How do you remove a file from a Git repository? That’s a good question. It’s not always the case that you want a file to be part of a repository forever. You may decide that a file is no longer necessary to a project, and therefore you’ll want to remove it from the Git repository.
To remove a file from a Git repository, you can use the git rm command. It’s the opposite of the git add command; it removes files.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss how to use the git rm command. We’ll walk through an example of the git rm command to show you how it works. Let’s begin!
How Files Are Managed in Git
Before we discuss how to use the git rm command, we need to understand how files are managed inside Git repositories.
Files inside a Git repository can either be tracked or untracked.
Tracked files are files which have been included in a git commit. Untracked files are files which have not yet been committed to the repository. Typically, untracked files are those that you have created before creating a commit.
To add a file to a commit, you can use the git add command. This will make it a tracked file. If you want to stop a file from being tracked, you can use the git rm command.
How to Use the git rm Command
The git rm command removes a file or group of files from a Git repository.
Without any flags, this command will remove a file from both a Git repository and your local working directory. This means that it deletes a file, just like the “rm” Linux command deletes a file from a computer.
The simplest use of this command is to remove a file. Let’s remove a file called settings.json from a Git repository:
git rm settings.json
This command will remove settings.json from the tracking area of our repository. You can use this same command to remove multiple files by separating the names of the files or folders you want to remove with a space:
git rm settings.json .env
This will remove the settings.json and .env files from a repository.
By default, Git will conduct a safety check when you run the rm command to unstage and remove paths. This will make sure that the files on your current branch are the same as those in the staging index. You can override this behavior by using the -f, or –force, flag:
git rm -f settings.json
You should only use the -f flag when you are absolutely sure that you want to remove a file. Otherwise, a merge conflict may occur later down the line. If this does happen, you can use our guide on how to resolve a merge conflict to help you out.
How to Remove a File Without Deleting It
You can remove a file from a Git repository without deleting it. That’s where the –cached flag comes in handy.
The –cached flag removes a file from the staging area. The files from the working directory will remain intact. This means that you’ll still have a copy of the file locally. The file will no longer exist inside your Git repository.
Let’s remove the settings.json working tree file from our repository but keep it in our project directory:
git rm –cached settings.json
When we push our next commit, the settings.json file will be removed.
As long as a file exists in your local working directory, you can add it back to your Git repository using the git add command. Read more about git add in our tutorial on the git add command.
How to Undo a git rm Command
The git rm command only updates the staging area and the working directory until a commit has been made. This means you can revert the command. To undo a git rm command, you can reset your repository to the last commit using git reset:
git reset HEAD
The HEAD commit indicates that we want to revert our repository to the last commit.
You can revert a git rm command even if you have already committed the changes to the repository. To do so, you can use the git reset command and specify the hash of the commit to which you want to revert:
git reset a7e3cce9637c74281e6590003b39d3990bbb2731
We are reverting a git repository to its previous commit. The string of letters after the word “reset” is the hash for the last commit.
Once we revert the repository, we can view how that repository appeared before the commit. This means that our file will still be staged. In other words, our git rm command will have been undone.
The git rm command allows you to remove a file from a Git repository and your working directory. If you only want to remove a file from your Git repository and not your local working copy of a project, you can use the –cached flag.
Now you’re ready to use the git rm command like a command line expert!