Git hard reset, now what?

I just did a git hard reset and now I need my previous work. This is how.


Imagine it’s Friday, you are in a hurry and someone asks you to check on something really quickly. You open the terminal, prepare to checkout a new branch, but before that you just perform a git reset --hard HEAD~.

Oh My God. What did I do?

You just deleted all your work. Gone. Vanished. And probably that’s the reason why you are reading this. If so, I will try to help you.

The good news is that git doesn’t actually delete anything, even when you do a hard reset. However, git just takes responsability if you did a commit. If you did, you are probably able to restore it.

Git has the option fsck which validates the objects in the database and its connectivity.

Let’s use this to try and find our missing objects. First, I will try to simulate a hard reset. My branch is ahead by 1 commit as we can see using git status.

→ git status
On branch new_branch
Your branch is ahead of 'origin/new_branch' by 1 commit.
  (use "git push" to publish your local commits)
nothing to commit, working directory clean

So, now I will do a hard reset and check the status again.

→ git reset --hard HEAD~
HEAD is now at c5c7ae4 Add new file
→ git status
On branch new_branch
Your branch is up-to-date with 'origin/new_branch'.
nothing to commit, working directory clean

And with this, I believe I’m in the same position as you are. I just deleted all my unpushed work.

I will call git-fsck with –lost-found option to understand if there is something I can hang on to try to recover from my mistake.

→ git fsck --lost-found
Checking object directories: 100% (256/256), done.
Checking objects: 100% (6/6), done.
dangling commit 8dc8f51b0c14ff5dbf7234f07976466277f1474e

And there it is. The lonely commit waiting for us.

I will try to do a rebase to see if I can get this commit back.

→ git rebase 8dc8f51b0c14ff5dbf7234f07976466277f1474e
First, rewinding head to replay your work on top of it...
Fast-forwarded new_branch to 8dc8f51b0c14ff5dbf7234f07976466277f1474e.

Oh wait, did it work?

→ git status
On branch new_branch
Your branch is ahead of 'origin/new_branch' by 1 commit.
  (use "git push" to publish your local commits)
nothing to commit, working directory clean
→ git log
commit 8dc8f51b0c14ff5dbf7234f07976466277f1474e
Author: Bruno Costa <yyy@yyy.com>
Date:   Wed Aug 23 20:48:42 2017 +0100

    Add yet another file
    (...)

It did work!

Do you have other options? I think we might have, lets go back and do it again.

→ git reset --hard HEAD~
HEAD is now at c5c7ae4 Add new file
→ git status
On branch new_branch
Your branch is up-to-date with 'origin/new_branch'.
nothing to commit, working directory clean

Now we will try to do a cherry-pick to see if it does recover the lost change.

→ git cherry-pick 8dc8f51b0c14ff5dbf7234f07976466277f1474e
[new_branch 97e5c7d] Add yet another file
 Date: Wed Aug 23 20:48:42 2017 +0100
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+)
 create mode 100644 add_yet_another_file
→ git log
commit 97e5c7d6388f7e7df1a321e2f6b869246847f664
Author: Bruno Costa <yyy@yyy.com>
Date:   Wed Aug 23 20:48:42 2017 +0100

    Add yet another file

It did!

Now, let’s try again using merge.

→ git merge 97e5c7d6388f7e7df1a321e2f6b869246847f664
Updating c5c7ae4..97e5c7d
Fast-forward
 add_yet_another_file | 1 +
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+)
 create mode 100644 add_yet_another_file

And finally, if things are really nasty and none of this works, you can checkout the change, create a new branch and do a diff. I won’t be showing that in here now, I may update it later with an example, but you get the idea.


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