Frequently asked questions around Git and Version Control.
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How do I force git pull to overwrite local files?

When working on a project with a team, you might stumble upon error messages like these when trying to perform a "git pull" in your repository:

error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge: ...


error: Untracked working tree file 'images/icon.png' would be overwritten by merge

The reason for error messages like these is rather simple: you have local changes that would be overwritten by the incoming new changes that a "git pull" would bring in.

For obvious safety reasons, Git will never simply overwrite your changes. This also means that there is no "force pull" feature in Git - but we can of course perform a couple of steps to emulate such a command.

Step 1: Cleaning Up the Working Copy

First, you'll need to make sure your working copy doesn't contain these conflicting changes anymore. There are two ways to achieve this:

a) Saving Local Changes on a Stash

If you want to preserve your local changes, you can safely store them on a Stash. They will be available in case you want them back at a later point.

$ git stash --include-untracked

b) Discarding Local Changes

If you are sure that you don't need them anymore, you can discard your local changes completely:

$ git reset --hard

If you also have untracked / new files, you will have to use the "git clean" command to get rid of these, too:

$ git clean -fd

Please be careful with these commands: discarding local changes and untracked files cannot be undone!

Step 2: Pull Again

After you have cleaned up any local changes / untracked files that would have been overwritten, the pull will finally work:

$ git pull

Auto-Stashing in Tower

If you're using the Tower Git client, you’ll notice that it helps you avoid these situations: whenever you have uncommitted local changes present and want to perform an action like Pull, Checkout or Merge, Tower will automatically offer to store these changes safely on a Stash.

This way, you neither have to take any extra steps nor do you have to think about this anymore.

Learn More

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