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Preserve your local changes on Git Pull

02 Aug 2023 / 11 minutes to read

Elena Daehnhardt


Jasper AI-generated art, January 2023


Introduction

When we get the Git error on the pull: “Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge”, it means that you have some uncommitted changes in the working directory. Git cannot perform the merge operation because those changes would be lost or overwritten during the merge process. This post will describe the situation and a good solution to resolve this error while keeping local changes.

So you have got the error that looks like this:

git pull origin master
remote: Enumerating objects: 14, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (14/14), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (6/6), done.
remote: Total 14 (delta 8), reused 14 (delta 8), pack-reused 0
Unpacking objects: 100% (14/14), done.
From github.com:user/repo
 * branch            master     -> FETCH_HEAD
   953146e..9f38420  master     -> origin/master
error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge:
 List of your local files ...

Next, we go through the steps to resolve this problem.

What did just happen?

The Git message “error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge” indicates that you have some uncommitted changes in your working directory, and Git cannot perform the merge operation because those changes would be lost or overwritten during the merge process.

When you attempt to merge a branch into your current branch using the git merge command, Git must combine the changes from both branches. However, if you have uncommitted changes in your working directory that conflict with the changes from the branch you’re trying to merge, Git will prevent the merge to avoid losing your local changes.

Solutions

Do you want to keep your local work while pulling changes from the remote? There should not be any merge conflicts since you have worked on different files.

To resolve this issue, you have a few options:

  1. Stash your changes: If you want to keep your local changes but still perform the merge, you can use the git stash command to temporarily save your changes, allowing you to perform the merge with a clean working directory. After the merge, you can use git stash apply or git stash pop to apply your saved changes to your working directory.
  2. Commit your changes: If you’re satisfied with your local changes and want to include them in the merge, commit them using git commit. After committing, you can proceed with the merge.
  3. Discard your changes: If you don’t need your local changes and want to proceed with the merge without them, you can use git reset –hard HEAD to discard the changes in your working directory and perform the merge.

Before taking any action, it’s a good idea to review your changes using git status or git diff to understand your modifications and decide the best course of action based on your needs. Always be cautious when using commands like git reset –hard or git stash drop as they can result in data loss.

It all looks nice. However, one command can give you a good painless solution:

git pull --rebase --autostash

The command above is used to update your local branch with changes from the remote repository using a rebase strategy while automatically stashing your local changes before the rebase operation.

The result looks like this:

Created autostash: 9bd05c7
HEAD is now at 3ea660f minor formatting changes
First, rewinding head to replay your work on top of it...
Applying: minor formatting changes
Applied autostash.
(base) X$ git status
On branch master
Your branch is ahead of 'origin/master' by 1 commit.
  (use "git push" to publish your local commits)
  ...

Here’s what each part of the command does:

  1. git pull: The git pull command fetches and integrates changes from a remote repository into your current branch. It is equivalent to running git fetch followed by git merge by default. However, when you use additional options like –rebase, it will use rebase instead of merge to integrate changes.

  2. –rebase: This option tells Git to use the rebase strategy instead of the default merge strategy when integrating the remote changes into your local branch. Rebase moves your local changes on top of the remote changes, resulting in a linear history. It is often preferred for its cleaner commit history compared to merge.

  3. –autostash: This option automatically stashes your local changes (if any) before starting the rebase process. Stashing allows you to save your work temporarily, making it possible to perform the rebase on a clean working directory. Once the rebase is completed, Git will automatically apply the stashed changes to your working directory.

The combined command git pull –rebase –autostash is handy when you want to pull and rebase your local branch on top of the latest changes from the remote repository, even if you have some uncommitted changes in your working directory. It streamlines the process by stashing your local changes, pulling the remote changes, and then applying your local changes back on top of the updated branch after the rebase is complete.

Remember that when using git pull –rebase, conflicts may arise during the rebase process if your local changes conflict with the changes from the remote branch. You will need to resolve these conflicts manually before completing the rebase.

Conclusion

We have solved the “Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge” with just one combined Git command, which keeps our local changes, which are merged on top of pulled remote changes. Now are know how to use git pull rebase autostash effectively.

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

Bibliography

1. Git Documentation

2. git-pull last updated in 2.41.0

3. Git Rebasing Documentation

4. Git Conflict Resolution

5. 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) 'Preserve your local changes on Git Pull', daehnhardt.com, 02 August 2023. Available at: https://daehnhardt.com/blog/2023/08/02/preserve-your-local-changes-on-git-pull/
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