paint-brush
Amend vs Reset: 4 Simple Ways to Reverse a Git Commit by@balastrong
165 reads

Amend vs Reset: 4 Simple Ways to Reverse a Git Commit

by Leonardo MontiniJanuary 18th, 2023
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript
tldt arrow

Too Long; Didn't Read

I'm quite sure all of these happened to you at least once. You committed a change with the wrong message (typo, wrong tense, etc.), wrong files (something missing, too many files, etc), too early (feature isn't complete yet) or you just didn't want to (wrong code, just needs to be deleted). Sure, you can just add a new commit, but in the long run this will mess up your git history. I'll also show you how to restore hard deleted changes.

People Mentioned

Mention Thumbnail
featured image - Amend vs Reset: 4 Simple Ways to Reverse a Git Commit
Leonardo Montini HackerNoon profile picture


I'm quite sure all of these happened to you at least once:

  • You committed a change with the wrong message (typo, wrong tense, etc.)

  • You committed a change with the wrong files (something missing, too many files, etc.)

  • You committed a change too early (the 3feature isn't complete yet)

  • You committed a change you didn't want to (wrong code, just needs to be deleted)


Sure, you can just add a new commit, but in the long run, this will mess up your git history (unless you're closing PRs with squash).


If you want to keep your history clean and make your mistake disappear, let me show you 4 different ways to undo a commit. They're similar but not exactly the same, so you can apply the best one for your situation.


Bonus content: I'll also show you how to restore hard-deleted changes.


What does that mean?


I'll get into that later.


As usual, there's a live demo waiting for you on my YouTube channel where I show you all the content of this article plus some extra words and scenarios. If you're just here for the commands, you can skip the video and go straight to the article.

Table of Contents

1. Amend no-edit

2. Amend & Change Message

3. Reset (soft)

4. Reset (hard)

Bonus: Restore Hard Deleted Changes


1. Amend no-edit

Let's start with the easiest situation, you already did a commit but you forgot to add some files.

Instead of creating an extra commit on top, you can run git commit --amend --no-edit. As a result, the last commit will be updated with the new files.


git add .
git commit --amend --no-edit


No additional actions are required, you're done!

2. Amend & Change Message

Similar situation to the previous one, but you also want to change the commit message.


git add .
git commit --amend


This will open your default editor and you can change the commit message. Once you're done, save and close the editor. The commit will be updated with the new message.


Actually, git add . is not required if all you wanted to do is change the commit message. You can just run git commit --amend.

3. Reset (soft)

This is the case where you want to undo a commit, but you want to keep the changes so that you can make a new commit at a later time.


git reset is kind of a time travel, really powerful but also dangerous. The most common use case is probably to undo a commit but keep in mind that you can do much more.


The full command we need is git reset --soft HEAD~1.

  • --soft means that the changes will be kept.
  • HEAD means the current commit you're on.
  • HEAD~1 means the last commit, but you can also use HEAD~2 to undo the last 2 commits.
  • A shortcut for HEAD is @, so @~1 would be the same as HEAD~1.


After running this command, you'll see that the last commit is gone but the files still have your changes applied.


You can now keep working and whenever you're ready you can do a new commit.

4. Reset (hard)

This is the case where you want to undo a commit and you don't want to keep the changes.

If you want to delete the changes, you need to add the --hard flag while running git reset.


Warning: this will also delete any uncommitted changes you have.


The full command we need this time is git reset --hard HEAD~1 that it will delete the last commit and the changes. Forever.


Or is it?

Bonus: Restore Hard Deleted Changes

If you run git reset --hard HEAD~1 and you're not happy with the result, you can still restore the changes.


As we've just seen, git reset is our time travel machine, but we need to tell it where to go. In this case, we entirely removed a commit and there's no trace in the git history, so we cannot say HEAD~number anymore.


Luckily, git keeps a log of all the commits that have been removed. You can see this log by running git reflog.


You want to look at a log like this one:

1b2c3d4 HEAD@{0}: reset: moving to HEAD~1


This means that you were at commit 1b2c3d4 and you did a reset to the previous commit.


You can now use this commit ID to restore the changes.

git reset --hard 1b2c3d4


What are we doing here?


We're telling git to go back to the commit 1b2c3d4 and to get rid of all the changes we did (in this case, the change was deleting the commit). Undoing a delete operation actually means restoring the deleted commit.

Conclusion

I hope you found this article useful and learned something new. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below.

I know there are at least a dozen different ways of moving around in git. I selected these 4 for simplicity but if you want to expand and add more in the comment section, let's do it!

Let me recommend once more to also watch the live demo and leave a like in this article (and to the video) to support my work. Thanks!



Also published here.



I recently launched my Discord server to talk about Open Source and Web Development, feel free to join here.