Git Restore: How to Undo File Changes in Git

Git Restore: How to Undo File Changes in Git

Have you ever found yourself in a tangled mess of Git commands, longing for a magic undo button? You’re not alone. We’ve all been there, staring at the screen, trying to untangle a web of commits, merges, and ‘oops’ moments.

But here’s the silver lining: Git, with its powerful command set, has a solution. One of these is the ‘restore’ command, a versatile and safe tool for undoing changes. In this comprehensive guide, we dive deep into the world of ‘reset’, ‘restore’, and ‘revert’ commands in Git. Think of it as learning how to erase pencil marks on a paper – a skill that ensures you’re never stuck in a Git mess again!

Let’s begin by addressing a fundamental question: why do we need to undo changes in Git? The answer is straightforward yet complex. As developers, we’re always in a state of flux – constantly experimenting, innovating, and, inevitably, making errors. It’s all part of the creative process. Whether it’s accidentally deleting a vital line of code, committing an incorrect file, or merging the wrong branches, these common scenarios necessitate the undoing of changes.

Git Reset, Git Restore, Git Revert

Undoing file changes in git is best performed by one of three commands: Git Reset, Git Restore, and Git Revert

Git Reset: The Time Machine

The git reset command is akin to a time machine. It moves the HEAD and optionally alters the stage, taking your project back to its state at a previous commit, effectively ‘undoing’ any changes made since then. Here’s how you use it:

git reset <commit>

Git Restore: The Surgeon

The git restore command, on the other hand, is more surgical. It selectively discards changes from your working directory or unstages changes, providing a safety net for those ‘oops’ moments. Here’s the command:

git restore <file>

Git Revert: The Safe Undoer

Last but not least, the git revert command undoes a commit by creating a new commit that undoes all the changes made in the target commit. It’s a safe and non-destructive way to undo changes, as it doesn’t alter the existing commit history. Here’s how to use it:

git revert <commit>


According to the official Git documentation, git reset is about moving the HEAD and changing the stage, git restore is about restoring working tree files, and git revert is about recording new commits to reverse the effect of earlier commits.

However, the star of the show is undeniably git restore. Its versatility and safe usage make it an indispensable tool in any developer’s toolkit. It provides a safety net for those ‘oops’ moments, allowing you to undo changes without affecting your commit history or permanently discarding changes.

git restoreWorking directory or staging areagit restore <file>
git resetCommit historygit reset <commit>
git revertSpecific commitgit revert <commit>

These commands, while powerful, should be used with care. A misplaced git reset or a hasty git restore can lead to confusion and potentially discard valuable work. Hence, it’s crucial to thoroughly understand these commands and use them judiciously.

Mastering these commands can significantly enhance your Git proficiency. It’s akin to having a well-stocked toolbox, empowering you to tackle any task with confidence. But remember, mastering Git is not just about knowing the commands. It’s about understanding the principles behind them, knowing when to use each command, and learning from your mistakes.

Now, let’s explore the practical applications of these Git commands, starting with git restore.

Mastering Git Restore

Becoming proficient in git restore can significantly boost your ability to manage and undo changes in Git. It’s a powerful tool that can save you time and effort, enabling you to focus on what truly matters: writing high-quality code. So, don’t fear mistakes. With git restore, you can always undo your changes and get back on the right path.

Unstaging Files with Git Restore

Suppose you’ve accidentally staged a file that isn’t ready for commit yet. No need to worry! git restore is here to help. You can easily unstage the file with the following command:

git restore --staged <file>

This command will remove the file from the staging area, but not from the working directory. Your changes remain intact in your working directory.

Advanced Options in Git Restore

The git restore command comes with powerful options that give you even more control over your undoing process. The --source option allows you to restore a file to the state of a specific commit. For example:

git restore --source=<commit> <file>

This command will restore the specified file to the state it was in at the specified commit.

The --patch option allows you to interactively select chunks of a file to restore. This can be extremely useful when you want to undo specific changes, but not others. Here’s how to use it:

git restore --patch <file>

This command will prompt you to select which changes you want to undo.

Understanding and using the right Git command can save you from a lot of trouble. However, it’s equally important to understand the implications of each command before using it. By taking the time to understand these commands, you can streamline your Git workflow and make it more efficient.

--sourceAllows you to restore a file to the state of a specific commitgit restore --source=<commit> <file>
--patchAllows you to interactively select chunks of a file to restoregit restore --patch <file>

Now, let’s shed light on the hero of our story: Git restore. This command is an all-rounder, capable of undoing changes in both the working directory and the staging area, regardless of whether they’ve been staged for commit or not.

The Versatility of Git Restore

Picture this: you’re working on a feature and have made changes to multiple files. Suddenly, you realize that you want to discard all the changes in one of the files and some of the changes in another file. With git restore, you can do exactly that. Here’s the command:

git restore <file>

This command will discard all changes in the specified file. If you want to discard only some changes, you can use the --patch option, as we explored in the previous section.

Git Restore: The Safer Alternative

A key advantage of git restore is its safety. While git checkout and git reset can permanently erase changes, git restore offers a safety net, allowing you to undo changes without affecting your commit history or permanently discarding changes.

Ensuring Codebase Integrity with Git Restore

Another benefit of git restore is that it provides an intuitive way to manage changes in your project. It allows you to selectively undo changes, giving you granular control over your codebase. This can be incredibly useful in large projects, where managing changes can be a daunting task.

By using git restore, you can ensure that your codebase remains clean and manageable, even when you’re constantly making and undoing changes.

Removing Commits with Git Reset

What if you’ve made a commit that you now want to discard? This is where git reset comes into play. You can use git reset to move the HEAD back to a previous commit, effectively deleting any commits that came after it. Here’s the command:

git reset --hard <commit>

This command will move the HEAD and the branch pointer to the specified commit, discarding all subsequent commits. However, be cautious as git reset --hard also discards any uncommitted changes in your working directory.

Reverting Past Commits with Git Revert

If you wish to undo a specific commit from the past without discarding any work you’ve done since then, git revert is your go-to command. The git revert command creates a new commit that undoes the changes made in a specific commit. Here’s the command:

git revert <commit>

This command will create a new commit that undoes all the changes made in the specified commit. The best part? Your commit history remains intact.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ve journeyed through the world of undoing changes in Git. We’ve delved into the power of git reset, git restore, and git revert commands, each offering unique ways to undo changes and maintain a clean and efficient codebase.

Understanding how to undo changes in Git is akin to having a map in the maze of software development. It empowers you to navigate your project, make changes, experiment with new ideas, and rectify mistakes with confidence. This skill can significantly enhance your productivity and efficiency as a developer.

So, the next time you find yourself in a Git mess, remember: you have the tools to fix it. With git reset, git restore, and git revert at your disposal, you can undo changes, rectify mistakes, and keep your project on track.

More importantly, you can continue to learn, grow, and become a better developer. Just like an eraser can fix mistakes on paper, Git commands can undo changes in your code. So, keep experimenting, keep learning, and remember: every mistake is just a learning opportunity in disguise.