[git] Git fetch remote branch

My colleague and I are working on the same repository. We've branched it into two branches, each technically for different projects, but they have similarities, so we'll sometimes want to commit back to the *master from the branch.

However, I have the branch. How can my colleague pull that branch specifically?

A git clone of the repository does not seem to create the branches locally for him, though I can see them live on unfuddle after a push on my end.

Also, when I originally made the branch, I did -b checkout. Does that make much difference?

$ git branch -r
origin/HEAD -> origin/master

$ git fetch origin discover
$ git checkout discover

These are the commands I ran. But it definitely is not working.

I want to be able to check out that branch and then push and commit back just the branches changes from various collaborators or workstations.

This question is related to git branch git-branch git-fetch

The answer is

git fetch --all & git checkout <branch name>

With this simple command:

git checkout -b 'your_branch' origin/'remote branch'

Check your .git/config file, particularly what tracking is present on fetch for that remote.

[remote "randomRemote"]
    url = [email protected]:someUser/someRepo.git
    fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/randomRemote/*

If it has heads/* pointing to randomRemote/*, when you run git fetch randomRemote, it will fetch all branches.

Then you can just checkout that branch.


  1. You need to add remote branches to the tracking using this. Check your .git/config after running this. You will understand.

    git remote set-branches --add randomRemote randomBranch
  2. Run git fetch randomRemote. This will fetch the remote branch.

  3. Now you can run git checkout randomBranch.

The title and the question are confused:

  • Git fetch remote branch
  • how can my colleague pull that branch specifically.

If the question is, how can I get a remote branch to work with, or how can I Git checkout a remote branch?, a simpler solution is:

With Git (>= 1.6.6) you are able to use:

git checkout <branch_name>

If local <branch_name> is not found, but there does exist a tracking branch in exactly one remote with a matching name, treat it as equivalent to:

git checkout -b <branch_name> --track <remote>/<branch_name>

See documentation for Git checkout

For your friend:

$ git checkout discover
Branch discover set up to track remote branch discover
Switched to a new branch 'discover'


git checkout -b serverfix origin/serverfix

This is a common enough operation that Git provides the --track shorthand:

git checkout --track origin/serverfix

In fact, this is so common that there’s even a shortcut for that shortcut. If the branch name you’re trying to checkout (a) doesn’t exist and (b) exactly matches a name on only one remote, Git will create a tracking branch for you:

git checkout serverfix

To set up a local branch with a different name than the remote branch, you can easily use the first version with a different local branch name:

git checkout -b sf origin/serverfix

Now, your local branch sf will automatically pull from origin/serverfix.

Source: Pro Git, 2nd Edition, written by Scott Chacon and Ben Straub (cut for readability)

To checkout myBranch that exists remotely and not a locally - This worked for me:

git fetch --all
git checkout myBranch

I got this message:

Branch myBranch set up to track remote branch myBranch from origin
Switched to a new branch 'myBranch'

Let's say that your remote is [email protected] and you want its random_branch branch. The process should be as follows:

  1. First check the list of your remotes by

    git remote -v

  2. If you don't have the [email protected] remote in the above command's output, you would add it by

    git remote add xyz [email protected]

  3. Now you can fetch the contents of that remote by

    git fetch xyz

  4. Now checkout the branch of that remote by

    git checkout -b my_copy_random_branch xyz/random_branch

  5. Check the branch list by

    git branch -a

The local branch my_copy_random_branch would be tracking the random_branch branch of your remote.

I have used fetch followed by checkout...

git fetch <remote> <rbranch>:<lbranch>
git checkout <lbranch>

...where <rbranch> is the remote branch or source ref and <lbranch> is the as yet non-existent local branch or destination ref you want to track and which you probably want to name the same as the remote branch or source ref. This is explained under options in the explanation of <refspec>.

Git is so smart it auto completes the first command if I tab after the first few letters of the remote branch. That is, I don't even have to name the local branch, Git automatically copies the name of the remote branch for me. Thanks Git!

Also as the answer in this similar Stack Overflow post shows, if you don't name the local branch in fetch, you can still create it when you check it out by using the -b flag. That is, git fetch <remote> <branch> followed by git checkout -b <branch> <remote>/<branch> does exactly the same as my initial answer. And evidently, if your repository has only one remote, then you can just do git checkout <branch> after fetch and it will create a local branch for you. For example, you just cloned a repository and want to check out additional branches from the remote.

I believe that some of the documentation for fetch may have been copied verbatim from pull. In particular the section on <refspec> in options is the same. However, I do not believe that fetch will ever merge, so that if you leave the destination side of the colon empty, fetch should do nothing.

NOTE: git fetch <remote> <refspec> is short for git fetch <remote> <refspec>: which would therefore do nothing, but git fetch <remote> <tag> is the same as git fetch <remote> <tag>:<tag> which should copy the remote <tag> locally.

I guess this is only helpful if you want to copy a remote branch locally, but not necessarily check it out right away. Otherwise, I now would use the accepted answer, which is explained in detail in the first section of the checkout description and later in the options section under the explanation of --track, since it's a one-liner. Well... sort of a one-liner, because you would still have to run git fetch <remote> first.

FYI: The order of the <refspecs> (source:destination) explains the bizarre pre Git 1.7 method for deleting remote branches. That is, push nothing into the destination refspec.

git branch <name> --track origin/<name>

[Quick Answer]

There are many alternatives, and my favourites are:

- Alternative 1:

git fetch --all
git checkout YourBranch

Using this alternative using a branch that exist remotely, but not in your local.

- Alternative 2:

git checkout -b 'YourBranch' origin/'YourRemote'

Probably, this is the simplest way.

What helped me was

1) To view all available remote branches (e.g. 'remote-branch-name')

git branch -r

2) Create a local branch using remote branch name

git fetch && git checkout 'remote-branch-name'

If you download the repository with git clone <repo_url> -b <branch> (only cloning certaing branch), you should modify the <repo_name>/.git/config file. Replace or modify the line that references the fetch target of the [remote "origin"] section to let the command git fetch --all discover all branches:

[remote "origin"]
        url = <repo_git_url>
        fetch = +refs/heads/master:refs/remotes/origin/master

Be sure to set the fetch parameter point to /heads/master.

Care with git fetch --all because this will fetch all, so may take a long time.

At times you are asked not to fiddle with the master branch and work only the remote branch (as I was asked to). So all you need is the remote branch.

So to clone the remote branch alone (without the master), do this

git clone url --branch remote_branch_name

where, remote_branch_name is the name of the remote branch

For example,

git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git --branch v3.15

This will make sure that you clone the remote branch to your local branch with the name of the remote branch.

Now if you commit your code and push, the code will be submitted to that branch alone.

You can fetch and checkout the remote branch in one shot too:

git fetch && git checkout the-branch-name

If you have a repository that was cloned with --depth 1 then many of the commands that were listed will not work. For example, see here

% git clone --depth 1 https://github.com/repo/code
Cloning into 'code'...
cd code
remote: Counting objects: 1778, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (1105/1105), done.
remote: Total 1778 (delta 87), reused 1390 (delta 58), pack-reused 0
Receiving objects: 100% (1778/1778), 5.54 MiB | 4.33 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (87/87), done.
Checking connectivity... done.
Checking out files: 100% (1215/1215), done.
% cd code
% git checkout other_branch
error: pathspec 'other_branch' did not match any file(s) known to git.
% git fetch origin other_branch
remote: Counting objects: 47289, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (15906/15906), done.
remote: Total 47289 (delta 30151), reused 46699 (delta 29570), pack-reused 0
Receiving objects: 100% (47289/47289), 31.03 MiB | 5.70 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (30151/30151), completed with 362 local objects.
From https://github.com/repo/code
 * branch            other_branch-> FETCH_HEAD
% git checkout other_branch
error: pathspec 'other_branch' did not match any file(s) known to git.

In this case I would reclone the repository, but perhaps there are other techniques e.g. git shallow clone (clone --depth) misses remote branches

If you are trying to "checkout" a new remote branch (that exists only on the remote, but not locally), here's what you'll need:

git fetch origin
git checkout --track origin/<remote_branch_name>

This assumes you want to fetch from origin. If not, replace origin by your remote name.

If you would like to fetch all remote branches, please type just:

git fetch --all

I want to give you one-liner command for fetching all the remote branches to your local and switch to your desired newly created local branch:

git fetch && git checkout discover

After running the above command you will get the below message:

Switched to a new branch 'discover'
Branch discover set up to track remote branch discover from origin.

The first line states that switched to a new branch - why new? It is already there in remote!

But actually you have to create it locally too. The branch is taken from the remote index and created locally for you.

Here discover is a new branch which were created from your repository's remote branch discover.

But the second line gives more information than the first one which tell us that:

Our branch is set up to track remote branch with the same name.

Although git fetch fetches all branches to local. But if you run git branch after it, you will see only master branch in local. Why?

Because for every branch you have in remote you have to create it locally too, for tracking it as git checkout <branchname> as we have done in the above example.

After running git checkout command you can run git branch, and now you can see both the branch:

  1. master and 2. discover in your local listing.

git fetch

git branch -r

git checkout <branch_name>

Use git branch -a (both local and remote branches) or git branch -r (only remote branches) to see all the remotes and their branches. You can then do a git checkout -t remotes/repo/branch to the remote and create a local branch.

There is also a git-ls-remote command to see all the refs and tags for that remote.

You use 'git pull' to keep your branches separate. I will use the actual repository and branch names to help since 'lbranch' and 'rbranch' are tough to decipher.

Let's use:

  • myteam.unfuddle.com = the remote Git server
  • tlc = Unfuddle project account where the repository exists
  • daves_branch = remote branch name

    You, or any colleague, can run this to pull only your branch, no matter how many branches there are:

    git init
    git pull [email protected]:myteam/tlc daves_branch:refs/remotes/origin/daves_branch

  • If you already know your remote branch like so...

    git remote
    => One
    => Two

    and you know the branch name you wish to checkout, for example, br1.2.3.4, then do

    git fetch One
    => returns all meta data of remote, that is, the branch name in question.

    All that is left is to checkout the branch

    git checkout br.

    Then make any new branches off of it.

    git checkout -b branch_name
    git pull remote_name branch_name

    Simply try:

    git pull origin your_branch_name

    git fetch && git checkout <your friend's branch name> should do the trick

    The steps are as follows;

    1. git fetch origin or git fetch --all , this will fetch all the remote branches to your local and then this the second option you can proced with.

    2. git checkout --track origin/<The_remote_branch you want to switch over>

    Then work on this branch and you can verify whether you are on that branch or not by typing

    git branch

    It displayes the branch you currently in.

    The easiest way to do it, at least for me:

    git fetch origin <branchName> # Will fetch the branch locally
    git checkout <branchName> # To move to that branch

    To fetch a branch that exists on remote, the simplest way is:

    git fetch origin branchName
    git checkout branchName

    You can see if it already exists on remote with:

    git branch -r

    This will fetch the remote branch to your local and will automatically track the remote one.

    A simple command, git checkout remote_branch_name will help you to create a local branch that has all the changes in the remote branch.

    I typed

    git checkout <branch_name>

    and got

    Branch <branch_name> set up to track remote branch <branch_name> from origin.
    Switched to a new branch '<branch_name>'

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