I'm using the Unix tar command as follows to tar up a directory and its files:

tar cvzf fileToTar.tgz directoryToTar

Is there a way to password protect the .tgz file? I've created password-protected ZIP files on Windows so I would assume Unix has the same capability. Any ideas?

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Use crypt or gpg on the file.

Simple examples:

cat filename | crypt > filename.crypt

gpg -c –o filename.gpg filename

  • 2
    this makes no sense, where is the password? – Alexander Mills May 7 at 19:27
  • 2
    @AlexanderMills Most password-accepting tools prompt the user for it from the terminal rather than a command line argument, as to prevent the password showing up in history. – Daffy May 26 at 3:52

You can use command:

zip -P password file.zip file

Or better:

zip -e file.zip file

man zip
  • Does zip know enough to scrub the password section of the command line the moment it's run so it doesn't show up (or only shows up for millicsonds) in a ps? That's human readable. – tgm1024 Aug 1 at 17:40

Neither the tar format nor the gz format has built-in support for password-protecting files.

The Windows zip format combines several different piece of functionality: compression (e.g. gzip), archiving multiple files into one (e.g. tar), encryption (e.g. gnupg), and probably others. Unix tends to have individual tools, each of which does one thing well, and lets you combine them.

The Unix equivalent of a password-protected .zip file would probably be called something like foo.tar.gz.gpg or foo.tgz.gpg.

And there are open-source zip and unzip tools for Unix, though they may not provide all the capabilities of the Windows versions (I'm fairly sure the newer .zipx format isn't supported).


You can use gpg (=GnuPG):

gpg -o fileToTar.tgz.gpg --symmetric fileToTar.tgz

This will prompt you for a passphrase.

To decrypt the file later on, just do a:

gpg fileToTar.tgz.gpg

This will prompt you, again, for the passphrase.

  • Note: -c is short for --symmetric, i.e., use the default symmetric cipher, which means that the same passphrase is used for both encryption and decryption. (As opposed to asymmetric, which involves public keys and private keys.) – Evgeni Sergeev Nov 24 '17 at 5:30

You can use ccrypt.

Things can be encrypted by a pipe:

tar cvvjf - /path/to/files | ccrypt > backup.tar.bz2.cpt

Or in place:

ccrypt backup.tar.bz2

For automating, you can save a passkey into a file and use this passkey to encrypt:

ccrypt -k ~/.passkey backup.tar.bz2

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