To compress a file(s), is to significantly decrease the size of the file(s) by encoding data in the file(s) using less bits, and it is normally a useful practice during backup and transfer of a file(s) over a network. On the other hand, decompressing a file(s) means restoring data in the file(s) to its original state.


Bzip2 is a well-known compression tool and it’s available on most if not all the major Linux distributions, you can use the appropriate command for your distribution to install it.

$ sudo apt install bzip2     [On Debian/Ubuntu] 
$ sudo yum install  bzip2    [On CentOS/RHEL]
$ sudo dnf install bzip2     [On Fedora 22+]


The conventional syntax of using bzip2 is:

$ bzip2 option(s) filenames 


How to Use “bzip2” to Compress Files in Linux


You can compress a file as below, where the flag -z enables file compression:

$ bzip2 filename
$ bzip2 -z filename


To compress a .tar file, use the command format:

$ bzip2 -z backup.tar


Important: By default, bzip2 deletes the input files during compression or decompression, to keep the input files, use the -k or --keep option.


In addition, the -f or --force flag will force bzip2 to overwrite an existing output file.

------ To keep input file  ------
$ bzip2 -zk filename
$ bzip2 -zk backup.tar


You can as well set the block size to 100k upto 900k, using -1 or --fast to -9 or –best as shown in the below examples:

$ bzip2 -k1  Etcher-linux-x64.AppImage
$ ls -lh  Etcher-linux-x64.AppImage.bz2 
$ bzip2 -k9  Etcher-linux-x64.AppImage 
$ bzip2 -kf9  Etcher-linux-x64.AppImage 
$ ls -lh Etcher-linux-x64.AppImage.bz2 


How to Use “bzip2” to Decompress Files in Linux


To decompress a .bz2 file, make use of the -d or --decompress option like so:

$ bzip2 -d filename.bz2


Note: The file must end with a .bz2 extension for the command above to work.

$ bzip2 -vd Etcher-linux-x64.AppImage.bz2 
$ bzip2 -vfd Etcher-linux-x64.AppImage.bz2 
$ ls -l Etcher-linux-x64.AppImage


To view the bzip2 help page and man page, type the command below:

$ bzip2  -h
$ man bzip2


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