Various ways to remove local Git changes


I just cloned a git repository and checked out a branch. I worked on it, and then decided to remove all my local changes, as I wanted the original copy.

In short, I had to do the following two commands to remove my local changes

git checkout .

git clean -f

My question is,

(1) Is this the correct approach in getting rid of local changes, or else please let me know the correct approach.

(2) when do we use git reset --hard as i am able to reset even without this command


*Solution : Major Edit(s): 03/26 : * Replaced many of vague terms with git specific terminology [tracked/untracked/staged/unstaged]

There could be only three categories of files when we make local changes:

Type 1. Staged Tracked files

Type 2. Unstaged Tracked files

Type 3. Unstaged UnTracked files a.k.a UnTracked files

  • Staged - Those that are moved to staging area/ Added to index
  • Tracked - modified files
  • UnTracked - new files. Always unstaged. If staged, that means they are tracked.

What each commands do:

  1. git checkout . - Removes Unstaged Tracked files ONLY [Type 2]

  2. git clean -f - Removes Unstaged UnTracked files ONLY [Type 3]

  3. git reset --hard - Removes Staged Tracked and UnStaged Tracked files ONLY[Type 1, Type 2]

  4. git stash -u - Removes all changes [Type 1, Type 2, Type 3]


It's clear that we can use either

(1) combination of `git clean -f` and `git reset --hard` 


(2) `git stash -u`

to achieve the desired result.

Note: Stashing, as the word means 'Store (something) safely and secretly in a specified place.' This can always be retrieved using git stash pop. So choosing between the above two options is developer's call.

Thank you Christoph and Frederik Sch√łning.

Edit: 03/27

I thought it's worth putting the 'beware' note to git clean -f

git clean -f

There is no going back. Use -n or --dry-run to preview the damage you'll do.

If you want to also remove directories, run git clean -f -d

If you just want to remove ignored files, run git clean -f -X

If you want to remove ignored as well as non-ignored files, run git clean -f -x

reference : more on git clean : How to remove local (untracked) files from the current Git working tree?

Edit: 05/20/15

Discarding all local commits on this branch [Removing local commits]

In order to discard all local commits on this branch, to make the local branch identical to the "upstream" of this branch, simply run git reset --hard @{u}


or do git reset --hard origin/master [if local branch is master]

Note: 06/12/2015 This is not a duplicate of the other SO question that's marked as duplicate. This question address how to remove local GIT changes [remove a file added, remove changes added to existing file etc and the various approaches; Where in the other SO thread only address how to remove local commit. If you added a file, and you want to remove that alone, then the other SO thread doesn't discuss about it. Hence this is not a duplicate of the other one]

Edit: 06/23/15

How to revert a commit already pushed to a remote repository?

$ git revert ab12cd15

Edit: 09/01/2015

Delete a previous commit from local branch and remote branch

Case: You just commited a change to your local branch and immediately pushed to the remote branch, Suddenly realized , Oh no! I dont need this change. Now do what?

git reset --hard HEAD~1 [for deleting that commit from local branch]

git push origin HEAD --force [both the commands must be executed. For deleting from remote branch]

Whats the branch ? Its the currently checked out branch.

Edit 09/08/2015 - Remove local git merge:

I am on master branch and merged master branch with a newly working branch phase2

$ git status
# On branch master

$ git merge phase2

$ git status

On branch master

Your branch is ahead of ‘origin/master’ by 8 commits.

Q: How to get rid of this merge? Tried git reset --hard and git clean -d -f Both didn't work.

The only thing that worked are any of the below ones:

$ git reset --hard origin/master


$ git reset --hard HEAD~8


$ git reset --hard 9a88396f51e2a068bb7 [sha commit code - this is the one that was present before all your merge commits happened]


It all depends on exactly what you are trying to undo/revert. Start out by reading the post in Ube's link. But to attempt an answer:

Hard reset

git reset --hard [HEAD]

completely remove all staged and unstaged changes to tracked files.

I find myself often using hard resetting, when I'm like "just undo everything like if I had done a complete re-clone from the remote". In your case, where you just want your repo pristine, this would work.


git clean [-f]

Remove files that are not tracked.

For removing temporary files, but keep staged and unstaged changes to already tracked files. Most times, I would probably end up making an ignore-rule instead of repeatedly cleaning - e.g. for the bin/obj folders in a C# project, which you would usually want to exclude from your repo to save space, or something like that.

The -f (force) option will also remove files, that are not tracked and are also being ignored by git though ignore-rule. In the case above, with an ignore-rule to never track the bin/obj folders, even though these folders are being ignored by git, using the force-option will remove them from your file system. I've sporadically seen a use for this, e.g. when scripting deployment, and you want to clean your code before deploying, zipping or whatever.

Git clean will not touch files, that are already being tracked.

Checkout "dot"

git checkout .

I had actually never seen this notation before reading your post. I'm having a hard time finding documentation for this (maybe someone can help), but from playing around a bit, it looks like it means:

"undo all changes in my working tree".

I.e. undo unstaged changes in tracked files. It apparently doesn't touch staged changes and leaves untracked files alone.


Some answers mention stashing. As the wording implies, you would probably use stashing when you are in the middle of something (not ready for a commit), and you have to temporarily switch branches or somehow work on another state of your code, later to return to your "messy desk". I don't see this applies to your question, but it's definitely handy.

To sum up

Generally, if you are confident you have committed and maybe pushed to a remote important changes, if you are just playing around or the like, using git reset --hard HEAD followed by git clean -f will definitively cleanse your code to the state, it would be in, had it just been cloned and checked out from a branch. It's really important to emphasize, that the resetting will also remove staged, but uncommitted changes. It will wipe everything that has not been committed (except untracked files, in which case, use clean).

All the other commands are there to facilitate more complex scenarios, where a granularity of "undoing stuff" is needed :)

I feel, your question #1 is covered, but lastly, to conclude on #2: the reason you never found the need to use git reset --hard was that you had never staged anything. Had you staged a change, neither git checkout . nor git clean -f would have reverted that.

Hope this covers.

In what cases could `git pull` be harmful?

How do you use "git --bare init" repository?