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9.5.2 The mt Utility

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See section The Blocking Factor of an Archive.

You can use the mt utility to advance or rewind a tape past a specified number of archive files on the tape. This will allow you to move to the beginning of an archive before extracting or reading it, or to the end of all the archives before writing a new one.

The syntax of the mt command is:

mt [-f tapename] operation [number]

where tapename is the name of the tape device, number is the number of times an operation is performed (with a default of one), and operation is one of the following:


Writes number tape marks at the current position on the tape.


Moves tape position forward number files.


Moves tape position back number files.


Rewinds the tape. (Ignores number.)


Rewinds the tape and takes the tape device off-line. (Ignores number.)


Prints status information about the tape unit.

If you don’t specify a tapename, mt uses the environment variable TAPE; if TAPE is not set, mt will use the default device specified in your ‘sys/mtio.h’ file (DEFTAPE variable). If this is not defined, the program will display a descriptive error message and exit with code 1.

mt returns a 0 exit status when the operation(s) were successful, 1 if the command was unrecognized, and 2 if an operation failed.

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