How to Unzip Files in Linux

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ZIP is the most widely used archive file format that supports lossless data compression. A ZIP file is a data container containing one or more compressed files or directories.

In this tutorial, we will explain how to unzip files in Linux systems through the command line using the unzip command.

Installing unzip

unzip is not installed by default in most Linux distributions, but you can easily install it using the package manager of your distribution.

Install unzip on Ubuntu and Debian

sudo apt install unzip

Install unzip on CentOS and Fedora

sudo yum install unzip

How to Unzip a ZIP file

In it’s simplest form, when used without any option, the unzip command extracts all files from the specified ZIP archive to the current directory.

As an example, let’s say you downloaded the Wordpress installation ZIP file. To unzip this file to the current directory, you’d simply run the following command:

unzip latest.zip

ZIP files do not support Linux-style ownership information. The extracted files are owned by the user that runs the command.

You must have write permissions on the directory where you are extracting thr ZIP archive.

Suppress the Output of the unzip Command

By default, unzip prints the names of all the files it’s extracting and a summary when the extraction is completed.

Use the -q switch to suppress the printing of these messages.

unzip -q filename.zip

Unzip a ZIP File to a Different Directory

To unzip a ZIP file to a different directory than the current one, use the -d switch:

unzip filename.zip -d /path/to/directory

For example, to unzip the WordPress archive latest.zip to the /var/www/ directory, you’d use the following command:

sudo unzip latest.zip -d /var/www

In the command above, we are using sudo because usually the user we are logged in as doesn’t have write permissions to the /var/www directory. When ZIP files are decompressed using sudo, the extracted files and directories are owned by the user root.

Unzip a Password Protected ZIP file

To unzip a file that is password-protected, invoke the unzip command with the -P option followed by the password:

unzip -P PasswOrd filename.zip

Typing a password on the command line is insecure and should be avoided. A more secure option is to extract the file normally without providing the password. If the ZIP file is encrypted, unzip will prompt you to enter the password:

unzip filename.zip
archive:  filename.zip
[filename.zip] file.txt password: 

unzip will use the same password for all encripted files as long as it is correct.

Exclude Files when Unzipping a ZIP File

To exclude specific files or directories from being extracted, use the -x option followed by space-separated list of archive files you want to exclude from extracting:

unzip filename.zip -x file1-to-exclude file2-to-exclude

In the following example we are extracting all files and directories from the ZIP archive except the .git directory:

unzip filename.zip -x "*.git/*"

Overwrite Existing Files

Let’s say you’ve already unzipped a ZIP file and you are running the same command again:

unzip latest.zip

By default, unzip will ask you whether you like to overwrite only the current file, overwrite all files, skip extraction of the current file, skip extraction of all files, or rename the current file.

Archive:  latest.zip
replace wordpress/xmlrpc.php? [y]es, [n]o, [A]ll, [N]one, [r]ename:

If you want to overwrite existing files without prompting, use the -o option:

unzip -o filename.zip

Use this option with caution. If you made any changes to the files, the changes are lost.

Unzip a ZIP File Without Overwriting Existing Files

Let’s say you’ve already unzipped a ZIP file, and you made changes to some files, but you accidentally deleted few files. You want to keep the changes and to restore the deleted files from the ZIP archive.

In this case, use the -n option which forces unzip to skip the extraction of a file that already exists:

unzip -n filename.zip

Unzip Multiple ZIP Files

You can use regular expressions to match multiple archives.

For example, if you have multiple ZIP files in your current working directory you can unzip all files using only one command:

unzip '*.zip'

Note the single quotes around the *.zip. If you forgot to quote the argument, the shell will expand the wildcard character, and you will get an error.

List the Contents of a Zip File

To list the contents of a ZIP file, use the -l option:

unzip -l filename.zip

In the example below, we are listing all WordPress installation files:

unzip -l latest.zip

The output will look like this:

Archive:  latest.zip
  Length      Date    Time    Name
---------  ---------- -----   ----
        0  2018-08-02 22:39   wordpress/
     3065  2016-08-31 18:31   wordpress/xmlrpc.php
      364  2015-12-19 12:20   wordpress/wp-blog-header.php
     7415  2018-03-18 17:13   wordpress/readme.html
...
...
    21323  2018-03-09 01:15   wordpress/wp-admin/themes.php
     8353  2017-09-10 18:20   wordpress/wp-admin/options-reading.php
     4620  2017-10-24 00:12   wordpress/wp-trackback.php
     1889  2018-05-03 00:11   wordpress/wp-comments-post.php
---------                     -------
 27271400                     1648 files

Conclusion

unzip is a utility that helps you list, test, and extract compressed ZIP archives.

To create a ZIP archive on a Linux system, you’ll need to use the zip command.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.