How to make Git "forget" about a file that was tracked but is now in .gitignore?

Created 13.08.2009 19:23
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There is a file that was being tracked by git, but now the file is on the .gitignore list.

However, that file keeps showing up in git status after it's edited. How do you force git to completely forget about it?

git clean -X sounds similar, but it doesn't apply in this situation (when the files are still being tracked by Git). I'm writing this for anyone looking for a solution not to follow the wrong route. by imz -- Ivan Zakharyaschev, 27.02.2015 12:14
The only real answer to this is down below, see git update-index --assume-unchanged. This solution 1) keeps the file on server (index), 2) lets you modify it freely locally. by Qwerty, 04.01.2016 14:15
You need to use --skip-worktree, see:… by Doppelganger, 05.08.2016 20:33
An important question is: should the file remain in the repository or not? Eg if someone new clones the repo, should they get the file or not? If YES then git update-index --assume-unchanged <file> is correct and the file will remain in the repository and changes will not be added with git add. If NO (for example it was some cache file, generated file etc), then git rm --cached <file> will remove it from repository. by Martin, 22.11.2016 10:45
@Martin @Qwerty Everyon should stop to advise for --assume-unchanged which is for performance to prevent git to check status of big tracked files but prefer --skip-worktree which is for modified tracked files that the user don't want to commit anymore. See… by Philippe, 15.02.2018 11:16
Possible duplicate of How to stop tracking and ignore changes to a file in Git? by melpomene, 17.06.2019 05:15
git update-index --assume-unchanged <file> has a serious problem I just ran into: running git stash after making local changes to this "ignored" file, all local changes will be lost (i.e. git stash pop will not bring them back) by jannikb, 27.07.2019 09:14
I tried but it seems when i try to pull it is not working and giving error like 'Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge by NeverGiveUp161, 12.09.2019 09:05
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Answers 29

.gitignore will prevent untracked files from being added (without an add -f) to the set of files tracked by git, however git will continue to track any files that are already being tracked.

To stop tracking a file you need to remove it from the index. This can be achieved with this command.

git rm --cached <file>

If you want to remove a whole folder, you need to remove all files in it recursively.

git rm -r --cached <folder>

The removal of the file from the head revision will happen on the next commit.

WARNING: While this will not remove the physical file from your local, it will remove the files from other developers machines on next git pull.

13.08.2009 20:40
the process that workd for me was 1. commit pending changes first 2. git rm --cached <file> and commit again 3. add the file to .gitignore, check with git status and commit again by mataal, 13.08.2009 21:07
Very important adding. If file that is ignored would be modified (but in spite of this should be not committed), after modifying and executing git add . it would be added to index. And next commit would commit it to repository. To avoid this execute right after all that mataal said one more command: git update-index --assume-unchanged <path&filename> by Dao, 24.08.2011 16:39
mataal's comment is very important. Commit pending changes first, THEN git rm --cached and commit again. If the rm is part of another commit it doesn't work as expected. by Andiih, 31.07.2012 09:02
I find @AkiraYamamoto 's solution better. by qed, 28.09.2013 17:28
@AkiraYamamoto 's method worked well for me as well. In my case I suppressed the output since my repository had thousands of files: git rm -r -q --cached . by Aaron Blenkush, 11.10.2013 15:21
You should make reference to Seth's answer below as a danger of this approach. The exact thing Seth mentioned happened to me but I'd followed your answer due to the number of up-votes. by Mark, 30.10.2013 14:58
@Mark: there's no danger because git will only remove the file on checkout (merge, etc.) if it is unchanged in the working tree. In this case, if the developer decides that he really does want the unchanged version kept he can easily retrieve the version from the commit before you removed it. by CB Bailey, 30.10.2013 15:09
@CharlesBailey: By your own comment you've shown there is a case where the file can be removed which you might not want. Just because you can retrieve it doesn't mean that you want it to happen. I 'stopped tracking' a file by this method and when I pulled to a qa server it deleted the important (but environment specific) shell script rather than just not tracking it. This slowed down the deployment process and had it been a live roll out there would have been downtime while I retrieved the file. I'm not saying this is the wrong method, I'm saying you should make reference to Seth's answer too. by Mark, 30.10.2013 15:34
@CharlesBailey: Surely you can see there's a reason why Seth has 16 upvotes for his answer. Probably 15 other people making the same mistake I did. by Mark, 30.10.2013 15:36
@Mark: You probably don't want to use a source control tool as the only element in a deployment strategy but if you do then you certainly aren't in the same situation as the question asker who wanted to force git "to completely forget about" the file. I did explicitly say in my answer: "The removal of the file from the head revision will happen on the next commit." by CB Bailey, 30.10.2013 15:48
@CharlesBailey: Firstly, let's not get petty, I didn't set up this deployment strategy it's a project which I've inherited. Secondly, the asker said "that file keeps showing up in git st after it's edited" so clearly they wanted to keep the file, just not have it tracked, hence why a warning about it's risk of deletion is warranted. by Mark, 30.10.2013 15:55
This will delete the file on git pull though. by Petr Peller, 22.05.2014 16:04
For some reason i had to do a Git push right after this solution. If i didn't and made a change in the fileit would pop back up in git status. by MacGyver, 18.03.2015 14:25
git rm --cached <file> just remove file from repository, git update-index --assume-unchanged <file> not shown file in unstaged changes and does not make pull a new changes. But i want GIT JUST IGNORE CONTENT OF FILE PLEEEEEASE by Igor Semin, 07.04.2015 09:03
Also to do it recursively: git rm --cached -r lib/data/excel/* by Donato, 10.04.2015 22:34
If you're having problems with this, try running it on the root directory of your git repo, rather than a sub-folder. by Andy McKenzie, 17.05.2015 17:00
@CharlesBailey unfortunly, is not working in my case. Changed a lot of files. In some times I figured out that problem is in file endings (autocrlf), but after I disable it I still have 4k+ files which are assumed to be changed but actually are the same. I think there is problem with encoding, but it's the hypothesis only. by Alex Zhukovskiy, 08.02.2017 13:55
Just in case you wanted to remove only a few cached files but you removed all of them because "git rm --cached -r ." and you immediately deeply regret it, this will help - "git reset HEAD ." by lightsong, 15.02.2017 03:22
If you keep getting "Fatal: pathspec ... did not match any files", you can list them all with "git ls-files", and then copy and paste the path of the offending file. by rothschild86, 04.04.2017 16:43
i just tired this answer with my github repository and it didnt work by Parsa, 10.04.2017 13:15
@PetrPeller, that's right .. then what is the right solution ? by ebram khalil, 29.04.2017 15:38
@CharlesBailey I have too many files and folders in .gitignore. How to remove them from the index in one step? not one by one with <file> as you said. by Dr.jacky, 15.09.2017 06:34
A hanging point for me was that the Git app (as of May 2018) does NOT handle this properly. Even if these changes are in a single commit (no other changes), committing with the Git app results in "Commit failed - exit code 1 received". Committing and pushing via command line is what finally resolved this for me using this answer. by ryanm, 17.05.2018 17:38
This supports wildcards, for example: git rm --cached *.pyc will recursively remove all files with .pyc extensions. by alex, 31.05.2018 18:57
A common use for this is for node_modules: sudo git rm --cached -r ./node_modules/ by dylanh724, 08.11.2018 03:08
The complete answer is git rm --cached -r .; git add .; git status by youhans, 19.11.2018 11:18
@youhans: But I seem to have to run git commit to complete it. by John, 29.11.2018 23:24
I'm still using this answer as it's proven safer, more conservative than others, with which I've experienced undesirable effects. The full flow is git rm --cached <file or folder>, git add ., git commit, git push. by hBrent, 26.07.2019 21:05
It would help if the answer also specified how to avoid the removal of files that are now untracked and added to gitignore when someone else performs a git pull. Also, when switching branches, the files will be removed. this is highly problematic if you have tmp files that represent a state (eg in terraform) that get blown away. by openCivilisation, 24.03.2020 19:59
i've come back to this page about 1000 times in the last month. And i suspect i will come back here another 1000 times in the future. Thanks for this. by Quintonn, 14.05.2020 19:43
@openCivilisation If you want to make git "completely forget" (retroactively apply gitignore as if it had existed in the beginning), AND/OR want to avoid removing files from other developers machines on the next git pull, see this answer or this question/answer by goofology, 28.05.2020 08:16
I committed with a large file included. Then I realize it should be ignored, so I add it in .gitignore. I use git rm --cache, git add and git commit to commit again. But I found the .git directory is still large and when I push it to GitHub, it cost a long time and eventually failed. My question is how to remove the large file thoroughly (including the record in .git directory) so that I can push quickly. by Liang Xiao, 06.06.2020 06:53
@LiangXiao: That's a separate question to this one. Post it as a question. by Oddthinking, 03.07.2020 04:10
Even when it's added to git ignore? It will be removed from other developers on the next pull? by iamafasha, 31.10.2020 05:36
It's important to RUN that COMMAND from your GIT ROOT DIRECTORY by Martin, 06.11.2020 11:45
thank you. i kept doing git rm and it would remove the whole file! by Arthur Bowers, 15.04.2021 09:06
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The series of commands below will remove all of the items from the Git Index (not from the working directory or local repo), and then will update the Git Index, while respecting git ignores. PS. Index = Cache


git rm -r --cached .
git add .


git commit -am "Remove ignored files"

Or one-liner:

git rm -r --cached . && git add . && git commit -am "Remove ignored files"
30.09.2013 13:51
It could use a bit more exposition, but yes, this was the best solution to my problem. by vlasits, 17.02.2014 14:38
To highlight the difference between this answer and the accepted one: Using this commands you don't need to actually know the affected files. (Imagine a temporary dir with lots of random files that should be cleared off the index). by Ludwig, 27.03.2014 10:17
Same as the accepted answer. Files will get deleted on git pull. by Petr Peller, 22.05.2014 16:07
I'm having a hard time finding an answer, but will this solution delete any files? If I run this on my local machine, push changes out, and someone pulls, will they lose anything on their machine? by jaredready, 21.10.2014 16:39
It would be nice to have this as a standard git command. Something like git rmignored. by Berik, 20.12.2014 11:59
what is the purpose of the -r flag before --cached? Seems to work without it by benscabbia, 30.06.2015 19:15
@gudthing -r stands for "recursive" by Mark, 15.07.2015 11:24
This solution causes all current files to show up as "new." Will they show up as new after the commit? How to undo git rm -r . if you don't commit by Josiah Yoder, 07.08.2015 17:29
With this you may end up adding other useless files that are not currently in .gitignore. Which may be difficult to find out if depending on how noise your git status is after this command. A command that only removes newly ignored files would be better. That's why I prefer thSoft's answer by KurzedMetal, 22.09.2015 14:27
but what if I don't want to commit all the changes yet? by Harry, 03.05.2016 20:36
Thanks! There was no way was going to go through all the files listing which ones I wanted to be ignored next commit. by Charles Clayton, 18.08.2016 00:07
So, just so you guys know git rm -r --cached . will remove literally every single file in the repo from tracking. Every one. Regardless of whether its in the gitignore. I'm apparently an idiot and actually ran that command and pushed lol. And I had thousands and thousands of files. I had to open reflog, git clean -d, checkout branch before this command, create temp branch, set master to track new branch, check out master, and force push to fix it. ouch. by Josh Sanders, 09.09.2017 07:47
This is a dangerous command as it also wipes out -f switch applied to early files. For example we want to explicitly save a single DLL file then we generally do is to use -f switch to add that file in .git tracking explicitly. However running the git rm -r --cached . command will also remove earlier forced files.. Therefore its better to use git rm -r --cached <filename> rather than adding dot. by vibs2006, 23.01.2018 11:47
No! This makes a mess. Use Konstantin's answer below. by arnoldbird, 06.04.2018 17:39
@Berik: git clean -X Remove only files ignored by Git by Eugen Konkov, 09.05.2018 11:39
This is not working for me. Running git push after these instructions still keeps trying to upload files in my .gitignore. by Cameron Hudson, 14.08.2018 23:21
For more details about what each of the flags mean to rm see this post. by Senseful, 14.02.2019 20:52
Is there any way I can achieve to ignore my file by not removing remotely? by Kiran Jasvanee, 07.06.2019 06:14
@Berik you could add an alias by Keara, 12.07.2019 22:48
This answer got the job done for me and didn't require anything but a page refresh on the Github repo to reflect changes on my local machine after pushing. by overcoded, 16.07.2019 13:16
git commit -am "Remove ignored files" was the missing step to the accepted answer (at least for me) by john ktejik, 12.08.2020 20:43
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git update-index does the job for me:

git update-index --assume-unchanged <file>

Note: This solution is actually independent on .gitignore as gitignore is only for untracked files.

Update, a better option

Since this answer was posted, a new option has been created and that should be preferred. You should use --skip-worktree which is for modified tracked files that the user don't want to commit anymore and keep --assume-unchanged for performance to prevent git to check status of big tracked files. See for more details...

git update-index --skip-worktree <file>

To cancel

git update-index --no-skip-worktree <file>
27.11.2013 11:24
This IS the real answer. Awesome actually, very simple, doesn't pollute git status and actually very intuitive. Thanks. by Pablo Olmos de Aguilera C., 12.01.2014 23:57
I went for the good enough rm [...] . solution, as at least I could grok how it worked. I found no great documentation on what update-index & --assume-unchanged do. Can anyone add how this compares to the other, in that I would like to remove all files that would have been ignored? (Or a link to clear explanation?) by Brady Trainor, 01.03.2014 00:12
git update-index --assume-unchanged <path> … will cause git to ignore changes in the specified path(s), regardless of .gitignore. If you pull from a remote and that remote has changes to this path, git will fail the merge with a conflict and you will need to merge manually. git rm --cached <path> … will cause git to stop tracking that path. If you do not add the path to .gitignore you will see the path in future git status. The first option has less noise in the git commit history and allows changes to the "ignored" file to be distributed in the future. by ManicDee, 25.06.2014 02:02
hg forget is mostly rm --cached. This trick is really cool (for forget forever). by weakish, 28.11.2014 08:23
If you already added the file using git add, use git reset [file] to undo your add and use this command to forget the file. by Halil Kaskavalci, 08.06.2015 16:02
This is very very useful (I wish I could upvote more than once) but technically it's not the answer to the question. Because it will do it independent of the file being in .gitignore or not, that's what I mean it's not 100 percent answer to the OP question (it solved my problem though). by Nader Ghanbari, 11.11.2015 09:54
I'm quite confused as to how this isn't the accepted answer. The accepted answer here clearly isn't answering the actual question being asked. This answer ignores changes to the file that is in the repository whilst not removing it from the repository. by Dave Cooper, 02.12.2015 22:46
This answer would be a lot more useful if it explained exactly what the given command does, e.g. how it's different from the other suggested solutions. by LarsH, 19.08.2016 15:39
E.g. if I use this option, will other repos that pull from the remote know to stop tracking the file? (Maybe only if I add the file to .gitignore?) by LarsH, 19.08.2016 17:43
For the files in submodule, we need execute the command in submodule folder. by liwp_Stephen, 02.09.2016 08:56
if it's a directory, make sure to add a trailing slash at the end of the directory name. e.g. git update-index --assume-unchanged .history/ by Alex Cory, 04.03.2017 01:18
This solution is what I was looking for. git rm --cached will delete the removed file upon pull (which means, you don't want to just ignore the file, you want to delete it). git rm --cached with .gitignore is a misleading combination. The actual solution that will not delete your files on your colleagues who run git pull after your changes is this answer. Thank you ! Run git ls-files -v | grep '^[[:lower:]]' to find files ignored this way. by George Dimitriadis, 23.03.2017 09:37
this command will only be effective on your machine right? what if i want to stop tracking the file on all machines ? also on the machines that will clone the rep in the future? by George, 30.07.2018 06:37
Yes, this command will only stop tracking it locally. To stop tracking file completely just remove if from the repository and commit/push the changes. by Konstantin, 31.07.2018 08:15
This won't help me solve, my case is files was staged and pushed to remote. So this solution is temporary remove the files from my view, but if files were changed again, it will come back to my unstaged view. by Natta Wang, 31.08.2018 01:14
In Eclipse/EGit: right click on file > Team > Advanced > Assume Unchanged by golimar, 22.10.2018 09:07
So this is only done locally, while git rm --cached will delete it upon pull for others. What if one simply wants to ignore future changes to the file, both on your machine and others (that already have the file), and not have it auto-deleted as it currently is on any machines? by miyalys, 15.04.2019 10:08
I tried but it seems when i try to pull it is not working and giving error like Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by merge by NeverGiveUp161, 12.09.2019 09:03
There are instances in which you want to push clean files to a repo, then disable change tracking so that users can edit them on their machine. One example would be appsettings files for ASP.NET applications. by KappaG3, 30.01.2020 09:56
So I had a slightly different use case; I was testing build changes to a project with 400 sub projects, and I wanted to isolate just one sub project, so I deleted the 399 I didn't want to work on atm, and ran git ls-files --deleted -z | git update-index --assume-unchanged -z --stdin once I was ready I undid the delete and restored tracking with for f in $(git ls-files -v | grep '^[[:lower:]]' | awk '{print $2}'); do git update-index --no-assume-unchanged "$f"; done by Calvin Taylor, 23.07.2020 15:47
This option still showing all tracked files as modified which one does not want to see and simply get rid of just seeing them without deleting by Shashank Bhatt, 11.09.2020 10:33
After setting --skip-worktree for one file, I cannot checkout another branch: git checkout says Please commit your changes or stash them before you switch branches. although git status claims Your branch is up to date, nothing to commit, working tree clean. So without additional research/explanation this answer might break stuff. by Theo, 10.12.2020 09:55
Show remaining 17 comments
git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard -z | xargs -0 git rm --cached
git commit -am "Remove ignored files"

This takes the list of the ignored files and removes them from the index, then commits the changes.

23.05.2014 22:29
If you need to remove them from the working directory, too, then simply run git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs git rm. I believe this answer is the best! Because it's very clear, Unix-way, and does the wanted thing in a direct manner, without composing the side-effects of other, more complex commands. by imz -- Ivan Zakharyaschev, 27.02.2015 12:23
Great answer; however, the command will fail if you have paths with spaces on the middle, e.g.: "My dir/my_ignored_file.txt" by David Hernandez, 19.06.2015 15:29
git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard | sed 's/.*/"&"/' | xargs git rm --cached by David Hernandez, 19.06.2015 15:36
git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -d"\n" git rm --cached by KurzedMetal, 04.09.2015 18:16
Be aware, fails on filenames with certain "nasty" characters in them, e.g. \n. I have posted my solution to cater for this. by JonBrave, 29.12.2015 13:02
git rm will complain if ls-files didn't match anything. Use xargs -r git rm ... to tell xargs not to run git rm if no files matched. by Wolfgang, 06.01.2016 19:15
It would be better to use \0 as separator: git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard -z|xargs -0 git rm --cached by Nils-o-mat, 02.02.2016 10:05
I get Argument list too long. How the hell do I untrack all of these ignored files?? by David P, 21.04.2016 02:44
Can you explain the motivation of adding the option -a to git commit? For me it unnecessary... by Jean Paul, 08.11.2018 11:40
TBH, this is the best answer for me, the git rm -r --cached . && git add . does a mess in my repo. by KurzedMetal, 27.02.2020 16:13
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I always use this command to remove those untracked files. One-line, Unix-style, clean output:

git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard | sed 's/.*/"&"/' | xargs git rm -r --cached

It lists all your ignored files, replace every output line with a quoted line instead to handle paths with spaces inside, and pass everything to git rm -r --cached to remove the paths/files/dirs from the index.

19.06.2015 15:42
Great solution! Worked perfectly and feels more correct that removing all files then adding them back in. by Jon Catmull, 09.09.2015 08:59
I too found this "cleanest". It might be obvious, but just running the first part, git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard, on its own lets you first understand/verify what files your new .gitignore is going to exclude/remove, before you go ahead and execute the final git rm. by JonBrave, 29.12.2015 11:56
Be aware, fails on filenames with certain "nasty" characters in them, e.g. \n. I have posted my solution to cater for this. by JonBrave, 29.12.2015 13:01
Another caveat: on pull, this will cause the file to be deleted in others' working directories, right? by LarsH, 19.08.2016 15:46
tried, but didn't work for me: sed: 1: "s/.*/": unterminated substitute in regular expression in a filter-branch command on a repo with spaces. (Seemed to work outside the filter-branch though). I used git ls-files -z --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -0 git rm -r --cached from @JonBrave's answer instead. by goofology, 12.08.2019 02:50

move it out, commit, then move it back in. This has worked for me in the past. There is probably a 'gittier' way to accomplish this.

13.08.2009 19:27
This worked great if you want to ignore a bunch of files that weren't previously ignored. Though like you said, there is probably a better way for this. by Oskar Persson, 28.05.2013 16:19
This is exactly what I did. Simply move the files to a folder outside of git, then do "git add .", "git commit". (This removed the files) then add the gitignore, referencing the files/folders, commit again to add the gitignore file to git, then copy/move back in the folders, and they should be ignored. NB: it will appear that the files were deleted from GIT, so would probably remove them from other checkouts/pulls, as mentioned in above solutions, but since you are making copies of them initially, this isnt as much of an issue IMHO. just let the rest of the team know... by Del, 23.09.2016 12:04
This is the easiest way to get rid of wrongly committed folders. by Martlark, 14.01.2017 08:01
Seems to be the only way, that I can see. It's a massive bug (not 'feature') in git that as soon as you add a file/folder to .gitignore, it doesn't just ignore that file from that point on - forever - everywhere. by JosephK, 24.09.2017 09:09
This worked after I had them added, and then after the fact added them to .gitignore by hanzolo, 29.07.2019 22:00
This works the best for me, even after having tried the other "gittier" ways. Sometimes simple is best. by Patrick Chu, 25.04.2020 16:00
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If you cannot git rm a tracked file because other people might need it (warning, even if you git rm --cached, when someone else gets this change, their files will be deleted in their filesystem). These are often done due to config file overrides, authentication credentials, etc. Please look at for ways people have worked around the problem.

To summarize:

  • Have your application look for an ignored file config-overide.ini and use that over the committed file config.ini (or alternately, look for ~/.config/myapp.ini, or $MYCONFIGFILE)
  • Commit file config-sample.ini and ignore file config.ini, have a script or similar copy the file as necessary if necessary.
  • Try to use gitattributes clean/smudge magic to apply and remove the changes for you, for instance smudge the config file as a checkout from an alternate branch and clean the config file as a checkout from HEAD. This is tricky stuff, I don't recommend it for the novice user.
  • Keep the config file on a deploy branch dedicated to it that is never merged to master. When you want to deploy/compile/test you merge to that branch and get that file. This is essentially the smudge/clean approach except using human merge policies and extra-git modules.
  • Anti-recommentation: Don't use assume-unchanged, it will only end in tears (because having git lie to itself will cause bad things to happen, like your change being lost forever).
19.07.2012 00:08
git wouldn't remove the file, if it were dirty at the time of deletion. And if it's not dirty, retrieving the file would be as easy as git checkout <oldref> -- <filename> - but then it would be checked out and ignored. by amenthes, 24.07.2014 14:05
Concerning your last note (about --assume-unchanged) : either this is cargo cult and should be dismissed, or you can explain why (which I'm convinced of) and it becomes useful. by RomainValeri, 22.11.2018 09:17

Use this when:

1. You want to untrack a lot of files, or

2. You updated your gitignore file

Source link:

Let’s say you have already added/committed some files to your git repository and you then add them to your .gitignore; these files will still be present in your repository index. This article we will see how to get rid of them.

Step 1: Commit all your changes

Before proceeding, make sure all your changes are committed, including your .gitignore file.

Step 2: Remove everything from the repository

To clear your repo, use:

git rm -r --cached .
  • rm is the remove command
  • -r will allow recursive removal
  • –cached will only remove files from the index. Your files will still be there.

The rm command can be unforgiving. If you wish to try what it does beforehand, add the -n or --dry-run flag to test things out.

Step 3: Re add everything

git add .

Step 4: Commit

git commit -m ".gitignore fix"

Your repository is clean :)

Push the changes to your remote to see the changes effective there as well.

22.04.2018 18:11
It won't delete the files from the remote repository? What if I want to keep the files both in local repo and remote repo but make git "forget" about them? by Avishay28, 19.03.2019 15:35
AFAIK this won't delete files from history because we're not using any history changing commands (correct me if I"m wrong). This only adds a new commit by deleting files ignored in gitignore from git. Those files will be there in the historical commits by Dheeraj Bhaskar, 19.03.2019 20:00

I accomplished this by using git filter-branch. The exact command I used was taken from the man page:

WARNING: this will delete the file from your entire history

git filter-branch --index-filter 'git rm --cached --ignore-unmatch filename' HEAD

This command will recreate the entire commit history, executing git rm before each commit and so will get rid of the specified file. Don't forget to back it up before running the command as it will be lost.

13.08.2009 19:35
This will change all commit IDs, thus breaking merges from branches outside of your copy of the repository. by bdonlan, 13.08.2009 19:56
WARNING: this will delete the file from your entire history. This was what I was looking for though, to remove a completely unnecessary and oversized file (output that should never have been committed) that was committed a long time ago in the version history. by zebediah49, 13.03.2013 05:49

What didn't work for me

(Under Linux), I wanted to use the posts here suggesting the ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs git rm -r --cached approach. However, (some of) the files to be removed had an embedded newline/LF/\n in their names. Neither of the solutions:

git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -d"\n" git rm --cached
git ls-files --ignored --exclude-standard | sed 's/.*/"&"/' | xargs git rm -r --cached

cope with this situation (get errors about files not found).

So I offer

git ls-files -z --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -0 git rm -r --cached
git commit -am "Remove ignored files"

This uses the -z argument to ls-files, and the -0 argument to xargs to cater safely/correctly for "nasty" characters in filenames.

In the manual page git-ls-files(1), it states:

When -z option is not used, TAB, LF, and backslash characters in pathnames are represented as \t, \n, and \\, respectively.

so I think my solution is needed if filenames have any of these characters in them.

29.12.2015 12:50
For me this is the best solution. It has much better performance than a git add .. It also contains the best improvements from some comments above. by Nils-o-mat, 02.02.2016 12:08
Can you add thSoft's git commit -am "Remove ignored files" afterward to your answer? Your answers combined got me through things : j by kando, 06.10.2017 00:07
I don't understand the purpose of git commit -a. For me git rm --cached affect exactly the index so no need to stage the files after... by Jean Paul, 08.11.2018 11:32
  1. Update your .gitignore file – for instance, add a folder you don't want to track to .gitignore.

  2. git rm -r --cached . – Remove all tracked files, including wanted and unwanted. Your code will be safe as long as you have saved locally.

  3. git add . – All files will be added back in, except those in .gitignore.

Hat tip to @AkiraYamamoto for pointing us in the right direction.

04.04.2016 04:09
How about downvoted due to the fact that it won't actually work as you need a -r to run rm recursively anyway :) (Someone didn't copy correctly) by Aran Mulholland, 28.07.2016 01:55
Warning: This technique doesn't actually cause git to ignore the file, instead it actually causes git to delete the file. That means if you use this solution, any time anyone else does a git pull, the file will get deleted. So it isn't actually ignored. See the solution suggesting git update-index --assume-unchanged instead for a solution to the original question. by orrd, 15.09.2017 17:33

Do the following steps serially,you will be fine.

1.remove the mistakenly added files from the directory/storage. You can use "rm -r"(for linux) command or delete them by browsing the directories. Or move them to another location on your PC.[You maybe need to close the IDE if running for moving/removing]

2.add the files / directories to gitignore file now and save it. remove them from git cache by using these commands (if there are more than one directory, remove them one by one by repeatedly issuing this command)

git rm -r --cached path-to-those-files do a commit and push, use these commands. This will remove those files from git remote and make git stop tracking those files.

git add .
git commit -m "removed unnecessary files from git"
git push origin
20.09.2018 10:52

I think, that maybe git can't totally forget about file because of its conception (section "Snapshots, Not Differences").

This problem is absent, for example, when using CVS. CVS stores information as a list of file-based changes. Information for CVS is a set of files and the changes made to each file over time.

But in Git every time you commit, or save the state of your project, it basically takes a picture of what all your files look like at that moment and stores a reference to that snapshot. So, if you added file once, it will always be present in that snapshot.

These 2 articles were helpful for me:

git assume-unchanged vs skip-worktree and How to ignore changes in tracked files with Git

Basing on it I do the following, if file is already tracked:

git update-index --skip-worktree <file>

From this moment all local changes in this file will be ignored and will not go to remote. If file is changed on remote, conflict will occure, when git pull. Stash won't work. To resolve it, copy file content to the safe place and follow these steps:

git update-index --no-skip-worktree <file>
git stash
git pull 

File content will be replaced by the remote content. Paste your changes from safe place to file and perform again:

git update-index --skip-worktree <file>

If everyone, who works with project, will perform git update-index --skip-worktree <file>, problems with pull should be absent. This solution is OK for configurations files, when every developer has their own project configuration.

It is not very convenient to do this every time, when file has been changed on remote, but can protect it from overwriting by remote content.

21.05.2017 15:12

The copy/paste answer is git rm --cached -r .; git add .; git status

This command will ignore the files that have already been committed to a Git repository but now we have added them to .gitignore.

19.11.2018 11:21

Move or copy the file to a safe location, so you don't lose it. Then git rm the file and commit. The file will still show up if you revert to one of those earlier commits, or another branch where it has not been removed. However, in all future commits, you will not see the file again. If the file is in the git ignore, then you can move it back into the folder, and git won't see it.

13.08.2009 19:27
git rm --cached will remove the file from the index without deleting it from disk, so no need to move/copy it away by bdonlan, 13.08.2009 19:56

Do the following steps for file/folder:

Remove File:

  1. need to add that file to .gitignore.
  2. need to remove that file using the command (git rm --cached file name).
  3. need to run (git add .).
  4. need to (commit -m) "file removed".
  5. and finally, (git push).

For example:

I want to delete test.txt file. I accidentally pushed to GitHub want to remove commands will be followed as:

1st add test.txt in .gitignore

git rm --cached test.txt
git add .
git commit -m "test.txt removed"
git push

Remove Folder:

  1. need to add that folder to .gitignore.
  2. need to remove that folder using the command (git rm -r --cached folder name).
  3. need to run (git add .).
  4. need to (commit -m) "folder removed".
  5. and finally, (git push).

For example:

I want to delete the .idea folder/dir. I accidentally pushed to GitHub want to remove commands will be followed as:

1st add .idea in .gitignore

git rm -r --cached .idea
git add .
git commit -m ".idea removed"
git push
09.09.2020 02:09
You Sir are the real MVP! by Paul-Sebastian Manole, 02.10.2020 14:10

The answer from Matt Fear was the most effective IMHO. The following is just a PowerShell script for those in windows to only remove files from their git repo that matches their exclusion list.

# Get files matching exclusionsfrom .gitignore
# Excluding comments and empty lines
$ignoreFiles =  gc .gitignore | ?{$_ -notmatch  "#"} |  ?{$_ -match  "\S"} | % {
                    $ignore = "*" + $_ + "*"
                    (gci -r -i $ignore).FullName
$ignoreFiles = $ignoreFiles| ?{$_ -match  "\S"}

# Remove each of these file from Git 
$ignoreFiles | % { git rm $_}

git add .
25.12.2013 00:51
In what situation won't this list of files be equal to the recursive --cached? by John Zabroski, 10.01.2014 18:47

Using the git rm --cached command does not answer the original question:

How do you force git to completely forget about [a file]?

In fact, this solution will cause the file to be deleted in every other instance of the repository when executing a git pull!

The correct way to force git to forget about a file is documented by GitHub here.

I recommend reading the documentation, but basically:

git fetch --all
git filter-branch --force --index-filter 'git rm --cached --ignore-unmatch full/path/to/file' --prune-empty --tag-name-filter cat -- --all
git push origin --force --all
git push origin --force --tags
git for-each-ref --format='delete %(refname)' refs/original | git update-ref --stdin
git reflog expire --expire=now --all
git gc --prune=now

just replace full/path/to/file with the full path of the file. Make sure you've added the file to your .gitignore.

You'll also need to (temporarily) allow non-fast-forward pushes to your repository, since you're changing your git history.

09.05.2019 02:27

If you don't want to use the CLI and are working on Windows, a very simple solution is to use TortoiseGit, it has the "Delete (keep local)" Action in the menu which works fine.

15.03.2018 11:04

I liked JonBrave's answer but I have messy enough working directories that commit -a scares me a bit, so here's what I've done:

git config --global alias.exclude-ignored '!git ls-files -z --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -0 git rm -r --cached && git ls-files -z --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -0 git stage && git stage .gitignore && git commit -m "new gitignore and remove ignored files from index"'

breaking it down:

git ls-files -z --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -0 git rm -r --cached 
git ls-files -z --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -0 git stage 
git stage .gitignore 
git commit -m "new gitignore and remove ignored files from index"
  • remove ignored files from index
  • stage .gitignore and the files you just removed
  • commit
08.08.2018 20:49

The BFG is specifically designed for removing unwanted data like big files or passwords from Git repos, so it has a simple flag that will remove any large historical (not-in-your-current-commit) files: '--strip-blobs-bigger-than'

$ java -jar bfg.jar --strip-blobs-bigger-than 100M

If you'd like to specify files by name, you can do that too:

$ java -jar bfg.jar --delete-files *.mp4

The BFG is 10-1000x faster than git filter-branch, and generally much easier to use - check the full usage instructions and examples for more details.


03.09.2017 12:37

This is no longer an issue in the latest git (v2.17.1 at the time of writing).

The .gitignore finally ignores tracked-but-deleted files. You can test this for yourself by running the following script. The final git status statement should report "nothing to commit".

# Create empty repo
mkdir gitignore-test
cd gitignore-test
git init

# Create a file and commit it
echo "hello" > file
git add file
git commit -m initial

# Add the file to gitignore and commit
echo "file" > .gitignore
git add .gitignore
git commit -m gitignore

# Remove the file and commit
git rm file
git commit -m "removed file"

# Reintroduce the file and check status.
# .gitignore is now respected - status reports "nothing to commit".
echo "hello" > file
git status
13.06.2018 16:21
I'm glad git now does this. However, the OP was asking about not tracking modifications in files present in the .gitignore, not deleted files still showing a status. by mrturtle, 14.03.2019 15:26

The accepted answer does not "make Git "forget" about a file..." (historically). It only makes git ignore the file in the present/future.

This method makes git completely forget ignored files (past/present/future), but does not delete anything from working directory (even when re-pulled from remote).

This method requires usage of /.git/info/exclude (preferred) OR a pre-existing .gitignore in all the commits that have files to be ignored/forgotten. 1

All methods of enforcing git ignore behavior after-the-fact effectively re-write history and thus have significant ramifications for any public/shared/collaborative repos that might be pulled after this process. 2

General advice: start with a clean repo - everything committed, nothing pending in working directory or index, and make a backup!

Also, the comments/revision history of this answer (and revision history of this question) may be useful/enlightening.

#commit up-to-date .gitignore (if not already existing)
#this command must be run on each branch

git add .gitignore
git commit -m "Create .gitignore"

#apply standard git ignore behavior only to current index, not working directory (--cached)
#if this command returns nothing, ensure /.git/info/exclude AND/OR .gitignore exist
#this command must be run on each branch

git ls-files -z --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -0 git rm --cached

#Commit to prevent working directory data loss!
#this commit will be automatically deleted by the --prune-empty flag in the following command
#this command must be run on each branch

git commit -m "ignored index"

#Apply standard git ignore behavior RETROACTIVELY to all commits from all branches (--all)
#This step WILL delete ignored files from working directory UNLESS they have been dereferenced from the index by the commit above
#This step will also delete any "empty" commits.  If deliberate "empty" commits should be kept, remove --prune-empty and instead run git reset HEAD^ immediately after this command

git filter-branch --tree-filter 'git ls-files -z --ignored --exclude-standard | xargs -0 git rm -f --ignore-unmatch' --prune-empty --tag-name-filter cat -- --all

#List all still-existing files that are now ignored properly
#if this command returns nothing, it's time to restore from backup and start over
#this command must be run on each branch

git ls-files --other --ignored --exclude-standard

Finally, follow the rest of this GitHub guide (starting at step 6) which includes important warnings/information about the commands below.

git push origin --force --all
git push origin --force --tags
git for-each-ref --format="delete %(refname)" refs/original | git update-ref --stdin
git reflog expire --expire=now --all
git gc --prune=now

Other devs that pull from now-modified remote repo should make a backup and then:

#fetch modified remote

git fetch --all

#"Pull" changes WITHOUT deleting newly-ignored files from working directory
#This will overwrite local tracked files with remote - ensure any local modifications are backed-up/stashed

git reset FETCH_HEAD


1 Because /.git/info/exclude can be applied to all historical commits using the instructions above, perhaps details about getting a .gitignore file into the historical commit(s) that need it is beyond the scope of this answer. I wanted a proper .gitignore to be in the root commit, as if it was the first thing I did. Others may not care since /.git/info/exclude can accomplish the same thing regardless where the .gitignore exists in the commit history, and clearly re-writing history is a very touchy subject, even when aware of the ramifications.

FWIW, potential methods may include git rebase or a git filter-branch that copies an external .gitignore into each commit, like the answers to this question

2 Enforcing git ignore behavior after-the-fact by committing the results of a standalone git rm --cached command may result in newly-ignored file deletion in future pulls from the force-pushed remote. The --prune-empty flag in the following git filter-branch command avoids this problem by automatically removing the previous "delete all ignored files" index-only commit. Re-writing git history also changes commit hashes, which will wreak havoc on future pulls from public/shared/collaborative repos. Please understand the ramifications fully before doing this to such a repo. This GitHub guide specifies the following:

Tell your collaborators to rebase, not merge, any branches they created off of your old (tainted) repository history. One merge commit could reintroduce some or all of the tainted history that you just went to the trouble of purging.

Alternative solutions that do not affect the remote repo are git update-index --assume-unchanged </path/file> or git update-index --skip-worktree <file>, examples of which can be found here.

14.08.2019 02:38

Especially for the IDE based files, I use this:

For instance the slnx.sqlite, I just got rid off it completely like following:

git rm {PATH_OF_THE_FILE}/slnx.sqlite -f
git commit -m "remove slnx.sqlite"

Just keep that in mind that some of those files stores some local user settings and preferences for projects (like what files you had open). So every time you navigate or do some changes in your IDE, that file is changed and therefore it checks it out and show as there are uncommitted changes.

05.04.2019 18:48

In case of already committed DS_Store:

find . -name .DS_Store -print0 | xargs -0 git rm --ignore-unmatch

Ignore them by:

echo ".DS_Store" >> ~/.gitignore_global
echo "._.DS_Store" >> ~/.gitignore_global
echo "**/.DS_Store" >> ~/.gitignore_global
echo "**/._.DS_Store" >> ~/.gitignore_global
git config --global core.excludesfile ~/.gitignore_global

Finally, make a commit!

22.04.2018 21:14

If anyone having hard time on Windows and you wanna ignore entire folder, 'cd' to desired the 'folder' and do 'Git Bash Here'.

git ls-files -z | xargs -0 git update-index --assume-unchanged
14.12.2019 04:36

In my case here, I had several .lock files in several directories that I needed to remove. I ran the following and it worked without having to go into each directory to remove them:

git rm -r --cached **/*.lock

Doing this went into each folder under the 'root' of where I was at and excluded all files that matched the pattern.

Hope this helps others!

27.12.2019 22:05

This is how I solved my issue:

git filter-branch --tree-filter 'rm -rf path/to/your/file' HEAD
git push

In this, we are basically trying to rewrite the history of that particular file in previous commits also.

For more info, you can refer to the man page of filter-branch here



12.04.2021 12:59

In my case I needed to put the .envrc file on the .gitignore file. and then I used the:

git update-index --skip-worktree .envrc
git rm --cached .envrc

and the file was removed.

Then I committed again telling that file was removed.

But when I use the command git log -p the content of the file (which was secret credentials of the S3 Amazon) was showing the content which was removed and I don't want to show this content never on the history of the git.

Then I used this command:

 git filter-branch --index-filter 'git rm --cached --ignore-unmatch .envrc' HEAD

And I don't see again the content.

16.04.2021 20:37