TAR File - opening and understanding

Did your computer fail to open a TAR file? We explain what they are used for and recommend software that we know can open or otherwise handle your .TAR files.

What is a TAR file?

A .TAR file is a Tape ARchive file. Files that contain the .tar file extension are TAR archive files that have been created by the TAR file archiving utility. The TAR utility is a Unix-based utility that combines multiple files into a single archive file.

The TAR file format makes the storage and distribution of a large volume of files more convenient and manageable. Instead of adding 20 different file attachments to an email, you can combine all 20 files into a single TAR archive and attach that single archive attachment to the email message.

TAR files store the files in their original form. To reduce the size of a TAR file, they are often compressed using the "compress" or "gzip" utilities.

How to open TAR files

You will need a program compatible with the specific file you are trying to open, as different programs may use files with file extension TAR for different purposes. We have identified 5 TAR openers for Windows that is compatible with this specific type of TAR file.

Programs that open these files

BitZipperBitZipperVerified
WinZipWinZipVerified
WinRARWinRARVerified
7-Zip7-ZipVerified
PowerArchiverPowerArchiverVerified
We have not yet verified any programs for Mac that work with this specific file format. If you know one, please use the 'Suggest a program' link below. Thanks!
We have not yet verified any web services that work with this specific file format. If you know one, please use the 'Suggest a program' link below. Thanks!

Other file formats using extension .TAR

While Tape ARchive is a popular type of TAR-file, we know of 2 different uses of the .TAR extension.

The TAR file extension indicates to your device which app can open the file. However, different apps may use the same file extension for different types of data. So a TAR opener may not be able to open all kinds of TAR files. In this case, look through both formats to make sure you find the best suited TAR viewer.

BagIt package

Another type of TAR file is BagIt, a format designed for storage and digital content transfer.

BagIt TAR files also referred to as "bags", contain files in a folder structure, and include metadata that document the files. For example, there is a required metadata file that must list every file's name and checksum in the BagIt TAR file. In that way, tools extracting the data can check if the archive has been damaged. Apart from files, a "bag" can also contain a list of URLs to be retrieved when the content is extracted.

This format has wide adoption in digital libraries, e.g., the US Library of Congress.

We have not yet verified any programs for Windows that work with this specific file format. If you know one, please use the 'Suggest a program' link below. Thanks!