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Knowing how to do git remove untracked files using various commands can save you a ton of development and build time.
To remove untracked files from git, run:
git clean -f
git clean -fd
to remove both untracked files and directories from git.
Set up a lab environment
We will build everything from scratch to make this tutorial as friendly as possible.
I am creating a remote repo called
git_remove_untracked on Github.
Grab the clone URL
Then clone it into a local directory called
It would help to understand some common terms used during git remove untracked files to ease discarding the target files. These are untracked vs tracked and unignored vs ignored files.
Key terms to understand before attempting git remove untracked files
1. untracked vs tracked files
Git does not document untracked file changes despite running
git init in the files' directory. Once you
git add untracked files to the staging area, they become tracked files.
Here is an example.
cd into the new directory and create
file1.txt by running the command
At this point, we have not authorized git to track our files. Let us do that.
to start tracking files in the
file1.txt is untracked.
2. Ignored vs unignored files
Ignored files appear in the
.gitinore file. Contents of the .gitignore file are mainly sensitive documents.
Think about the sensitive JWT or
You don't want git to track such files, and neither do you want to publicly expose them when you push your files to a remote repo. You can also ignore massive directories like node_modules making your app heavy if pushed to production.
Let us create a
.gitignore file to demonstrate the concept of ignored vs unignored files.
We can run
to see even hidden directories and files.
file2.txt and reference it in the
touch file2.txt echo file2.txt >> .gitignore
file1.txt is unignored whereas
file2.txt is ignored. Ignored files are untracked by default.
to confirm git does not list
file2.txt under untracked files despite having created it.
Understanding tracked, untracked, ignored, and unignored files let you understand the impact of doing git remove untracked files on your repo, as you are about to see in the following sections of the article.
How to properly git remove untracked files (step-by-step)
We have built a bunch of untracked files. Return to the main directory,
git_remove_untracked and run
to view all the untracked files.
Without conducting git remove untracked files, you can use the
command to remove a single untracked file from git.
Let us do exactly that on
file1.txt is deleted.
Although we have accomplished the primary mission of removing untracked files, imagine the tediousness we would undergo if we were to discard a thousand files, removing a file at a time. You are probably thinking, "but I can use
rm -rf to clear a giant file promptly."
Although you can chop off unwanted directories quickly using the
rm -rf <directory>
command, the method is unreliable in a typical software development environment due to files dependability. Completely deleting a directory can result in your app crashing.
That is where
git clean comes in. It saves us time while avoiding errors frequently encountered during untracked files removal.
Let us see the power of
git clean by analyzing various circumstances to apply it.
Example-1: git remove untracked files after git reset
Let us (re) introduce the deleted
file1.txt and an HTML file to the list of our untracked files.
touch file1.txt index.html
shows our files are untracked.
git add index.html and
git commit it with the message
-m "tracking html file".
Create another file, add and commit it as follows:
touch file3.txt git add file3.txtgit commit -m "tracking file3"
git log or
git log --oneline shows we have two commits in history.
git reset the head to the initial commit by running
git reset --hard 199f24d
git log history again. What did you notice?
One commit got discarded from history!
git reset command did not tamper with our untracked files.
Having several untracked files leads to an untidy repo. The development and deployment processes become error-prone, especially at the build or
git push stages.
We can do git remove untracked files to clear the untracked files from the working area by following these steps.
git clean -n
to see all untracked files to be deleted.
git clean -n -d
to see all (untracked) directories to be deleted.
We can initiate git remove untracked files by running
git clean -f
to remove an untracked git file
git clean -fd
to remove untracked git directories and associated files.
The long form of the command is
git clean -f -d
Here is what we see after doing
git clean on the repo
.gitignore files got removed.
Although we did not expect any untracked file leftovers,
file2.txt got returned despite cleaning git untracked files. That happens because it was initially untracked since it was an unignored file.
Now that its shield (
.gitignore file) got removed, it resurfaces because
git reset did not delete it. Additionally, the
clean -f command does not affect ignored files directly (check example 3 for solution).
Points to note:
git clean -fremoves untracked files in the directory where you call it only.
- To remove other untracked files within the root directory, use
git clean -f:/
- Run the
git clean -fcommand twice if a different repo manages the untracked directory whose files you want to remove from git.
Now that we do not have untracked files, we can push the changes to our remote repo by running
the command line.
Example-2: Perform git remove untracked files interactively
Another way to remove untracked files from git is to run the git clean command with the interactive flag.
git clean -i
to include or exclude files to be affected.
The command line prompts us to pick an appropriate command. If we choose 1,
clean, the files get removed, as shown in this screenshot.
Example-3: Perform git remove untracked files on ignored directories and files
shows we have removed all untracked files.
Let us introduce the
file4.txt files to use for practice.
touch .gitignore file4.txt
file4.txt an ignored file by referencing it in the
echo file4.txt >> .gitignore
git status shows the
.gitignore file is untracked.
git clean -f
does not remove the ignored untracked files in one step, we need to run
git clean -fX
to remove the files. Remember to capitalize the
X. Let us do that right away.
git clean -fx
to remove ignored and unignored files. Here,
x should be in small letters.
git clean with various flags lets you simplify your git remove untracked files missions. This article gave you three standard ways to perform git remove untracked files with examples. It is your turn to practice what you have learned in this article.