I have a file as: filename.bz2 I need to decompress.

I have tried the command: tar xvjf filename.tar.bz2, but it didn't work as the file is not a tar file.

How do I decompress this file?


Try the following:

bzip2 -d filename.bz2

Note, that this command will not preserve original archive file.

To preserve the original archive, add the -k option:

bzip2 -dk filename.bz2
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  • 8
    You can also use bunzip2, which defaults to using the -d (uncompress) option. – RonaldB Jan 19 '17 at 16:18
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    @LewisDiamond I ran bzip2 -d vim-8.0.tar.bz2, that results vim-8.0.tar. I couldn't enter this. – alhelal Nov 17 '17 at 0:35
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    @alhelal that's because it's a .tar.bz2 file. You unzipped the tarball, you're left with the unzipped tarbal. Extract it with tar -x vim-8.0.tar. Originally you could have used tar -xjvf vim-8.0.tar.bz2. – Lewis Diamond Nov 17 '17 at 15:52
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    A slight correction to Lewis's comment, tar also needs -f (at least on Raspbian Wheezy) as follows tar -xf vim-8.0.tar – JulianHarty Dec 17 '17 at 14:29

To explain a bit further, a single file can be compressed with bzip2 thus:

bzip2 myfile.txt

tar is only required when compressing multiple files:

tar cvjf myfile.tar.bz *.txt

Hence, when uncompressing a .bz2 file use bunzip, when uncompressing a tar.bz2 file use tar xjvf.

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    Excellent advice about the xjvf, just saved me. Thanks! – Edgar Aroutiounian Aug 17 '13 at 3:22
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    You can just use tar xjf filename.tar.bz2. The v just adds verbose output. Keep your terminal clean! I also had problems running tar -xjf, so be sure to try running it sans the - – MrOodles Jan 15 '15 at 15:14
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    tar xf should be sufficient with the BSD variant — the j flag is only used when compressing – Mark Fox Oct 30 '15 at 0:16

Use the bunzip2 (or bzip2 -d) command to decompress the file. For more information see this man page,

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  • Link is broken Levon – user1038202 May 19 '19 at 6:31

bzip2 is mono-threaded, which means it will take a long time to decompress a large file.

To decompress a .bz2 file multithreadedly, you can use the free, open source program lbzip2:

sudo apt-get install lbzip2
lbzip2 -d my_file.bz2

-d indicates you wish to decompress the file. It would automatically determine how many threads it will use. To specify the exact number of threads you want to use, use the -n parameter, e.g.:

lbzip2 -d -n 32 my_file.bz2

A few more useful commands with lbzip2:

To compress a folder:

tar -c -I lbzip2 -f file.tar.bz2 folder_name

To uncompress a folder:

 tar -I lbzip2 -xvf file.tar.bz2


-I, --use-compress-program PROG
      filter through PROG (must accept -d)
-x, --extract, --get
      extract files from an archive
-v, --verbose
      verbosely list files processed
-f, --file ARCHIVE
      use archive file or device ARCHIVE

Some alternatives to decompress a .bz2 file multithreadedly:


sudo apt-get install pbzip2
pbzip2 -d my_file.bz2

mpibzip2: designed to be used on on cluster machines.

If you need some large .bz2 files to experiment with: https://dumps.wikimedia.org/mirrors.html

For example (a 14 GB .bz2 file, 200 GB uncompressed):

wget http://dumps.wikimedia.your.org/wikidatawiki/20170120/wikidatawiki-20170120-pages-articles-multistream.xml.bz2 
lbzip2 -d -n 32 wikidatawiki-20170120-pages-articles-multistream.xml.bz2 

http://vbtechsupport.com/1614/ did the benchmark:

enter image description here

For further information regarding the parameters for lbzip2: http://explainshell.com/explain?cmd=lbzip2+-d+-n+32+my_file.bz2 :

enter image description here

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bzip2 -dc my_file.tar.bz2 | tar xvf -

worked for me on cygwin

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    It would be helpful if you could add a few sentences to your answer to explain what it does. – fixer1234 May 21 '15 at 17:25
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    @fixer1234 '-c' option copies the decompressed output to STDOUT which is then piped to tar utility and presented as filename using '-' so you can simplify it as: bzip2 -d my_file.tar.bz2 ; tar xvf my_file.tar – sactiw Jan 7 '16 at 19:39
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    I believe even this should work bzip2 -dc my_file.tar.bz2 | tar xv i.e. no need to use -f option and corresponding '-' sign after it because tar can directly read the from STDOUT through the pipe operator. Also, feel free to drop -v option if you don't want to list files being processed. – sactiw Jan 7 '16 at 19:45
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    This doesn't help, since the original poster already mentioned that it's not a tar archive. – icedwater Jan 15 '16 at 2:29
  1. Go to https://cloudconvert.com.
  2. Upload the file.
  3. Convert it into a .tar file.
  4. Download it.
  5. Extract it from there, in your terminal.
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  • 7
    Isn't suitable for really large files! – narendranathjoshi Feb 3 '16 at 9:04
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    We're superusers. We want a terminal-based solution. – noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ Jun 7 '16 at 16:41
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    @Mr. de Santos ... and thereby giving up control over your data. You can not be serious. – dirdi Sep 16 '19 at 18:22

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