Find when a file was deleted in Git – Dev

The best answers to the question “Find when a file was deleted in Git” in the category Dev.

QUESTION:

I have a Git repository with n commits.

I have a file that I need, and that used to be in the repository, and that I suddenly look for and think “Oh! Where’d that file go?”

Is there a (series of) Git command(s) that will tell me that “file really_needed.txt was deleted at commit n-13”?

In other words, without looking at every individual commit, and knowing that my Git repo has every change of every file, can I quickly find the last commit that HAS that file, so I can get it back?

ANSWER:

Short answer:

git log --full-history -- your_file

will show you all commits in your repo’s history, including merge commits, that touched your_file. The last (top) one is the one that deleted the file.

Some explanation:

The --full-history flag here is important. Without it, Git performs “history simplification” when you ask it for the log of a file. The docs are light on details about exactly how this works and I lack the grit and courage required to try to figure it out from the source code, but the git-log docs have this much to say:

Default mode

Simplifies the history to the simplest history explaining the final state of the tree. Simplest because it prunes some side branches if the end result is the same (i.e. merging branches with the same content)

This is obviously concerning when the file whose history we want is deleted, since the simplest history explaining the final state of a deleted file is no history. Is there a risk that git log without --full-history will simply claim that the file was never created? Unfortunately, yes. Here’s a demonstration:

[email protected]:~/example$ git init
Initialised empty Git repository in /home/mark/example/.git/
[email protected]:~/example$ touch foo && git add foo && git commit -m "Added foo"
[master (root-commit) ddff7a7] Added foo
 1 file changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
 create mode 100644 foo
[email protected]:~/example$ git checkout -b newbranch
Switched to a new branch 'newbranch'
[email protected]:~/example$ touch bar && git add bar && git commit -m "Added bar"
[newbranch 7f9299a] Added bar
 1 file changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
 create mode 100644 bar
[email protected]:~/example$ git checkout master
Switched to branch 'master'
[email protected]:~/example$ git rm foo && git commit -m "Deleted foo"
rm 'foo'
[master 7740344] Deleted foo
 1 file changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
 delete mode 100644 foo
[email protected]:~/example$ git checkout newbranch
Switched to branch 'newbranch'
[email protected]:~/example$ git rm bar && git commit -m "Deleted bar"
rm 'bar'
[newbranch 873ed35] Deleted bar
 1 file changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
 delete mode 100644 bar
[email protected]:~/example$ git checkout master
Switched to branch 'master'
[email protected]:~/example$ git merge newbranch
Already up-to-date!
Merge made by the 'recursive' strategy.
[email protected]:~/example$ git log -- foo
commit 77403443a13a93073289f95a782307b1ebc21162
Author: Mark Amery 
Date:   Tue Jan 12 22:50:50 2016 +0000

    Deleted foo

commit ddff7a78068aefb7a4d19c82e718099cf57be694
Author: Mark Amery 
Date:   Tue Jan 12 22:50:19 2016 +0000

    Added foo
[email protected]:~/example$ git log -- bar
[email protected]:~/example$ git log --full-history -- foo
commit 2463e56a21e8ee529a59b63f2c6fcc9914a2b37c
Merge: 7740344 873ed35
Author: Mark Amery 
Date:   Tue Jan 12 22:51:36 2016 +0000

    Merge branch 'newbranch'

commit 77403443a13a93073289f95a782307b1ebc21162
Author: Mark Amery 
Date:   Tue Jan 12 22:50:50 2016 +0000

    Deleted foo

commit ddff7a78068aefb7a4d19c82e718099cf57be694
Author: Mark Amery 
Date:   Tue Jan 12 22:50:19 2016 +0000

    Added foo
[email protected]:~/example$ git log --full-history -- bar
commit 873ed352c5e0f296b26d1582b3b0b2d99e40d37c
Author: Mark Amery 
Date:   Tue Jan 12 22:51:29 2016 +0000

    Deleted bar

commit 7f9299a80cc9114bf9f415e1e9a849f5d02f94ec
Author: Mark Amery 
Date:   Tue Jan 12 22:50:38 2016 +0000

    Added bar

Notice how git log -- bar in the terminal dump above resulted in literally no output; Git is “simplifying” history down into a fiction where bar never existed. git log --full-history -- bar, on the other hand, gives us the commit that created bar and the commit that deleted it.

To be clear: this issue isn’t merely theoretical. I only looked into the docs and discovered the --full-history flag because git log -- some_file was failing for me in a real repository where I was trying to track a deleted file down. History simplification might sometimes be helpful when you’re trying to understand how a currently-existing file came to be in its current state, but when trying to track down a file deletion it’s more likely to screw you over by hiding the commit you care about. Always use the --full-history flag for this use case.

ANSWER:

git log --full-history -- [file path] shows the changes of a file and works even if the file was deleted.

Example:

git log --full-history  -- [file path]

If you want to see only the last commit, which deleted the file, use -1 in addition to the command above. Example:

git log --full-history -1 -- [file path]

See also my article: Which commit deleted a file.

ANSWER:

You can find the last commit which deleted file as follows:

git rev-list -n 1 HEAD -- [file_path]

Further information is available here

ANSWER:

Git log but you need to prefix the path with --

Eg:

dan-mac:test dani$ git log file1.txt
fatal: ambiguous argument 'file1.txt': unknown revision or path not in the working tree.

dan-mac:test dani$ git log -- file1.txt
 commit 0f7c4e1c36e0b39225d10b26f3dea40ad128b976
 Author: Daniel Palacio <[email protected]>
 Date:   Tue Jul 26 23:32:20 2011 -0500

 foo