Using Gzip to create .gz files

- 3 min read

Compressing files from the terminal doesn’t need to be a magical combination of options. Learn all the basics of Gzip with examples.

Compressing a file with Gzip

Compressing a file can be completed by running:


However, this will remove YOUR-FILE and leave you with YOUR-FILE.gz. If you want to keep your original file—so you’d end up with YOUR-FILE and YOUR-FILE.gz, then you’ll need to use the keep (-k or --keep) option.

gzip -k YOUR-FILE

If you want to compress your file as much as possible, you’ll also want to set your compression level. The options range from 1 to 9.

  • 1 will give you the largest file (least compression), but will finish as quickly as possible.
  • 2-8 will give you a balance between least or most compression, at the cost of speed. If you do not specify a compression level, 6 is the default.
  • 9 will give you the smallest file, but will take the most processing power.
gzip -k1 YOUR-FILE
gzip -k6 YOUR-FILE
gzip -k9 YOUR-FILE
# Without keeping your file
gzip -9 YOUR-FILE 

Compressing stdin with Gzip

Gzip works just as well with stdin as with a file. However, you will need to specify your .gz file to write to—or use the stdout as input for another command with a pipe.

# Write to a file
cat YOUR-FILE | gzip -9 > YOUR-FILE.gz

# Pipe to another command
cat YOUR-FILE | gzip -3 | openssl rsautl -inkey YOUR-KEY.txt -encrypt > YOUR-ENCRYPTED-FILE.bin

Sending Gzip result to stdout

When we compressed from stdin, Gzip automatically set the output to stdout—rather than writing to a file. However, if we want to Gzip a file and send the compressed output to stdout, we’ll need to use the -c option.


Note, -c automatically keeps your file, -k is not needed.

Viewing compression information about a file

Once you have a .gz file, you can view compression information about it with the -l option.

# Worst compression
gzip -k1 YOUR-FILE
gzip -l YOUR-FILE.gz
         compressed        uncompressed  ratio uncompressed_name
               4088               27475  85.2% YOUR-FILE

# Best compression
gzip -k9 YOUR-FILE
gzip -l YOUR-FILE.gz
         compressed        uncompressed  ratio uncompressed_name
               3244               27475  88.3% YOUR-FILE

The amount of compression achieved for your file will be dependent upon what you are compressing.


Gzip can also decompress your .gz file with the -d option.

# Keep the .gz file
gzip -kd YOUR-FILE.gz

# Or don't
gzip -d YOUR-FILE.gz

Recompressing a file

If you have an existing .gz file that was compressed with a faster compression (such as -1), we can recompress the file.

First, your file:

gzip -l YOUR-FILE.gz
         compressed        uncompressed  ratio uncompressed_name
               4093               27475  85.2% YOUR-FILE

Recompress your file by decompressing (-d), sending to stdout (-c) piping to the gzip command with a better compression level:

gzip -cd YOUR-FILE.gz | gzip -9 > YOUR-SMALLER-FILE.gz

Check your result (if you want):

         compressed        uncompressed  ratio uncompressed_name
               3239               27475  88.3% YOUR-SMALLER-FILE


Cody Craven enjoys sharing tidbits of information that he learns through his life-long journey developing websites and configuring web servers.

When at work, Cody can often be found banging his head against his keyboard for hours days weeks-on-end trying to solve technical issues that would otherwise prevent his teammates from creating Member value at AAA.

All content that Cody contributes to this site are his own ideas and do not necessarily represent AAA's positions or opinions.