git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Written By - Steve Alila

Quick cheat sheet to discard changes in git

Discarding git changes means removing changes you no longer need along any of the three levels of git workflow: working directory, index, or history.

There are many challenges and commands to focus on when doing git discard changes.

This tutorial groups the commands into either affecting uncommitted or committed changes. Using that criterion, here are the seven key commands to git discard changes:


1. git clean command

The following git clean command can be used to git discard untracked files

git clean -f

Th following command can be used to discard both untracked files and folders or

git clean -fd

The following command can be used to interactively discard the files.

git clean -i


2. git checkout command

This is similar to the previous mode, but lets you use the interactive interface to show the "diff" output and choose which hunks to use in the result.

git checkout -p

or to discard all the changes in local working path

git checkout -- .

or to discard single file, just provide the file name with absolute path

git checkout -- <file_name>

if your git version is below 2.23. Otherwise, the recommended way to git discard changes is


3. git restore command

We can also use the following command syntax to discard changes in git

git restore <file>

for one file or

git restore .

for many files.

4. git stash command

git stash explained in detail with examples

The stash command

git stash

is one of the safest ways to discard changes from the index.



5. git reset --mixed command

Doing a mixed reset to the HEAD at the index discards the changes.

git reset HEAD


6. git reset --hard command

A practical guide to git reset hard vs soft vs mixed

git reset --hard [commit hash or HEAD~N]

where N is the number of commits from the HEAD or


7. git revert command

How to use git revert properly [4 Different Ways]

git revert <commit hash>

where the changes affect a pushed file.

You probably wonder what we mean by uncommitted, committed, or HEAD. Besides, it would be best to see practical ways to use the above commands. Read on to find out more.



Git commit HEAD, uncommitted and  committed changes explained

Git workflow entails three stages: working directory, the index, and the history. After creating or modifying files in the working directory, git temporarily takes a snapshot of the index changes before storing them in the git database when each commit becomes part of the history.

The history tells more about the commit, such as the author, date created, and most importantly, a unique hash called the commit hash.

The last commit hash is often referred to as the HEAD. Changes that have not passed the index (a.k.a staging area) are called uncommitted, while those with a history are called committed changes.

Passed the local workflow, you can send the changes to a remote server on a website like GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket. Then the changes are pushed. Otherwise, they are unpushed.

That is the basic explanation of the commit HEAD, uncommitted, and committed changes. Let's see their role in discarding git changes.


Lab setup to practice git discard changes

I am creating a remote called git_discard_changes with a on GitHub.

git discard changes

Copy the repo URL and clone it on the command line or terminal.

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

cd into the new repo git_discard_changes and inspect the repo status as follows.

cd git_discard_changes

git status

The working directory is clean.

Listing all files


shows we have one file, whereas logging the history

git log

shows we have one commit in history. Both local and remote repos' HEAD point the only commit we have.

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Create three text files and a directory with two files as follows

touch file1.txt f2.txt third.txt

mkdir dir

cd dir

touch f1 f2

cd ..

Checking the status

git status

shows we have untracked files.

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Let us git discard changes by applying the setup in the following examples.


Scenario-1: Git discard uncommitted changes

Example-1: Using git clean command

The git clean command is crucial in discarding changes in untracked files. Although we can use it with several flags, its most familiar forms are -f for untracked files only, -fd for both untracked files and directories, and -i for interactive file discard.

For instance, let's stage file1.txt and f2.txt, leaving the third.txt file and dir directory untracked.

git add file1.txt f2.txt

Running the command

git clean -f

clears the third.txt file from the working directory.


git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Similarly, introducing the -d flag dumps untracked files and directories.

git clean -fd

Rechecking git status

git status

The untracked dir directory got discarded!

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Lastly, we can use the -i flag by picking the clean option.

Create a file.

touch file

Delete it.

git clean -i

Git prompts us for an option. Let's pick 1: clean to git discard changes

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!


Example-2: Use either git checkout or git restore command

The checkout command has several uses in the git workflow. Apart from switching between branches and commits, you can apply it to git discard changes. All you do is be at the root of the working directory and run either

git checkout -p


git checkout -- .


If it fails to remove your recent changes, use the restore command

git restore <file>

which has been git's preferred way to discard changes since the introduction of git version 2.23 in 2019.

Let's modify file1.txt.

echo line1 >> file1.txt

Assume we want to delete the most recent changes on file1.txt. We can do that by running the command:

git restore file1.txt

git discard changes using the restore command

We can also modify file1.txt and f2.txt then git discard changes on them as follows

echo line1 >> file1.txt

echo l2 >> f2.txt

git restore .

All the new changes disappeared!


Example-3: Use git stash command to stash the changes

Assume you want to git discard changes hoping to restore them later. The command to use is git stash. Before clearing your changes from the index, it records them in the .git/refs/stash file in your working tree, only retaining changes as per the commit HEAD.

Let's modify the two files: file1.txt and f2.txt to practice git stash.

echo line1 >> file1.txt
echo line2 >> f2.txt

Stage the changes.

git add *

then check status.

git status

Discard the changes using the stash command.

git stash

Then recheck the status.

git status

Our uncommitted changes disappeared

stash files before git discard changes

We can see the stashed changes using

git stash show

and restore them using git stash apply as follows

git stash apply

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Another way to discard the changes in the index is to do a mixed reset on the changes.


Example-4: Reset the HEAD

Running the mixed reset command

git reset HEAD

untracks the files from the index and dumps the changes in the working directory.

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!


Scenario-2: Git discard changes already committed

Example-5: Discarding un-pushed files

The hard reset is the most straightforward command to git discard changes already committed. We can use it as follows.

Let's restage the files.

git add .

And commit them.

git commit -m "Reset the HEAD"

View the HEAD.

git log

before resetting it.

git reset --hard HEAD^

Recheck the history.

git log

The hard reset command on the HEAD^ removed the latest commit.

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Note: git reset hard discards both changes and files from the working directory. The only way to recover the changes is to inspect the reflog and checkout the target commit hash.

Better yet, avoid the hard reset command if you have pushed the changes.


Example-6: Discarding remote pushed files

Doing a hard reset on local files can cause a conflict error when used on files already committed. Git revert is the best alternative to discard commit changes on pushed files.

Let's create, stage, commit and push a file before practicing git revert.

touch f1.txt f2.txt

git add .

git commit -m "Feat: Add files 1 and 2"

git push

Let's introduce two more commits before discarding the changes.

touch f3.txt

git add f3.txt

git commit -m "Fix (github): Add f3"


git add

git commit -m "Feat: Track text files"


git log

shows we have four commits

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Let's revert the last three commits by making the HEAD point the initial commit hash.

git revert b4ad96

Our default text editor prompts us for a new commit message. We can go with the default message then close the text editor.

git discard changes the RIGHT way, let's FIX it!

Let's push the changes.

git push



You can discard all untracked changes using the git clean or git reset hard commands. To git discard changes at the index, use the stash, checkout, or restore commands.

Lastly, you can do a hard reset on the files after committing them. If you plan to undo changes on pushed files, use the revert command instead of git reset hard.


Categories GIT

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