Practical Examples of the Unzip Command in Linux

Got a zip file in the terminal? Learn how to use the unzip command in Linux with these practical examples.

Abhishek Prakash
Abhishek Prakash

If you have a zip compressed file, you can unzip it in the Linux command line. The unzip command in Linux is quite versatile and you can use it do a lot more than just extracting zip file.

I have discussed how to gzip a folder in Linux in the past. It’s time to see various usage of the unzip command. Before you do that, make sure that unzip has been installed on your system. You can use your distribution’s package manager to install the command.

On Ubuntu and Debian, you can use this command:

sudo apt install unzip

Once you have verified that, let’s see how to use unzip in Linux terminal.

Unzip command in Linux

The unzip command has a really simple syntax:

unzip [option] zip_file

If you use it to extract a zip file without any option, it will extract all the files in the current directory:

  inflating: 339252-PAJF07-322.eps   
  inflating: 339252-PALBTL-394.eps   
  inflating: 339252-PALBTM-53.jpg    
  inflating: License free.txt        
  inflating: License premium.txt

And that’s not what you would want most of the time. It’ll just flood your current directory with all the extracted files.

ls    339252-PALBTM-53.jpg  'License premium.txt'
 339252-PAJF07-322.eps   339252-PALBTL-394.eps  'License free.txt'

1. Unzip to a directory

The expected behavior is that you should have the files extracted to a certain directory, normally with the same name as the zip file.

You can specify the target directory where you want to extract the files.

unzip -d target_directory zip_file

If the target directory doesn’t exist, it will be created. You cannot create nested directories in this manner though.

Do note that you can also put the target directory at the end but not all options can be added at the end.

unzip zip_file -d target_directory

2. See the content of the zip file without extracting

If you want to see what the zip file contains, you son’t always have to extract it first. You can use the -l option and it will show the content of the zip file.

unzip -l zip_file

As you can see, it also shows the timestamp of the files and the actual size of the individual files in bytes.

[email protected]:$ unzip -l 
  Length      Date    Time    Name
---------  ---------- -----   ----
   205358  2018-06-18 23:14
   996906  2018-06-18 23:14   339252-PAJF07-322.eps
   213968  2018-06-20 00:00
  1005362  2018-06-20 00:00   339252-PALBTL-394.eps
   305531  2018-06-20 00:00   339252-PALBTM-53.jpg
     1462  2018-06-20 09:45   License free.txt
     1116  2018-06-20 09:45   License premium.txt
---------                     -------
  2729703                     7 files

If you want, you can get more information like the compressed size, compression ratio by using the verbose mode with -v option. The CRC-32 in the output is the cyclic redundancy check.

[email protected]:$ unzip -v 
 Length   Method    Size  Cmpr    Date    Time   CRC-32   Name
--------  ------  ------- ---- ---------- ----- --------  ----
  205358  Defl:N   142097  31% 2018-06-18 23:14 792f2380
  996906  Defl:N   221228  78% 2018-06-18 23:14 440390d3  339252-PAJF07-322.eps
  213968  Defl:N   147568  31% 2018-06-20 00:00 cdb64dfc
 1005362  Defl:N   226727  77% 2018-06-20 00:00 aed3d97a  339252-PALBTL-394.eps
  305531  Defl:N   183363  40% 2018-06-20 00:00 e4ced90f  339252-PALBTM-53.jpg
    1462  Defl:N      728  50% 2018-06-20 09:45 0eb9e17b  License free.txt
    1116  Defl:N      558  50% 2018-06-20 09:45 165dd84e  License premium.txt
--------          -------  ---                            -------
 2729703           922269  66%                            7 files

3. Overwrite all the files without prompting

If there are already files with the same name in the directory where you are extracting the files, you’ll be promoted for each such files. You can force overwrite all the files with option -o.

unzip -o -d target_directory zip_file

4. Do not overwrite any files -n

If you don’t want any existing file to be overwritten by newly extracted files, use the -n option (stands for never overwrite).

unzip -n -d target_directory zip_file

5. Update files and create if necessary

This is slightly different the overwriting all the files. In this case, only those files will will be overwritten that have newer timestamp than the existing files. If a file doesn’t exist, it will be created.

You can achieve that with option -u:

unzip -u -d target_directory zip_file

6. Freshen existing files but create none

Slight change from the previous example here. In this one, it will update the existing files if they have older timestamp but it won’t create any new files even if they don’ exist.

The option -f allows you to do that:

unzip -f -d target_directory zip_file

7. Extract in quiet mode

When you unzip a file, it shows all the files that have been extracted on the display. Now imagine a zip file that has hundreds of files in it. If you extract it, your screen will be cluttered with the output.

You can use the quiet mode with option -q and you won’t see anything on the display:

unzip -q -d target_directory zip_file

8. Exclude files from extraction

You can also exclude certain files or certain type of files from being extracted.

unzip zip_file -x file_to_exclude

In my example, let’s say I don’t want to extract any .eps files.

[email protected]:$ unzip -x *.eps
  inflating: 339252-PALBTM-53.jpg   
  inflating: License free.txt        
  inflating: License premium.txt

Those were some of the most common examples of the unzip command in Linux. You can always check its man page to learn about more options.

Do you use some other option with unzip frequently? Why not share it with us in the comments?

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