Elena' s AI Blog

Git Failed to Push Some Refs

05 Jun 2023 / 17 minutes to read

Elena Daehnhardt


Midjourney, July 2023


Introduction

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably encountered the dreaded “failed to push some refs” error in Git. Don’t worry. It happens to the best of us. This post explores why this error occurs and provides three possible solutions, including fast-forwards, to help push your updates to the remote repository. So let’s dive in!

The Problem - failed to push some refs

So, what does the “failed to push some refs to” error message mean? This error occurs when you try to push your changes to a remote repository, but Git refuses to do so because your local branch is behind the remote branch. Git is telling you that there are changes on the remote branch that you don’t have on your local branch, and it wants you to update your local branch first before pushing your changes.

This error message can be frustrating, especially when you’re confident your changes will be OK with the remote branch. However, Git has a good reason for preventing you from pushing your changes - it wants to ensure that all changes are merged correctly and that no conflicts arise.

That issue occurred after I was away from my big MAC computer and did some repository updates using my laptop. When arriving back, I could not push an update from my big MAC computer. Git updates were rejected because my current branch is behind. That happens quite often when we should integrate the remote changes before pushing git updates. Herein I am sharing possible solutions in detail.

git push origin master

The outcome was not nice:

 ! [rejected]        master -> master (non-fast-forward)
error: failed to push some refs to 'git@github.com:user/repo'
hint: Updates were rejected because the tip of your current branch is behind
hint: its remote counterpart. Integrate the remote changes (e.g.
hint: 'git pull ...') before pushing again.
hint: See the 'Note about fast-forwards' in 'git push --help' for details.

Solutions

Solution 1: Pull the changes from the remote branch

The first solution to the “failed to push some refs to” error is to pull the changes from the remote branch and merge them with your local branch. This will ensure that your local branch is up to date with the remote branch and that you won’t encounter any conflicts when you push your changes.

To do this, open your terminal or command prompt and navigate to your local repository. Then, enter the following command:

git pull origin [remote branch name]

This command will pull the changes from the remote branch and merge them with your local branch. Once this is done, you can try pushing your changes again, and Git should allow you to do so without any issues.

However, it is possible that you will encounter another error:

error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge:

The error “error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge” typically occurs when you try to pull changes from a remote repository into your local repository. Still, there are conflicts between the changes you made locally and those in the remote repository.

To solve this error and successfully pull the changes from the remote repository, you can use the following steps:

  1. Stash your local changes: Use the “git stash” command to temporarily save your local changes. This will allow you to merge the remote changes without overwriting your local changes.
git stash
  1. Pull the changes from the remote repository: Use the “git pull” command to fetch and merge the changes from the remote repository into your local repository.
git pull
  1. Apply your local changes: Use the “git stash apply” command to return your stashed changes to your working directory.
git stash apply

If there are conflicts between your local changes and those pulled from the remote repository, you may need to resolve them manually.

git mergetool
  1. Commit the changes: Once the conflicts have been resolved, use the “git add” and “git commit” commands to commit your changes to the local repository.
git add .
git commit -m "Resolved conflicts"

Overall, these steps can help you successfully pull changes from a remote repository without overwriting your local changes and resolve any conflicts.

Solution 2: Force push your changes

The second solution to the “failed to push some refs to” error is to force push your changes to the remote repository. However, this should only be done if you’re sure your changes will be resolved with the remote branch.

To force push your changes, open your terminal or command prompt and navigate to your local repository. Then, enter the following command:

git push -f origin [local branch name]

This command will force push your changes to the remote repository, overwriting any changes on the remote branch. Again, use this solution with caution, as it can cause conflicts if your changes conflict with the changes on the remote branch.

Solution 3: Fast-forward your local branch

The third solution to the “failed to push some refs to” error is fast-forwarding your local branch to the remote one. This solution works best with a simple repository with no complex branching structure.

To fast-forward your local branch, open your terminal or command prompt and navigate to your local repository. Then, enter the following commands:

git fetch
git merge origin/[remote branch name]

The first command will fetch the changes from the remote repository, and the second command will merge those changes with your local branch. This will ensure that your local branch is up to date with the remote branch, and you should be able to push your changes without any issues.

Unfortunately, this solution is not always working well. You might get the following error:

error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge:

Git will output a list of files overwritten by the merge. These are your local files. In case your remote files do not overlap with locally changed files, you can save your local changes, get your remote changes, and apply your local changes on the top.

git pull --rebase --autostash
Created autostash: 2fc0631
HEAD is bot at 88259a2 +GPT implications post
First, rewinding head to replay your work on top of it...
Applying: +python_iterator_loops.png
Applying: +GPT implications post
Applied autostash.

Let’s break down the command above::

  1. git pull is a Git command used to fetch the latest changes from a remote repository and merge them into the current branch.
  2. –rebase is an option that tells Git to perform a rebase instead of a regular merge when incorporating the remote changes. Rebase rewrites the commit history, placing the local commits on top of the updated remote branch.
  3. –autostash is an option that tells Git to automatically stash any local changes before performing the pull operation. This is useful when you have local modifications that conflict with the incoming changes, allowing Git to stash those changes, perform the pull, and then apply the stashed changes on top of the updated branch.

In summary, the command git pull –rebase –autostash fetches the latest changes from a remote repository, performs a rebase to incorporate those changes into the current branch and automatically stashes any local changes to avoid conflicts during the process.

Correcting remote origins

It is also possible that you have failed to push because your remote origin needs to be defined correctly.

To get all Git origins, you can use the “git remote” command followed by the “show” option; see 1 or 2 for details. This will display the name and URL of each remote repository currently configured in your local Git repository.

To use this command, open your terminal or command prompt and navigate to your local repository. Then, enter the following command:

git remote show

This will display a list of all remote repositories configured in your local Git repository. If you have multiple remote repositories, you will see the name and URL of each one.

Alternatively, you can specify a remote repository by adding its name after “show”. For example:

git remote show origin

Overall, using the “git remote show” command is a quick and easy way to view all the remote repositories configured in your local Git repository.

The solution is simple. You just need to fix the remote URL for the origin alias.

To change the remote URL for your “origin” alias in Git, you can use the “git remote set-url” command followed by the name of the remote repository you want to update and the new URL you want to use.

To change the remote URL for your “origin” alias, pen your terminal or command prompt and navigate to your local Git repository. Enter the following command to see the current remote URL for your “origin” alias:

git remote get-url origin

You will see something like this:

git@github.com:username/repo

If the URL displayed is not the correct one, enter the following command to update it:

git remote set-url origin [new URL]

Replace with the new URL you want to use.

Verify that the URL was updated correctly by entering the following command:

git remote get-url origin

This should display the new URL you just set.

Using the “git remote set-url” command is a simple way to update the remote URL for your “origin” alias in Git.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the “failed to push some refs to” error in Git can be frustrating, but it’s there for a good reason. By preventing you from pushing your changes, Git ensures that all changes are merged correctly and that conflicts don’t arise. However, you will fix this issue by using one of the three solutions.

Additionally, being able to get all Git origins and change the remote URL for your “origin” alias are both essential skills for Git users. Knowing how to access and modify remote repositories can help you collaborate more effectively with others and keep your local repository up-to-date.

Did you like this post? Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

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Disclaimer: I have used chatGPT while preparing this post, and this is why I have listed chatGPT in my references section. However, most of the text is rewritten by me, as a human, and spell-checked with Grammarly.

References

1. Git Remote documentation

2. Git Remote Command tutorial on Atlassian

3. New Chat (chatGPT by OpenAI)

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About Elena

Elena, a PhD in Computer Science, simplifies AI concepts and helps you use machine learning.

Citation
Elena Daehnhardt. (2023) 'Git Failed to Push Some Refs', daehnhardt.com, 05 June 2023. Available at: https://daehnhardt.com/blog/2023/06/05/git-updates-were-rejected-current-branch-is-behind/
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