How do I check out a remote Git branch?


Somebody pushed a branch called test with git push origin test to a shared repository. I can see the branch with git branch -r.

Now I'm trying to check out the remote test branch.

I've tried:

  • git checkout test which does nothing

  • git checkout origin/test gives * (no branch). Which is confusing. How can I be on "no branch"?

How do I check out a remote Git branch?

5/21/2017 11:15:47 AM

Accepted Answer

With One Remote

Jakub's answer actually improves on this. With Git versions ≥ 1.6.6, with only one remote, you can just do:

git fetch
git checkout test

As user masukomi points out in a comment, git checkout test will NOT work in modern git if you have multiple remotes. In this case use

git checkout -b test <name of remote>/test

or the shorthand

git checkout -t <name of remote>/test

With >1 Remotes

Before you can start working locally on a remote branch, you need to fetch it as called out in answers below.

To fetch a branch, you simply need to:

git fetch origin

This will fetch all of the remote branches for you. You can see the branches available for checkout with:

git branch -v -a

With the remote branches in hand, you now need to check out the branch you are interested in, giving you a local working copy:

git checkout -b test origin/test
8/14/2020 1:17:47 PM

Sidenote: With modern Git (>= 1.6.6), you are able to use just

git checkout test

(note that it is 'test' not 'origin/test') to perform magical DWIM-mery and create local branch 'test' for you, for which upstream would be remote-tracking branch 'origin/test'.

The * (no branch) in git branch output means that you are on unnamed branch, in so called "detached HEAD" state (HEAD points directly to commit, and is not symbolic reference to some local branch). If you made some commits on this unnamed branch, you can always create local branch off current commit:

git checkout -b test HEAD

** EDIT (by editor not author) **

I found a comment buried below which seems to modernize this answer:

@Dennis: git checkout <non-branch>, for example git checkout origin/test results in detached HEAD / unnamed branch, while git checkout test or git checkout -b test origin/test results in local branch test (with remote-tracking branch origin/test as upstream) – Jakub Narębski Jan 9 '14 at 8:17

emphasis on git checkout origin/test


In this case, you probably want to create a local test branch which is tracking the remote test branch:

$ git branch test origin/test

In earlier versions of git, you needed an explicit --track option, but that is the default now when you are branching off a remote branch.


Accepted answer not working for you?

While the first and selected answer is technically correct, there's the possibility you have not yet retrieved all objects and refs from the remote repository. If that is the case, you'll receive the following error:

$ git checkout -b remote_branch origin/remote_branch

fatal: git checkout: updating paths is incompatible with switching branches.
Did you intend to checkout 'origin/remote_branch' which can not be resolved as commit?


If you receive this message, you must first do a git fetch origin where origin is the name of the remote repository prior to running git checkout remote_branch. Here's a full example with responses:

$ git fetch origin
remote: Counting objects: 140, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (30/30), done.
remote: Total 69 (delta 36), reused 66 (delta 33)
Unpacking objects: 100% (69/69), done.
   e6ef1e0..5029161  develop    -> origin/develop
 * [new branch]      demo       -> origin/demo
   d80f8d7..359eab0  master     -> origin/master

$ git checkout demo
Branch demo set up to track remote branch demo from origin.
Switched to a new branch 'demo'

As you can see, running git fetch origin retrieved any remote branches we were not yet setup to track on our local machine. From there, since we now have a ref to the remote branch, we can simply run git checkout remote_branch and we'll gain the benefits of remote tracking.


I tried the above solution, but it didn't work. Try this, it works:

git fetch origin 'remote_branch':'local_branch_name'

This will fetch the remote branch and create a new local branch (if not exists already) with name local_branch_name and track the remote one in it.


This will DWIM for a remote not named origin (documentation):

$ git checkout -t remote_name/remote_branch

To add a new remote, you will need to do the following first:

$ git remote add remote_name location_of_remote
$ git fetch remote_name

The first tells Git the remote exists, the second gets the commits.


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