How do I force "git pull" to overwrite local files?


How do I force an overwrite of local files on a git pull?

The scenario is the following:

  • A team member is modifying the templates for a website we are working on
  • They are adding some images to the images directory (but forgets to add them under source control)
  • They are sending the images by mail, later, to me
  • I'm adding the images under the source control and pushing them to GitHub together with other changes
  • They cannot pull updates from GitHub because Git doesn't want to overwrite their files.

This is the error I'm getting:

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

How do I force Git to overwrite them? The person is a designer - usually, I resolve all the conflicts by hand, so the server has the most recent version that they just need to update on their computer.

12/2/2019 8:05:09 AM

Accepted Answer

⚠ Important: If you have any local changes, they will be lost. With or without --hard option, any local commits that haven't been pushed will be lost.[*]

If you have any files that are not tracked by Git (e.g. uploaded user content), these files will not be affected.

I think this is the right way:

git fetch --all

Then, you have two options:

git reset --hard origin/master

OR If you are on some other branch:

git reset --hard origin/<branch_name>


git fetch downloads the latest from remote without trying to merge or rebase anything.

Then the git reset resets the master branch to what you just fetched. The --hard option changes all the files in your working tree to match the files in origin/master

Maintain current local commits

[*]: It's worth noting that it is possible to maintain current local commits by creating a branch from master before resetting:

git checkout master
git branch new-branch-to-save-current-commits
git fetch --all
git reset --hard origin/master

After this, all of the old commits will be kept in new-branch-to-save-current-commits.

Uncommitted changes

Uncommitted changes, however (even staged), will be lost. Make sure to stash and commit anything you need. For that you can run the following:

git stash

And then to reapply these uncommitted changes:

git stash pop
6/17/2020 9:06:40 AM

Try this:

git reset --hard HEAD
git pull

It should do what you want.


WARNING: git clean deletes all your untracked files/directories and can't be undone.

Sometimes just clean -f does not help. In case you have untracked DIRECTORIES, -d option also needed:

# WARNING: this can't be undone!

git reset --hard HEAD
git clean -f -d
git pull

WARNING: git clean deletes all your untracked files/directories and can't be undone.

Consider using -n (--dry-run) flag first. This will show you what will be deleted without actually deleting anything:

git clean -n -f -d

Example output:

Would remove untracked-file-1.txt
Would remove untracked-file-2.txt
Would remove untracked/folder

Like Hedgehog I think the answers are terrible. But though Hedgehog's answer might be better, I don't think it is as elegant as it could be. The way I found to do this is by using "fetch" and "merge" with a defined strategy. Which should make it so that your local changes are preserved as long as they are not one of the files that you are trying to force an overwrite with.

First do a commit of your changes

 git add *
 git commit -a -m "local file server commit message"

Then fetch the changes and overwrite if there is a conflict

 git fetch origin master
 git merge -s recursive -X theirs origin/master

"-X" is an option name, and "theirs" is the value for that option. You're choosing to use "their" changes, instead of "your" changes if there is a conflict.


Instead of doing:

git fetch --all
git reset --hard origin/master

I'd advise doing the following:

git fetch origin master
git reset --hard origin/master

No need to fetch all remotes and branches if you're going to reset to the origin/master branch right?


It looks like the best way is to first do:

git clean

To delete all untracked files and then continue with the usual git pull...


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