man pages section 1: User Commands

Exit Print View

Updated: July 2014

git-checkout (1)


git-checkout - Checkout a branch or paths to the working tree


git checkout [-q] [-f] [-m] [<branch>]
git checkout [-q] [-f] [-m] [--detach] [<commit>]
git checkout [-q] [-f] [-m] [[-b|-B|--orphan] <new_branch>] [<start_point>]
git checkout [-f|--ours|--theirs|-m|--conflict=<style>] [<tree-ish>] [--] <paths>...
git checkout [-p|--patch] [<tree-ish>] [--] [<paths>...]


Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

     git-checkout - Checkout a branch or paths to the working

     git checkout [-q] [-f] [-m] [<branch>]
     git checkout [-q] [-f] [-m] [--detach] [<commit>]
     git checkout [-q] [-f] [-m] [[-b|-B|--orphan] <new_branch>] [<start_point>]
     git checkout [-f|--ours|--theirs|-m|--conflict=<style>] [<tree-ish>] [--] <paths>...
     git checkout [-p|--patch] [<tree-ish>] [--] [<paths>...]

     Updates files in the working tree to match the version in
     the index or the specified tree. If no paths are given, git
     checkout will also update HEAD to set the specified branch
     as the current branch.

     git checkout [<branch>], git checkout -b|-B <new_branch>
     [<start point>], git checkout [--detach] [<commit>]
         This form switches branches by updating the index,
         working tree, and HEAD to reflect the specified branch
         or commit.

         If -b is given, a new branch is created as if git-
         branch(1) were called and then checked out; in this case
         you can use the --track or --no-track options, which
         will be passed to git branch. As a convenience, --track
         without -b implies branch creation; see the description
         of --track below.

         If -B is given, <new_branch> is created if it doesn't
         exist; otherwise, it is reset. This is the transactional
         equivalent of

             $ git branch -f <branch> [<start point>]
             $ git checkout <branch>

         that is to say, the branch is not reset/created unless
         "git checkout" is successful.

     git checkout [-p|--patch] [<tree-ish>] [--] <pathspec>...
         When <paths> or --patch are given, git checkout does not
         switch branches. It updates the named paths in the
         working tree from the index file or from a named
         <tree-ish> (most often a commit). In this case, the -b
         and --track options are meaningless and giving either of
         them results in an error. The <tree-ish> argument can be
         used to specify a specific tree-ish (i.e. commit, tag or
         tree) to update the index for the given paths before
         updating the working tree.

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    1

Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

         The index may contain unmerged entries because of a
         previous failed merge. By default, if you try to check
         out such an entry from the index, the checkout operation
         will fail and nothing will be checked out. Using -f will
         ignore these unmerged entries. The contents from a
         specific side of the merge can be checked out of the
         index by using --ours or --theirs. With -m, changes made
         to the working tree file can be discarded to re-create
         the original conflicted merge result.

     -q, --quiet
         Quiet, suppress feedback messages.

     -f, --force
         When switching branches, proceed even if the index or
         the working tree differs from HEAD. This is used to
         throw away local changes.

         When checking out paths from the index, do not fail upon
         unmerged entries; instead, unmerged entries are ignored.

     --ours, --theirs
         When checking out paths from the index, check out stage
         #2 (ours) or #3 (theirs) for unmerged paths.

         Create a new branch named <new_branch> and start it at
         <start_point>; see git-branch(1) for details.

         Creates the branch <new_branch> and start it at
         <start_point>; if it already exists, then reset it to
         <start_point>. This is equivalent to running "git
         branch" with "-f"; see git-branch(1) for details.

     -t, --track
         When creating a new branch, set up "upstream"
         configuration. See "--track" in git-branch(1) for

         If no -b option is given, the name of the new branch
         will be derived from the remote-tracking branch. If
         "remotes/" or "refs/remotes/" is prefixed it is stripped
         away, and then the part up to the next slash (which
         would be the nickname of the remote) is removed. This
         would tell us to use "hack" as the local branch when
         branching off of "origin/hack" (or
         "remotes/origin/hack", or even
         "refs/remotes/origin/hack"). If the given name has no
         slash, or the above guessing results in an empty name,
         the guessing is aborted. You can explicitly give a name

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    2

Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

         with -b in such a case.

         Do not set up "upstream" configuration, even if the
         branch.autosetupmerge configuration variable is true.

         Create the new branch's reflog; see git-branch(1) for

         Rather than checking out a branch to work on it, check
         out a commit for inspection and discardable experiments.
         This is the default behavior of "git checkout <commit>"
         when <commit> is not a branch name. See the "DETACHED
         HEAD" section below for details.

         Create a new orphan branch, named <new_branch>, started
         from <start_point> and switch to it. The first commit
         made on this new branch will have no parents and it will
         be the root of a new history totally disconnected from
         all the other branches and commits.

         The index and the working tree are adjusted as if you
         had previously run "git checkout <start_point>". This
         allows you to start a new history that records a set of
         paths similar to <start_point> by easily running "git
         commit -a" to make the root commit.

         This can be useful when you want to publish the tree
         from a commit without exposing its full history. You
         might want to do this to publish an open source branch
         of a project whose current tree is "clean", but whose
         full history contains proprietary or otherwise
         encumbered bits of code.

         If you want to start a disconnected history that records
         a set of paths that is totally different from the one of
         <start_point>, then you should clear the index and the
         working tree right after creating the orphan branch by
         running "git rm -rf ." from the top level of the working
         tree. Afterwards you will be ready to prepare your new
         files, repopulating the working tree, by copying them
         from elsewhere, extracting a tarball, etc.

     -m, --merge
         When switching branches, if you have local modifications
         to one or more files that are different between the
         current branch and the branch to which you are
         switching, the command refuses to switch branches in
         order to preserve your modifications in context.

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    3

Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

         However, with this option, a three-way merge between the
         current branch, your working tree contents, and the new
         branch is done, and you will be on the new branch.

         When a merge conflict happens, the index entries for
         conflicting paths are left unmerged, and you need to
         resolve the conflicts and mark the resolved paths with
         git add (or git rm if the merge should result in
         deletion of the path).

         When checking out paths from the index, this option lets
         you recreate the conflicted merge in the specified

         The same as --merge option above, but changes the way
         the conflicting hunks are presented, overriding the
         merge.conflictstyle configuration variable. Possible
         values are "merge" (default) and "diff3" (in addition to
         what is shown by "merge" style, shows the original

     -p, --patch
         Interactively select hunks in the difference between the
         <tree-ish> (or the index, if unspecified) and the
         working tree. The chosen hunks are then applied in
         reverse to the working tree (and if a <tree-ish> was
         specified, the index).

         This means that you can use git checkout -p to
         selectively discard edits from your current working
         tree. See the "Interactive Mode" section of git-add(1)
         to learn how to operate the --patch mode.

         Branch to checkout; if it refers to a branch (i.e., a
         name that, when prepended with "refs/heads/", is a valid
         ref), then that branch is checked out. Otherwise, if it
         refers to a valid commit, your HEAD becomes "detached"
         and you are no longer on any branch (see below for

         As a special case, the "@{-N}" syntax for the N-th last
         branch checks out the branch (instead of detaching). You
         may also specify - which is synonymous with "@{-1}".

         As a further special case, you may use "A...B" as a
         shortcut for the merge base of A and B if there is
         exactly one merge base. You can leave out at most one of
         A and B, in which case it defaults to HEAD.

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    4

Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

         Name for the new branch.

         The name of a commit at which to start the new branch;
         see git-branch(1) for details. Defaults to HEAD.

         Tree to checkout from (when paths are given). If not
         specified, the index will be used.

     HEAD normally refers to a named branch (e.g. master).
     Meanwhile, each branch refers to a specific commit. Let's
     look at a repo with three commits, one of them tagged, and
     with branch master checked out:

                    HEAD (refers to branch 'master')
         a---b---c  branch 'master' (refers to commit 'c')
           tag 'v2.0' (refers to commit 'b')

     When a commit is created in this state, the branch is
     updated to refer to the new commit. Specifically, git commit
     creates a new commit d, whose parent is commit c, and then
     updates branch master to refer to new commit d. HEAD still
     refers to branch master and so indirectly now refers to
     commit d:

         $ edit; git add; git commit

                        HEAD (refers to branch 'master')
         a---b---c---d  branch 'master' (refers to commit 'd')
           tag 'v2.0' (refers to commit 'b')

     It is sometimes useful to be able to checkout a commit that
     is not at the tip of any named branch, or even to create a
     new commit that is not referenced by a named branch. Let's
     look at what happens when we checkout commit b (here we show
     two ways this may be done):

         $ git checkout v2.0  # or
         $ git checkout master^^

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    5

Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

            HEAD (refers to commit 'b')
         a---b---c---d  branch 'master' (refers to commit 'd')
           tag 'v2.0' (refers to commit 'b')

     Notice that regardless of which checkout command we use,
     HEAD now refers directly to commit b. This is known as being
     in detached HEAD state. It means simply that HEAD refers to
     a specific commit, as opposed to referring to a named
     branch. Let's see what happens when we create a commit:

         $ edit; git add; git commit

              HEAD (refers to commit 'e')
         a---b---c---d  branch 'master' (refers to commit 'd')
           tag 'v2.0' (refers to commit 'b')

     There is now a new commit e, but it is referenced only by
     HEAD. We can of course add yet another commit in this state:

         $ edit; git add; git commit

                  HEAD (refers to commit 'f')
         a---b---c---d  branch 'master' (refers to commit 'd')
           tag 'v2.0' (refers to commit 'b')

     In fact, we can perform all the normal git operations. But,
     let's look at what happens when we then checkout master:

         $ git checkout master

                        HEAD (refers to branch 'master')
               e---f     |
              /          v

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    6

Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

         a---b---c---d  branch 'master' (refers to commit 'd')
           tag 'v2.0' (refers to commit 'b')

     It is important to realize that at this point nothing refers
     to commit f. Eventually commit f (and by extension commit e)
     will be deleted by the routine git garbage collection
     process, unless we create a reference before that happens.
     If we have not yet moved away from commit f, any of these
     will create a reference to it:

         $ git checkout -b foo   (1)
         $ git branch foo        (2)
         $ git tag foo           (3)

     1. creates a new branch foo, which refers to commit f, and
     then updates HEAD to refer to branch foo. In other words,
     we'll no longer be in detached HEAD state after this
     2. similarly creates a new branch foo, which refers to
     commit f, but leaves HEAD detached.
     3. creates a new tag foo, which refers to commit f, leaving
     HEAD detached.

     If we have moved away from commit f, then we must first
     recover its object name (typically by using git reflog), and
     then we can create a reference to it. For example, to see
     the last two commits to which HEAD referred, we can use
     either of these commands:

         $ git reflog -2 HEAD # or
         $ git log -g -2 HEAD

      1. The following sequence checks out the master branch,
         reverts the Makefile to two revisions back, deletes
         hello.c by mistake, and gets it back from the index.

             $ git checkout master             (1)
             $ git checkout master~2 Makefile  (2)
             $ rm -f hello.c
             $ git checkout hello.c            (3)

         1. switch branch
         2. take a file out of another commit
         3. restore hello.c from the index

         If you have an unfortunate branch that is named hello.c,

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    7

Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

         this step would be confused as an instruction to switch
         to that branch. You should instead write:

             $ git checkout -- hello.c

      2. After working in the wrong branch, switching to the
         correct branch would be done using:

             $ git checkout mytopic

         However, your "wrong" branch and correct "mytopic"
         branch may differ in files that you have modified
         locally, in which case the above checkout would fail
         like this:

             $ git checkout mytopic
             error: You have local changes to 'frotz'; not switching branches.

         You can give the -m flag to the command, which would try
         a three-way merge:

             $ git checkout -m mytopic
             Auto-merging frotz

         After this three-way merge, the local modifications are
         not registered in your index file, so git diff would
         show you what changes you made since the tip of the new

      3. When a merge conflict happens during switching branches
         with the -m option, you would see something like this:

             $ git checkout -m mytopic
             Auto-merging frotz
             ERROR: Merge conflict in frotz
             fatal: merge program failed

         At this point, git diff shows the changes cleanly merged
         as in the previous example, as well as the changes in
         the conflicted files. Edit and resolve the conflict and
         mark it resolved with git add as usual:

             $ edit frotz
             $ git add frotz

     Part of the git(1) suite

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    8

Git Manual                                        GIT-CHECKOUT(1)

     See attributes(5) for descriptions of the following

     |Availability   | developer/versioning/git |
     |Stability      | Uncommitted              |
     This software was built from source available at  The original
     community source was downloaded from  http://git-

     Further information about this software can be found on the
     open source community website at

Git          Last change: 02/22/2012                    9