git fetch updates your remote-tracking branches under
refs/remotes/<remote>/. This operation is safe to run at any time since it never changes any of your local branches under
git pull brings a local branch up-to-date with its remote version, while also updating your other remote-tracking branches.
From the Git documentation for
In its default mode,
git pullis shorthand for
git fetchfollowed by
git merge FETCH_HEAD.
git pulltries to automatically merge after fetching commits. It is context sensitive, so all pulled commits will be merged into your currently active branch.
git pullautomatically merges the commits without letting you review them first. If you don’t carefully manage your branches, you may run into frequent conflicts.
git fetchgathers any commits from the target branch that do not exist in the current branch and stores them in your local repository. However, it does not merge them with your current branch. This is particularly useful if you need to keep your repository up to date, but are working on something that might break if you update your files. To integrate the commits into your current branch, you must use
It is important to contrast the design philosophy of git with the philosophy of a more traditional source control tool like SVN.
Subversion was designed and built with a client/server model. There is a single repository that is the server, and several clients can fetch code from the server, work on it, then commit it back to the server. The assumption is that the client can always contact the server when it needs to perform an operation.
Git was designed to support a more distributed model with no need for a central repository (though you can certainly use one if you like). Also git was designed so that the client and the “server” don’t need to be online at the same time. Git was designed so that people on an unreliable link could exchange code via email, even. It is possible to work completely disconnected and burn a CD to exchange code via git.
In order to support this model git maintains a local repository with your code and also an additional local repository that mirrors the state of the remote repository. By keeping a copy of the remote repository locally, git can figure out the changes needed even when the remote repository is not reachable. Later when you need to send the changes to someone else, git can transfer them as a set of changes from a point in time known to the remote repository.
git fetchis the command that says “bring my local copy of the remote repository up to date.”
git pullsays “bring the changes in the remote repository to where I keep my own code.”
git pull does this by doing a
git fetch to bring the local copy of the remote repository up to date, and then merging the changes into your own code repository and possibly your working copy.
The take away is to keep in mind that there are often at least three copies of a project on your workstation. One copy is your own repository with your own commit history. The second copy is your working copy where you are editing and building. The third copy is your local “cached” copy of a remote repository.