Shell command to tar directory excluding certain files/folders


Is there a simple shell command/script that supports excluding certain files/folders from being archived?

I have a directory that need to be archived with a sub directory that has a number of very large files I do not need to backup.

Not quite solutions:

The tar --exclude=PATTERN command matches the given pattern and excludes those files, but I need specific files & folders to be ignored (full file path), otherwise valid files might be excluded.

I could also use the find command to create a list of files and exclude the ones I don't want to archive and pass the list to tar, but that only works with for a small amount of files. I have tens of thousands.

I'm beginning to think the only solution is to create a file with a list of files/folders to be excluded, then use rsync with --exclude-from=file to copy all the files to a tmp directory, and then use tar to archive that directory.

Can anybody think of a better/more efficient solution?

EDIT: Charles Ma's solution works well. The big gotcha is that the --exclude='./folder' MUST be at the beginning of the tar command. Full command (cd first, so backup is relative to that directory):

cd /folder_to_backup
tar --exclude='./folder' --exclude='./upload/folder2' -zcvf /backup/filename.tgz .
6/20/2019 4:52:23 AM

Accepted Answer

You can have multiple exclude options for tar so

$ tar --exclude='./folder' --exclude='./upload/folder2' -zcvf /backup/filename.tgz .

etc will work. Make sure to put --exclude before the source and destination items.

5/16/2017 8:15:55 AM

You can exclude directories with --exclude for tar.

If you want to archive everything except /usr you can use:

tar -zcvf /all.tgz / --exclude=/usr

In your case perhaps something like

tar -zcvf archive.tgz arc_dir --exclude=dir/ignore_this_dir

Possible options to exclude files/directories from backup using tar:

Exclude files using multiple patterns

tar -czf backup.tar.gz --exclude=PATTERN1 --exclude=PATTERN2 ... /path/to/backup

Exclude files using an exclude file filled with a list of patterns

tar -czf backup.tar.gz -X /path/to/exclude.txt /path/to/backup

Exclude files using tags by placing a tag file in any directory that should be skipped

tar -czf backup.tar.gz --exclude-tag-all=exclude.tag /path/to/backup

old question with many answers, but I found that none were quite clear enough for me, so I would like to add my try.

if you have the following structure


with following file/folders


so, you want to make a tar file that contain everyting inside /home/ftp/mysite (to move the site to a new server), but file3 is just junk, and everything in folder3 is also not needed, so we will skip those two.

we use the format

tar -czvf <name of tar file> <what to tar> <any excludes>

where the c = create, z = zip, and v = verbose (you can see the files as they are entered, usefull to make sure none of the files you exclude are being added). and f= file.

so, my command would look like this

cd /home/ftp/
tar -czvf mysite.tar.gz mysite --exclude='file3' --exclude='folder3'

note the files/folders excluded are relatively to the root of your tar (I have tried full path here relative to / but I can not make that work).

hope this will help someone (and me next time I google it)


You can use standard "ant notation" to exclude directories relative.
This works for me and excludes any .git or node_module directories:

tar -cvf myFile.tar --exclude=**/.git/* --exclude=**/node_modules/*  -T /data/txt/myInputFile.txt 2> /data/txt/myTarLogFile.txt

myInputFile.txt contains:



I've experienced that, at least with the Cygwin version of tar I'm using ("CYGWIN_NT-5.1 1.7.17(0.262/5/3) 2012-10-19 14:39 i686 Cygwin" on a Windows XP Home Edition SP3 machine), the order of options is important.

While this construction worked for me:

tar cfvz target.tgz --exclude='<dir1>' --exclude='<dir2>' target_dir

that one didn't work:

tar cfvz --exclude='<dir1>' --exclude='<dir2>' target.tgz target_dir

This, while tar --help reveals the following:

tar [OPTION...] [FILE]

So, the second command should also work, but apparently it doesn't seem to be the case...

Best rgds,


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