How to Undo and Redo In Git - A Git Workflow with Git Reset

You would typically want to UNDO/REDO when you commit some changes to git, and realize that the changes need to be removed/reverted. This very common in scenarios for example, when you did a temporary change to some files, and forgot to revert them, then proceeded to adding them to commit accidentally.

The UNDO/REDO workflow:

Assuming you did some changes and made commits like:

git commit -m "Commit 1 - Some changes to the code"
git commit -m "Commit 2 - Some MORE changes to the code"
  1. (UNDO-ing): Revert back the last commit git reset --soft HEAD~
  2. Do the changes.
  3. Add your files to the staging area git add <filenames or paths> or git add --all
  4. (REDO-ing): Do the commit. git commit -c ORIG_HEAD or git commit -C ORIG_HEAD

How does this work?

Now that you know the flow lets understand how this works behind the scenes.

  1. Step 1 resets the last commit i.e. "Commit 2 - Some MORE..." back to the "Commit 1 - Some..." commit.
  2. In Step 2, you do changes you deem fit to the files.
  3. In Step 3, you add the changed files to the staging area either selectively with git add <filenames> or all files with git add --all.
  4. In the final step you commit the changes in the staging area.

Note: you can either use -c or -C. The small -c will open an editor for modifying the commit message, in this case it will be Commit 2 - Some MORE.... You can edit the commit message as you want.

Or alternatively you can use caps -C, where git will skip the editor window, and reuse the LAST commit message which again in this case is Commit 2 - Some MORE....

Re-using the “Same” commit message is also known as redoing/recommiting.

Unstage before a commit

To undo a change staged before a commit simply run git reset <file> or git reset to unstage all changes before a commit.

Note: In older versions of git, the commands were git reset HEAD <file> and git reset HEAD respectively. This was changed in Git 1.8.2

Some More tricks:

You can go back any number of commits by using git reset --soft HEAD~n where you want to undo last n commits.

More detail on How Git Reset Works

The git reset command allows you to RESET your current head to a specified state. You can reset the state of specific files as well as an entire branch.

Reset a file or set of files

The following command lets you selectively choose chunks of content and revert or unstage it.

git reset (--patch | -p) [tree-ish] [--] [paths]

Unstage a file

If you moved a file into the staging area with git add , but no longer want it to be part of a commit, you can use git reset to unstage that file:


The changes you made will still be in the file, this command just removes that file from your staging area.

Reset a branch to a prior commit

The following command resets your current branch’s HEAD to the given COMMIT and updates the index. It basically rewinds the state of your branch, then all commits you make going forward write over anything that came after the reset point. If you omit the MODE , it defaults to --mixed :

git reset MODE COMMIT

The options for MODE are:

  • --soft : does not reset the index file or working tree, but resets HEAD to commit . Changes all files to “Changes to be commited”
  • --mixed : resets the index but not the working tree and reports what has not been updated
  • --hard : resets the index and working tree. Any changes to tracked files in the working tree since commit are discarded
  • --merge : resets the index and updates the files in the working tree that are different between commit and HEAD, but keeps those which are different between the index and working tree
  • --keep : resets index entries and updates files in the working tree that are different between commit and HEAD. If a file that is different between commit and HEAD has local changes, the reset is aborted

Points to Note

Be very careful when using the --hard option with git reset since it resets your commit, staging area and your working directory. If this option is not used properly then one can end up losing the code that is written.

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