2/25/2019 - 1:01 AM

How to find and restore a deleted file from the project git commit history

[How to find and restore a deleted file from the project git commit history]


Once upon a time, there was a file in my project that I would now like to be able to get.

The problem is: I have no idea of when have I deleted it and on which path was it at.

How can I locate the commits of this file when it existed?


Suppose you want to recover a file called MyFile, but are uncertain of its path (or its extension, for that matter):

Prelim.: Avoid confusion by stepping to the git root

A nontrivial project may have multiple directories with similar or identical names.

> cd <project-root>

Find the full path

git log --diff-filter=D --summary | grep delete | grep MyFile

delete mode 100644 full/path/to/MyFile.js

full/path/to/MyFile.js is the path & file you're seeking.

Determine all the commits that affected that file

git log --oneline --follow -- full/path/to/MyFile.js

bd8374c Some helpful commit message
ba8d20e Another prior commit message affecting that file
cfea812 The first message for a commit in which that file appeared.

Checkout the file

If you choose the first-listed commit (the last chronologically, here bd8374c), the file will not be found, since it was deleted in that commit.

git checkout bd8374c -- full/path/to/MyFile.js

error: pathspec 'full/path/to/MyFile.js' did not match any file(s) known to git.

Just select the preceding (append a caret) commit:
git checkout bd8374c^ -- full/path/to/MyFile.js

Note, this was one of several answers on StackOverflow -- I liked it best but there were several others worth reading.