How to Force Git Pull to Overwrite Local Files

How to Force Git Pull to Overwrite Local FilesIf you are a software developer, the you are very well with the git version control system Git is one of the powerful tools that permits you to manage changes to the codebase collaborate with team members and help to track progress time to time.

However it is possible that you may sometimes encounter a situation where you required to force the git pull to overwrite local files. This can usually happen when you have made local changes that clashes with changes made by other team members or when you want to delete your local changes and start new with the remote repository. In this article, we will know about git pull, when to force git pull and how to force git pull to overwrite local files.

Understanding Force Git Pull

Before we explore the specifics of forcing “git pull” to overwrite local files, it is suggested to know and have a basics of how “git pull” works. When you run “git pull”, git will automatically fetch changes from the remote repository and merge those changes into your local branch. If there are any clash between the local changes and the changes from the remote repository, git will prompt you to fix those conflicts manually. In many cases, it permits you to review and alter the changes before merging them into the local branch.

When to Force Git Pull?

However, there are situations where you may want to force “git pull” to overwrite local files without prompting for manual conflict resolution. This can be useful if you know that your local changes are obsolete and you want to replace them with the changes from the remote repository. It can also be useful if you want to discard your local changes and start fresh with the remote repository. In these situations, you can use the “–force” option with “git pull” to force git to overwrite local files without prompting for manual conflict resolution.

Why Did a Git Pull Throw That Error Anyways?

If you want to understand the git pull error, you first need to know the types of git repositories.

Git is the distributed version control system. This means that there is central remote repository like Github, used for collaboration with other developers on the project. On the contrary, each developer has their own Local Repository on their own machine where they can develop code changes before pushing them to remote repository. This permits for an efficient and streamlined workflow while collaborating on projects with others.

The local repository has 3 different stages: working directory, staging area, and commit history area.types

1. Working area:

The Working area or directory is where all your project files stay. Any file changes you make in your project are all in this area of your local repository, which is on your local machine. It contains untracked changes that have not been staged or committed yet.

2. Staging area:

The Staging area is where your project file changes that are ready to be committed stay. It contains trackedchanges that would be committed next.

3. Commit History area

The Commit History area is the Git repository where all your commits are stored.

Now that you have understood the kinds of git repositories, let’s understand the error thrown.

What is This Error – “Untracked working tree file ‘some_file.go’ would be overwritten by merge”?

From the error message above, you have project file in your Working area that have not yet been committed to the Git repository.

But you are trying to pull from a remote repository that most likely has file changes made on the same file you are working on locally. So, Git threw that error to tell you that you would lose your local file changes, which conflicts with changes from the remote repository when you ran git pull.

The right solution to any problem ideally depends on the expected outcome, as each issue has its context and a desired outcome. So, depending on your scenario,

  • You might not want to save the local file changes you have, and you are fine with Git overwriting them, or
  • Perhaps, you don’t want to lose your file changes and want them saved first before pulling changes from a remote repository.

Let’s discuss both scenarios.

How to force git pull without saving local file changes

The approaches to be discussed here discard all your uncommitted local file changes by overwriting them. Let’s dive in.

Git pull <remote_repo_alias> <remote_repo_branch_name> –force

git pull origin develop --force

This will fetch changes from the remote repository aliased with ‘origin’ and merge them into your feature branch, disregarding any conflicting local changes you have made by overwriting them with changes from the remote.

Git fetch –all && git reset –hard <remote_repo_alias>/<branch_name>

git fetch --all && git reset --hard origin/develop

The git fetch --all command fetches or downloads changes from all remote repositories defined in your local repository and uses these changes to update only the remote-tracking branches in your local repository. Please note that this command does not modify your local branches.

The git reset --hard origin/developcommand makes your feature branch point to the latest commit of the remote repository’s ‘develop’ branch. The --hard option ensures that git discards any local changes that have not been committed, i.e., the uncommitted local changes in the working area or staging area will be lost.

Together, these commands will update your local feature branch with the latest changes from the remote’s ‘develop’ branch.

Please note that there are several other combinations of git commands which achieve the same result of overwriting your local file changes without saving them.

How to force git pull but save local file changes

Remember, in this scenario, you are already on your feature branch locally with changes in your working area or directory that have not yet been staged, let alone committed.

You can either commit your local changes or stash them.

Commit Local Changes

git add .
git commit -m "Add commit message before merge here"
git pull origin develop
# If any merge conflicts happen, manually resolve them and do the below
git add .
git commit -m "Add merge commit message here"

The commands above do the following, respectively:

  • Adds files in the current directory (.) to the Staging area
  • Creates a new commit that is stored in the Local Git Repository
  • Fetches the latest changes from the develop branch on the remote repository aliased as origin
  • If there are merge conflicts, resolve the conflicts manually. Then, stage your changes and commit your changes as done previously with the git add and git commit commands.

Stash Local Changes

git stash --include-untracked
git pull origin develop
# If any merge conflicts happen, manually resolve them and do the below
git add .
git commit -m "Add merge commit message here"
# Put your saved local changes back in your working area
git stash apply

The commands above do the following, respectively:

  • By default, the git stashcommand only saves changes to files that git tracks, i.e., files that have been staged or committed. But with the --include-untracked option, changes made to files that are both tracked (i.e., files in the working directory) and untracked are saved.
  • Fetches the latest changes from the ‘develop’ branch on the remote repository aliased as origin.
  • If there are merge conflicts, it gives the option of resolving the conflicts manually, then staging your changes. And committing them as done previously with the git add and git commitcommands.
  • Applies your saved changes which are your most recent stash, to your Working area and still keep the stash applied for future use, i.e., it does not remove an applied stash from the list of stashes you have.

How to fix other similar git pull errors

Let’s look at some common errors below.

Error during checkout or switch:

error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by checkout:
        some_file.go
Please commit your changes or stash them before you switch branches.
Aborting

The error above usually happens when you run the git checkout or the git switch command. You could be trying to switch to another branch or commit hash when you have local changes that have not been committed yet changes in files in your working area or changes in files that have been staged that conflict with changes in the branch or commit you are trying to switch to. Git throws the above error to tell you that your changes will be lost in the process.

To resolve this error:

  • If you want to discard your file changes: you can run the git checkout or the git switchcommand with the --forceoption.
  • If you don’t want to lose your file changes: you can follow the steps explained previously by either committing your changes or stashing your changes first before switching to another branch or commit.

Error when you have changes in your working area and staging area:

error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge:
        some_file.go
Please commit your changes or stash them before you merge.
Aborting

The error above occurs when you have changes in files in your Working area or in files that have been Staged that conflict with the changes in the remote repository you are trying to pull from.

To resolve this error, you can follow the same steps discussed previously, depending on whether you want to discard or save your local changes.

Conclusion

When you forcefully pull code from a remote repository, it can lead to the loss of the code changes you just wrote, which is mostly an unintended outcome. It is generally recommended to use an approach that will allow you to review file changes and resolve conflicts that arise.

Unless you are completely sure that you want to discard your changes, avoid forcefully pulling changes from a remote repository.

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