Getting changes from a remote repository

You can use common Git commands to access remote repositories.

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These commands are very useful when interacting with a remote repository. clone and fetch download remote code from a repository's remote URL to your local computer, merge is used to merge different people's work together with yours, and pull is a combination of fetch and merge.

Cloning a repository

To grab a complete copy of another user's repository, use git clone like this:

$ git clone https://github.com/USERNAME/REPOSITORY.git
# Clones a repository to your computer

You can choose from several different URLs when cloning a repository. While logged in to GitHub, these URLs are available below the repository details:

Remote URL list

When you run git clone, the following actions occur:

  • A new folder called repo is made
  • It is initialized as a Git repository
  • A remote named origin is created, pointing to the URL you cloned from
  • All of the repository's files and commits are downloaded there
  • The default branch (usually called master) is checked out

For every branch foo in the remote repository, a corresponding remote-tracking branch refs/remotes/origin/foo is created in your local repository. You can usually abbreviate such remote-tracking branch names to origin/foo.

Fetching changes from a remote repository

Use git fetch to retrieve new work done by other people. Fetching from a repository grabs all the new remote-tracking branches and tags without merging those changes into your own branches.

If you already have a local repository with a remote URL set up for the desired project, you can grab all the new information by using git fetch *remotename* in the terminal:

$ git fetch remotename
# Fetches updates made to a remote repository

Otherwise, you can always add a new remote and then fetch.

Merging changes into your local branch

Merging combines your local changes with changes made by others.

Typically, you'd merge a remote-tracking branch (i.e., a branch fetched from a remote repository) with your local branch:

$ git merge remotename/branchname
# Merges updates made online with your local work

Pulling changes from a remote repository

git pull is a convenient shortcut for completing both git fetch and git mergein the same command:

$ git pull remotename branchname
# Grabs online updates and merges them with your local work

Because pull performs a merge on the retrieved changes, you should ensure that your local work is committed before running the pull command. If you run into a merge conflict you cannot resolve, or if you decide to quit the merge, you can use git merge --abort to take the branch back to where it was in before you pulled.

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