What is the ‘fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories’ error?
fatal: refusing to merge histories error is a fairly common Git error. It appears when a developer tries to merge two unrelated projects into a single branch.
This error appears when the branch has its commit histories and tags incompatible with the pull request or clone.
Why does ‘fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories’ happen?
Here are some common scenarios where
fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories can occur.
- You have a new Git repository with some commits. You then try to pull from an existing remote repo. The merge becomes incompatible because the histories for branch and remote pull are different. Git sees the situation as you trying to merge two completely unrelated branches, and it doesn’t know what to do.
- There’s something wrong with the
.gitdirectory. It may have been accidentally deleted at some point or got corrupted. This can happen if you’ve cloned or cleaned a project. Here the error occurs because Git doesn’t have the necessary information about your local project’s history.
- The branches are at different
HEADpositions when you try to push or pull data from a remote repo and cannot be matched due to a lack of commonality.
How to resolve ‘fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories’
There are two ways of solving the
fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories error.
Option 1: Use ‘–allow-unrelated-histories’
One way to solve the issue is to use the
--allow-unrelated-histories git flag.
Here the git command will look something like this:
git pull origin master --allow-unrelated-histories.
You can substitute
origin with the remote repository you are pulling from. You can also replace the
master branch with whatever branch you want the pull request to merge into.
The idea behind
--allow-unrelated-histories is that git lets you merge unrelated branches. This git flag works seamlessly when there are no file conflicts.
However, in reality, at least one thing pops up, and you will need to use the normal Git resolution flow to resolve them.
Here is an example of what a common conflict may look like when trying to merge branches:
Auto-merging package.json CONFLICT (add/add): Merge conflict in package.json Auto-merging package-lock.json CONFLICT (add/add): Merge conflict in package-lock.json Auto-merging README.md CONFLICT (add/add): Merge conflict in README.md Auto-merging .gitignore CONFLICT (add/add): Merge conflict in .gitignore Automatic merge failed; fix conflicts and then commit the result.
Option 2: unstage, stash, clone, unstash, and then commit
The alternative (and longer) way of fixing the
fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories issues is to unstage your current commits, stash them, clone your required remote repository, and then place your stashed branch contents into the new clone.
This will ensure that any conflicts that you may encounter in the code are addressed before merging and prevent application errors from occurring.
To unstage all the files in your last commit, use the following git command:
git reset HEAD~.
To stash your unsaved files, use the following git command:
This will give you a clean working tree to pull your remote repository into. Once you’ve successfully pulled into your branch, you can unstash your files, commit them as a separate commit and resolve any file conflicts that you may have.
To unstash your files, use
git pop. This will move the changes stashed and reapplies them to your current working copy.
Alternatively, you can use
git stash apply to add the changes to your current working copy of code.
Here is a quick summary of differences between
git stash apply and <code”>git pop:
git pop: ‘pops’ the changes from the stash and applies them to the current code
git stash apply: keeps the changes in the stash and applies the changes to the current code
How to prevent ‘fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories’
The easiest way to prevent the fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories error is to avoid pulling remote repositories into branches that already have commits on them. However, sometimes you just want to keep the commits. One way to prevent the error is to create a brand new branch, pull your required code in, and then manually merge your local branch into your main flow.
Here is a git example of the flow:
# branch A is where your current code is # clone in your remote repo into a new and separate branch. # For our purposes, it's branch B git clone -b [branch] [remote_repo] # to merge A into B, you need to be on B # merge your branches together git merge A
The only thing about merges is that if there is a conflict in the code, there is no way around it other than resolving it as usual. Here’s what your merge branch looks like on Git:
C1---C2---C3 branch A Ca---Cb---Cc---Ce---Cf branch B