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?


6 Answers 6


Use crypt or gpg on the file.

Simple examples:

cat filename | crypt > filename.crypt

gpg -c –o filename.gpg filename

  • 5
    this makes no sense, where is the password? Commented May 7, 2019 at 19:27
  • 11
    @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
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 3:52
  • 5
    crypt should not be used since it is considered too cryptographically weak by modern standards, which is also why it isn't included with most Linux distros.
    – Snake
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 2:13

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. Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 17:40
  • 1
    No. My zip manpage has a warning to this effect: "THIS IS INSECURE! Many multi-user operating systems provide ways for any user to see the current command line of any other user; even on stand-alone systems there is always the threat of over-the-shoulder peeking."
    – saagarjha
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 22:30
  • 1
    The -e option should work. It says Encrypt the contents of the zip archive using a password which is entered on the terminal in response to a prompt (this will not be echoed; if standard error is not a tty, zip will exit with an error). The password prompt is repeated to save the user from typing errors. Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 1:07

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.

  • 2
    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.) Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 5:30

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 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

To zip a file with password run the following command:

zip -er name.zip folder/

It will show a prompt to enter a hidden password.

To unzip the file, run:

unzip name.zip

And enter the password you added before.

  • Works on macOS ventura terminal. Thanks
    – thandasoru
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 7:47

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