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tar stands for tape archive. On early computer systems, files were stored on magnetic tape, and programs to handle tape archives were created to facilitate file handling by users. tar is still used in many computer systems to group files together, even though the storage media range anywhere from hard and floppy disks, optical disks, tape or CD-R.

In DOS-based systems, utilities such as arc or PKzip serve the purpose of grouping files together as well as compressing them so that they use less storage space. Most versions of tar do not have compression capabilities, so to compress a tar file two standard techniques are used:

  1. The tar file is compressed with an external compression utility such as compress or gzip
  2. The tar program has capabilities to filter its output through an external compression utility. GNU tar has this capability.

You are encouraged to visit the GNU WWW site at http://www.gnu.org/software/tar

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Updated: 2002-01-01 ceaf