fatal: couldn't find remote ref main [SOLVED]


Let me guess, you are here because you are trying to figure out how to fix fatal: couldn't find remote ref main, well duh!, that's what the title says.

Let's walk through with some of the most common reasons and possible solutions to get over this error.


1. Verify Branches and Remote Repositories in Git

The first and most basic check is to make sure the remote repository URLs are correct and branch actually exist either locally or on remote. This would prevent common errors such as "remote ref not found" during operations like push or pull.

You can use the following command to view all the configured remote repository URLs so that you can confirm if you are interacting with correct remote repo:

git remote -v

Next check and make sure that your branch exist on remote:

git branch -r


2. Issue while Establishing a Remote Repository Connection in Git

When a local Git repository is unable to identify a remote branch, it is often due to the fact that the repository hasn't been configured to connect with remote repository. This is quiet command for newly created or may be cloned repositories which are not tracking any of the remote branches. Now to check if a remote branch is connected or not, you can use:

git remote -v

If this command outputs no remote repository then first you will need to setup a new connection by adding a new repository. You can use git remote add command in the following format:

git remote add origin 'url_of_your_github_project'

Once you have added the remote repo, it is important to push your local branch and establish it as tracking the corresponding remote branch.

git push -u origin master

This command will ensure that your local master branch is linked to the master branch on the remote. You can replace with main if that is equivalent to your master branch.


3. Handling Deleted or Renamed Branches

It is possible that the remote branch might have been deleted or renamed which can cause fatal: couldn't find remote ref. This is mostly caused by outdated reference in the Git configuration file which is still pointing to old branch names. You can use the following command to check your local configuration for any stale references:

git config --get-all remote.origin.fetch

To resolve the issue, you should go ahead and remove all the outdated and invalid branch referenced from your local configuration and update your repository's tracking information.

git config --unset-all remote.origin.fetch
git fetch --prune --all

These commands will clean up and old references to ensure that your local setup is aligned with current state of the remote repository, preventing any errors related to missing remote references.


4. Correct Remote URL and Update Local References

Another one of the common reason for the error fatal: couldn't find remote ref is that the remote URL set in the local repository configuration does not match the actual URL of the intended remote repository, or when local references are outdated. Such mismatch can lead to errors during git push, pull or fetch operations as the git cannot find the correct remote server or branch.

You can check the currently configured remote URLs with:

git remote -v

To fix an incorrect remote URL, update it to the correct one using the following command:

git remote set-url origin new_url

Replace new_url with the actual URL of the remote repository. This change will fix the endpoint for all future operations which involves the remote repository.

Now after correcting the URL, ideally your local branches should automatically track their remote counterparts but if that does not happen, or if you need to change the branch they track, use the --set-upstream-to option:

git branch --set-upstream-to=origin/branch_name

This command will explicitly set the local branch to track a specific branch on the remote, which will ensure that all git pull, push, and fetch operations are working properly with correct remote branch,


5. Case Sensitivity and Branch Naming Issues

I hope you know that git branches are case-sensitive, which you won't believe but cause issues more time than you can think. For example, if a branch is named Feature in the remote repository and you attempt to pull from feature, Git won't recognize the branch and will return an error.

In such cases to check for case discrepancies, you can list all branches and get the the exact name of the branch:

git branch -a

To resolve case sensitivity issues, you need to ensure that the branch name used in any Git command matches the case used in the repository. If you find you've named a branch incorrectly locally, you can rename it:

git branch -m old-branch-name corrected-Branch-Name

Make sure that your local branch is tracking the correctly named remote branch by resetting the upstream branch:

git branch --set-upstream-to=origin/corrected-Branch-Name


6. Editing the Git configuration file manually

It is possible that sometimes, automated commands may not correctly set or update the configurations which are necessary for branch management in Git, especially when we are dealing with remote tracking branches or may be after modifying repository settings. The .git/config file holds crucial configuration settings for your repository, which also includes remote repository URLs, branch-specific settings, and more. You can go ahead and directly edit this file using any text editor which can may be solve problems when automated Git commands fail to apply the correct configurations. To view your current Git configuration:

git config --list

To manually edit the .git/config file, you can open it in a text editor with the following command:

git config --local -e

This command will launch the default text editor set for your system's Git configuration. Within the editor, you can go ahead and modify entries related to remote branches, change the URLs of remotes, or adjust branch settings. For example, if you think that the branch's remote tracking settings are incorrect, you can manually adjust the remote and merge fields under the respective branch header.


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Deepak Prasad

Deepak Prasad

He is the founder of GoLinuxCloud and brings over a decade of expertise in Linux, Python, Go, Laravel, DevOps, Kubernetes, Git, Shell scripting, OpenShift, AWS, Networking, and Security. With extensive experience, he excels in various domains, from development to DevOps, Networking, and Security, ensuring robust and efficient solutions for diverse projects. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn profile.

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