Reverting Changes In Git

I’ve used a lot of SCM‘s in my time, and none of them have been as esoteric as Git. This post serves as a reminder of the different ways to “revert” changes to a git repository

Scenario:

We are in directory with a local git repository. This repo contains 4 files and no sub-directories. Each file is in one of the 4 different states a file could be in for Git (not considering ignored files for the time being)

File Name State
Unchanged.txt File is unchanged in local directory
New.txt File is new to the repo
Deleted.txt File has been deleted from local directory
Modified.txt File has been modified in the local directory

All files except New.txt are being tracked and none of these changes have been staged/committed (yet).

Action: checkout

$> git checkout
  • This command has an implicit head of [HEAD]
  • This command has an implicit working file/directory of the CWD
  • This command will only affect tracked files
File Name State
Unchanged.txt no action
New.txt no action (because it’s untracked)
Deleted.txt no action (will not restore the file UNLESS explicitly stating file in command)
Modified.txt no action (will not restore the file UNLESS explicitly stating file in command)

Action: checkout <file/path>

$> git checkout .
$> git checkout Deleted.txt
  • This command has an implicit head of [HEAD]
  • This command has an explicit working file/directory of the path on line 1, and of the file Deleted.txt on line 2
  • This command will only affect tracked files
File Name State
Unchanged.txt no action
New.txt no action (because it’s untracked)
Deleted.txt File is reverted back to its original from the current head
Modified.txt File is reverted back to its original from the current head

Action: reset

$> git reset .
  • This command has an implicit head of [HEAD]
  • This command has an explicit working directory of the CWD
  • This command will unstage staged changes
File Name State
Unchanged.txt no action (changes are unstaged)
New.txt no action (changes are unstaged)
Deleted.txt no action (changes are unstaged)
Modified.txt no action (changes are unstaged)

Action: reset (with staged content)

$> git add .
$> git reset
  • This action assumes that all changes have been staged (line 1), so the repo is in the following state:
    File Name State
    Unchanged.txt File is unchanged in repo
    New.txt File is staged for adding
    Deleted.txt File has been staged for deletion
    Modified.txt File has been staged with modification
  • This command has an implicit head of [HEAD]
  • This command has an implicit working directory of the CWD
  • This command will unstage staged changes
File Name State
Unchanged.txt no action (changes are unstaged)
New.txt no action (changes are unstaged)
Deleted.txt no action (changes are unstaged)
Modified.txt no action (changes are unstaged)

Action: clean

$> git clean -d -f
  • This command has an implicit head of [HEAD]
  • This command has an explicit working directory of the CWD
  • This command will remove files and directories which are untracked in the repo
File Name State
Unchanged.txt no action
New.txt File would be deleted
Deleted.txt no action
Modified.txt no action

So in summary, if you want to completely revert your working directory to a clean state (IE: the equivalent of an svn revert) is to:

$> git clean -fd
$> git checkout .

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