reset, checkout, revert

Commit-level reset

On the commit-level, resetting is a way to move the tip of a branch to a different commit. This can be used to remove commits from the current branch. For example, the following command moves the hotfix branch backwards by two commits.

git checkout hotfix
git reset HEAD~2

The two commits that were on the end of hotfix are now dangling commits, which means they will be deleted the next time Git performs a garbage collection. In other words, you’re saying that you want to throw away these commits. This can be visualized as the following:


This usage of git reset is a simple way to undo changes that haven’t been shared with anyone else. It’s your go-to command when you’ve started working on a feature and find yourself thinking, “Oh crap, what am I doing? I should just start over.”

In addition to moving the current branch, you can also get git reset to alter the staged snapshot and/or the working directory by passing it one of the following flags:

  • --soft – The staged snapshot and working directory are not altered in any way.
  • --mixed – The staged snapshot is updated to match the specified commit, but the working directory is not affected. This is the default option.
  • --hard – The staged snapshot and the working directory are both updated to match the specified commit.

It’s easier to think of these modes as defining the scope of a git reset operation:


These flags are often used with HEAD as the parameter. For instance, git reset --mixed HEAD has the affect of unstaging all changes, but leaves them in the working directory. On the other hand, if you want to completely throw away all your uncommitted changes, you would use git reset --hard HEAD. These are two of the most common uses of git reset.

Be careful when passing a commit other than HEAD to git reset, since this re-writes the current branch’s history. As discussed in The Golden Rule of Rebasing, this a big problem when working on a public branch.