How to Unzip a Zip File in Linux [Beginner's Tutorial]

This quick tip shows you how to unzip a file in Ubuntu and other Linux distributions. Both terminal and GUI methods have been discussed.

Zip is one of the most common and most popular ways to create compressed archive files. It is also one of the older archive file formats that were created in 1989. Since it is widely used, you’ll regularly come across a zip file.

In an earlier tutorial, I showed how to zip a folder in Linux. In this quick tutorial for beginners, I’ll show you how to unzip files in Linux.

Prerequisite: Verify if you have unzip installed

In order to unzip a zip archive file, you must have the unzip package installed in your system. Most modern Linux distributions come with unzip support but there is no harm in verifying it to avoid bad surprises later.

In a terminal, use the following command:

unzip --version

If it gives you some details, you have unzip installed already. If you see an ‘unzip command not found’ error, you have to install.

In Ubuntu and Debian based distributions, you can use the command below to install unzip.

sudo apt install unzip

Once you have made sure that your system has unzip support, it’s time to unzip a zip file in Linux.

You can use both the command line and GUI for this purpose and I’ll show you both methods.

  • Unzip files in Linux terminal
  • Unzip files in Ubuntu via GUI

Unzip files in Linux command line

Using unzip command in Linux is absolutely simple. In the directory, where you have the zip file, use this command:


You can also provide the path to the zip file instead of going to the directory. You’ll see extracted files in the output:

unzip -d my_zip
  inflating: my_zip/625993-PNZP34-678.jpg  
  inflating: my_zip/License free.txt  
  inflating: my_zip/License premium.txt

There is a slight problem with the above command. It will extract all the contents of the zip file in the current directory. That’s not a pretty thing to do because you’ll have a handful of files leaving the current directory unorganized.

Unzip to a specific directory

A good practice is to unzip to directory in Linux command line. This way, all the extracted files are stored in the directory you specified. If the directory doesn’t exist, it will create one.

unzip -d unzipped_directory

Now all the contents of the will be extracted to unzipped_directory.

Since we are discussing good practices, another tip you can use is to have a look at the content of the zip file without actually extracting it.

See the content of the zip file without unzipping it

You can check the content of the zip file without even extracting it with the option -l.

unzip -l

Here’s a sample output:

unzip -l 
  Length      Date    Time    Name
---------  ---------- -----   ----
  6576010  2019-03-07 10:30   625993-PNZP34-678.jpg
     1462  2019-03-07 13:39   License free.txt
     1116  2019-03-07 13:39   License premium.txt
---------                     -------
  6578588                     3 files

There are many other usage of the unzip command in Linux but I guess now you have enough knowledge to unzip files in Linux.

Unzip files in Linux using GUI

You don’t always have to go to the terminal if you are using desktop Linux. Let’s see how to unzip in Ubuntu Linux graphically. I am using GNOME desktop here with Ubuntu 18.04 but the process is pretty much the same in other desktop Linux distributions.

Open the file manager and go to the folder where your zip file is stored. Right click the file and you’ll see the option “extract here”. Select this one.

Unzip Files Ubuntu
Unzip File in Ubuntu

Unlike the unzip command, the extract here options create a folder of the same name as the zipped file and all the content of the zipped files are extracted to this newly created folder. I am glad that this is the default behavior instead of extracting everything in the current directory.

There is also the option of ‘extract to’ and with that you can specify the folder where you want to extract the files.

That’s it. Now you know how to unzip a file in Linux. Perhaps you might also be interested in learning about using 7zip in Linux.

If you have questions or suggestions, do let me know in the comment section.

About the author
Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash

Created It's FOSS 11 years ago to share my Linux adventures. Have a Master's degree in Engineering and years of IT industry experience. Huge fan of Agatha Christie detective mysteries 🕵️‍♂️

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