was in a script it would be done with kill -INFO pid – Brian Swift Apr 23 '12 at 4:58
  • Completely forgot about control-T, I clearly have gotten used to spamming too many console windows for my own good.. – tanantish Apr 23 '12 at 20:21
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    why can't I see -SIGINFO when doing kill -l – Felipe Alvarez Jun 12 '13 at 2:32
  • @FelipeAlvarez Because you have probably not been on a BSD/MAC OS. See also: SIGINFO on GNU Linux (Arch Linux) missing – Murmel Nov 12 '19 at 19:17
  • @tanantish You could get rid of the "voodoo" (your wording not mine ;P ) by using SIGNAL=$(kill -l SIGINFO), which would have the advantage of failing on systems without SIGINFO – Murmel Nov 12 '19 at 19:21

Inspired by Noah Spurrier’s answer

function tar {
  local bf so
  so=${*: -1}
  case $(file "$so" | awk '{print$2}') in
  XZ) bf=$(xz -lv "$so" |
    perl -MPOSIX -ane '$.==11 && print ceil $F[5]/50688') ;;
  gzip) bf=$(gzip -l "$so" |
    perl -MPOSIX -ane '$.==2 && print ceil $F[1]/50688') ;;
  directory) bf=$(find "$so" -type f | xargs du -B512 --apparent-size |
    perl -MPOSIX -ane '$bk += $F[0]+1; END {print ceil $bk/100}') ;;
  command tar "$@" --blocking-factor=$bf \
    --checkpoint-action='ttyout=%u%\r' --checkpoint=1


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  • 17
    A little context and explanation maybe? – Kissaki Oct 4 '14 at 18:03

If you known the file number instead of total size of all of them:

an alternative (less accurate but suitable) is to use the -l option and send in the unix pipe the filenames instead of data content.

Let's have 12345 files into mydir, command is:

[myhost@myuser mydir]$ tar cfvz ~/mytarfile.tgz .|pv -s 12345 -l > /dev/null 

you can know such value in advance (because of your use case) or use some command like find+wc to discover it:

[myhost@myuser mydir]$ find | wc -l
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  • So, why not put this command into sub-command? =) – Kirby Jan 9 '18 at 14:12
  • tar cfvz ~/mytarfile.tgz . | pv -s $(find . | wc -l) -l > /dev/null. Does it work for you? – Kirby Jan 9 '18 at 14:18

Method based upon tqdm:

tar -v -xf tarfile.tar -C TARGET_DIR | tqdm --total $(tar -tvf tarfile.tar | wc -l) > /dev/null
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On macOS, first make sure that you have all the commands available, and install the missing ones (e.g. pv) using brew.

If you only want to tar without compression, go with:

tar -c folder-with-big-files | pv -s $[$(du -sk folder-with-big-files | awk '{print $1}') * 1024] > folder-with-big-files.tar

If you want to compress, go with:

tar cf - folder-with-big-files -P | pv -s $[$(du -sk folder-with-big-files | awk '{print $1}') * 1024] | gzip > folder-with-big-files.tar.gz

Note: It may take a while before the progress bar appears. Try on a smaller folder first to make sure it works, then move to folder-with-big-files.

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You won't see how much is left, but you will see that it is progressing with a very simple addition to your command --checkpoint=1000

# tar  xf  file.tar --checkpoint=1000
tar: Read checkpoint 1000
tar: Read checkpoint 2000
tar: Read checkpoint 3000
tar: Read checkpoint 4000
tar: Read checkpoint 5000
tar: Read checkpoint 6000

More details on https://www.gnu.org/software/tar/manual/html_section/tar_25.html

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better looking progress bar

Install the dialog and pv commands with

sudo apt-get install dialog pv

and then execute tar like this

(tar cf - /folder-with-big-files | pv -n -s $(du -sb /folder-with-big-files | awk '{print $1}') | gzip -9 > big-files.tar) 2>&1 | dialog --gauge 'Your backup is in progress...' 7 70
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Here are some numbers of a prometheus (metrics data) backup on Debian/buster AMD64:

root# cd /path/to/prometheus/
root# tar -cf - ./metrics | ( pv -p --timer --rate --bytes > prometheus-metrics.tar )

Canceled this job as there was not enough disk-space available.

Experimenting with zstd as compressor for tar with monitoring the progress using pv:

root# apt-get update
root# apt-get install zstd pv

root# tar -c --zstd -f - ./metrics | ( pv -p --timer --rate --bytes > prometheus-metrics.tar.zst )
10.2GiB 0:11:50 [14.7MiB/s]

root# du -s -h prometheus
62G    prometheus

root# du -s -h prometheus-metrics.tar.zst
11G    prometheus-metrics.tar.zst
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In my daily use I don't need to know the exact percent-level progress of the operation, only if it is working and (sometimes) how much it is near completion.

I solve this need minimally by showing the number of files processed in its own line; in Bash:

let n=0; tar zcvf files.tgz directory | while read LINE; do printf "\r%d" $((n++)) ; done ; echo

As I use this a lot, I defined a function alias in .bashrc:

function pvl { declare -i n=0; while read L ; do printf "\r%d" $((++n)) ; done ; echo ; }

Then simply:

tar zcvf files.tgz directory | pvl

I can compute the number of files in advance if needed with find directory | wc -l (Or better using the same function shown [find directory | pvl] to squash my impatience!).

Another example, setting rights for a virtual website (after that, a chown -R is fast because the filenames are in the filesystem cache):

find /site -print -type d -exec chmod 2750 "{}" \; -o -type f -exec chmod 640 "{}" | pvl

It's true this lateral processing could slow the main operation, but I think printing a return character and a few digits cannot be too expensive (besides that, waiting for the next equal sign to appear or percent digit to change feels slow compared with the subjective blazing speed of changing digits!).

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If you are ok with using 7z:

7z a example.tar example/

This will show the scanning drive stage

Scanning the drive:
2608M 139834 Scan  example/file.txt

as well as some other useful information to watch.

Scanning the drive:
157318 folders, 601997 files, 13683142277 bytes (13 GiB)           

Creating archive: example.tar

Items to compress: 759315

    3% 29587 + example/file.txt
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