Opening TAR files

Have a problem opening a .TAR file? We collect information about file formats and can explain what TAR files are. Additionally we recommend software suitable for opening or converting such files.

What is the .TAR file type?

The .tar filename extension denotes the Unix/Linux Tape Archive (.tar) file type, with reference to the TAR archive format. Historically, TAR was an archive format used on early Unix machines to archive data using tape recorders, hence the name (TAR = TApe Archive). TAR is still the core archive format in the Unix/Linux world.

The .tar file is an uncompressed TAR archive (tarball). It serves as a single-file wrapper for a hierarchical filesystem or its portion, i.e. a directory with all contained subdirectories and files. Compressed TAR archives conventionally receive dual extensions, like .tar.gz or .tar.bz2, to indicate both the archive format (.tar) and the compression method used (.gz for gzip, .bz2 for bzip2, .xz for xz). The .tar.gz format has become a standard way to distribute Unix/Linux source code packages.

The primary back-end tool for handling TAR archives is GNU tar, available as free software and ported to numerous OS'es and platforms. On Microsoft Windows, compressed and uncompressed tarballs are recognized and can be easily opened by several GUI-based archive managers, both free and paid.

Software to open or convert TAR files

You can open TAR files with the following programs:
WinRAR by win.rar GmbH
WinZip by WinZip Computing, S.L.

Popular formats