Quickly archive multiple directories into separate archive files

Posted by on Aug 24, 2009 in Ubuntu23 comments

I recently needed to quickly archive several hundred directories, and their contents into separate, compressed files named after the directories. The horribly slow way to do this would be to either right-click each directory and select “create archive” via the File Manager, or, via the command line, to manually run tar several hundred times – once for each directory. Neither option is pleasant, or viable. However, with a simple shell for loop, combined with ls and the relevant archiver command, the task becomes quick and painless:

for dir in `ls`;do cd $dir; tar -cvzf $dir.tar.gz *;mv $dir.tar.gz ..; cd ..;done

This will run an ls command, and temporarily save the output for use in the For loop. The code loops through each part of the ls output, moves into the current directory (assuming it is a directory), creates the archive and moves the archive file to the parent directory, before moving itself to the parent directory to begin again with the next part of the ls output.

So, for example, if you have the following directory structure:


and you wish to archive dir-to-archive1 through dir-to-archive5, and all the contents therein, you would run:

cd /home/username/stuff_to_archive
for dir in `ls`;do cd $dir; tar -cvzf $dir.tar.gz *;mv $dir.tar.gz ..; cd ..;done

The code will loop through each directory and archive its contents into a file named after the directory (e.g. dir-to-archive1.tar.gz), leaving you with:


If you want to use ZIP instead, then run:

for dir in `ls`;do cd $dir; zip $dir *;mv $dir.zip ..; cd ..;done

or replace the archiver command with whatever you want to use to compress the directory contents.


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  1. Hi buddy.

    By chance I’ve had some similar needs lately. I wanted to create an archive of the deepest directory inside a structure with different depths (my music folder actually)
    But first, you shouldn’t parse ls output.
    find $PWD -type d
    would be much better. Also, there’s no need to cd in a command or a script.
    However, here’s what I did
    This nice piece of bit finds the deepest subdirs in a given stack, returning the full path for each one:

    find $PWD -type d -exec bash -c ‘shopt -s nullglob; d=(“$1″/*/); ((!${#d[@]}))’ _ {} \; -print > /tmp/dirlist

    and then run a nice smooth and safe

    for i in $(sed ‘1,$!d’ /tmp/dirlist); do tar cvfj “${i##*/}”.tar.bz2 “$i” ; done


    I just rolled a blog too, join me if you feel like :)


  2. man, i googled for a script, ran across your code.

    complete time saver man, props to you!

    thanks so much.

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