Undo changes

With Git 2.23, git restore was added for undoing file changes. Previously, this task was performed by git reset, which also has other tasks:

$ git restore

changes files in the working directory to a state that was previously known to Git. By default, Git HEAD checks out the last commit of the current branch.


In Git < 2.23, git restore is not yet available. In this case, you still need to use git checkout:

$ git checkout FILE

$ git restore [-S|--staged] PATH/TO/FILE

undoes the addition of files. The changes are retained in your workspace so that you can change and add them again if necessary.

The command is equivalent to $ git reset PATH/TO/FILE.

$ git restore [-SW] FILE

undoes the addition and changes in the workspace.

$ git restore [-s|--source] BRANCH FILE

restores a change to the version in the BRANCH.

$ git restore [-s|--source] @~ FILE

restores a change to the previous commit.

$ git restore [-p|--patch]

lets you select the changes to be undone individually.

$ git reset [--hard | --mixed | --soft | --keep] TARGET_REFERENCE

resets the history to an earlier commit.


The risk with reset is that work can be lost. Although commits are not deleted immediately, they can become orphaned so that there is no longer a direct path to them. They must then be found and restored promptly with reflog as Git usually deletes all orphaned commits after 30 days.

$ git reset @~

cancels the last commit, whereby its changes are now transferred back to the stage area.

If there are changes in the stage area, these are moved to the work area, for example:

$ echo 'My first repo' > README.rst
$ git add README.rst
$ git status
On branch main
Changes marked for commit:
  (use "git rm --cached <Datei>..." to remove from staging area)
    New file:     README.rst
$ git reset
$ git status
On branch main
Unversioned files:
  (use "git add <file>...", to mark the changes for commit)

takes back the last three commits.


takes the remote version (upstream) of the current branch.


discards the changes in the staging and working area as well.

$ git status
On branch main
Changes marked for commit:
  (use "git rm --cached <Datei>..." to remove from staging area)
    New file:     README.rst
$ git reset --hard
$ git status
On branch main
nothing to commit (create/copy files and use "git add" to version)

resets the stage area, but not the work area, so that the changed files are retained but not marked for commit.


I usually prefer --soft over --mixed: it keeps the undone changes separate so that any additional changes are explicit. This is especially useful if you have changes to the same file in the stage and workspace.


takes back the commits, but leaves the stage and workspace unchanged.


resets the stage area and updates the files in the work area that differ between COMMIT and HEAD, but retains those that differ between stage and work area, these are files with changes that have not yet been added. If a file that differs between COMMIT and stage area has unadded changes, reset will be cancelled.

You can then deal with your uncommitted changes, perhaps undoing them with git restore or hiding them with git stash, before trying again.


Many other guides recommend --hard for this task, probably because this mode has been around for a while. However, this mode is riskier because it irrevocably discards the changes not included in the commit without asking questions. However, I use --keep and if I want to discard all uncommitted changes before the reset, I use git restore -SW.

$ git revert COMMIT_SHA

creates a new commit and reverts the changes of the specified commit so that the changes are inverted.

$ git fetch --prune REMOTE

Remote refs are removed when they are removed from the remote repository.

$ git commit --amend

updates and replaces the last commit with a new commit that combines all deployed changes with the contents of the previous commit. If nothing is provided, only the previous commit message is rewritten.

Reference for common reset commands

Undo all local changes to a branch

$ git reset --keep '@{u}'

Undo all commits in the current branch

git merge-base selects the commit where two branches have split. Pass @ and main to select the commit where the current branch is forked from main. Reset it to undo all commits on the local branch with:

$ git reset --soft $(git merge-base @ main)

Undo all changes in the current branch

$ git reset --keep main

Undo commit in the wrong branch

If you have accidentally committed to an existing branch instead of creating a new branch first, you can change this in the following three steps:

  1. create a new branch with $ git branch NEW_BRANCH

  2. Resets the last commit in your active branch with $ git reset --keep @~

  3. Apply the changes to the new branch with $ git switch NEW_BRANCH

Restoring a deleted branch

Assuming you have accidentally deleted an unmerged branch, you can recreate the branch with the corresponding SHA:

$ git branch -D new-feature
Branch new-feature entfernt (war d53e431).

The output contains the SHA commit to which the branch pointed. You can recreate the branch with this SHA:

$ git branch new-feature d53e431

But what if you have deleted the branch and the corresponding terminal history has been lost? To find the SHA again, you can pass the reflog output to grep:

$ git reflog | grep -A 1 new-feature
12bc4d4 HEAD@{0}: checkout: moving from new-feature to main
d53e431 HEAD@{1}: commit: Add new feature
12bc4d4 HEAD@{2}: checkout: moving from main to new-feature
12bc4d4 HEAD@{3}: merge my-feature: Fast-forward

-A 1 displays an additional line after each hit. The output shows several reflog entries that refer to the branch. The first entry shows a change from new-feature to main, with the commit SHA on main. The entry before it is the last change to new-feature with the SHA to restore:

$ git branch triceratops-enclosure 43f66f9

By default, you can save such a branch within 30 days after deleting the branch, as gc.reflogExpireUnreachable is usually set to do so.

Undoing a commit change

Let’s return to the introductory example. Imagine you have made a commit and changed it later. Then you realise that the change should be undone. How can you proceed? If you can still see the original Git commit output in your terminal history, you can retrieve the SHA from there and undo the change. But if this is no longer possible, it’s time for the reflog. Check the reflog for the branch:

$ git reflog my-feature-branch
12bc4d4 (HEAD -> main, my-feature-branch) my-feature-branch@{0}: commit (amend): Add my feature and more
982d93a my-feature-branch@{1}: commit: Add my feature
900844a my-feature-branch@{2}: branch: Created from HEAD

The first entry, commit (amend), shows the creation of the amended commit. The second entry shows the original commit, which we now want to return to with a hard reset:

$ git reset --hard 982d93a

You may then want to restore the content of the changed commit in order to correct it and change it again. Do this with git restore from the changed commit SHA, which is at the top of the previous reflog output:

$ git restore -s 12bc4d4

Undoing a faulty rebase

Imagine you are working on a new-feature branch with three commits, of which you want to undo the middle one:

$ git rebase -i main
 pick d53e431 Add new feature
-pick 329271a More performant implementation for the new feature
-pick 1d6c477 Add API docs

However, you have now inadvertently deleted the last commit. If you can no longer see the SHA value in the terminal history, you can pass the reflog output to grep again:

$ git reflog| grep 'API docs'
1d6c477 HEAD@{2}: commit: Add API docs

With this SHA, the commit can now be restored with Git cherry-pick:

$ git cherry-pick 1d6c477

Remove a file from the history

A file can be completely removed from the current branches Git history. This could be necessary if you accidentally committed passwords or huge files:

$ git filter-repo --invert-paths --path path/somefile
$ git push --no-verify --mirror


Inform the team members that they should create a clone of the repository again.

Remove a string from the history

$ git filter-repo --message-callback 'return re.sub(b"^git-svn-id:.*\n", b"", message, flags=re.MULTILINE)'