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git-pack-refs - Pack heads and tags for efficient repository access
'git pack-refs' [--all] [--no-prune] [--include <pattern>] [--exclude <pattern>]
Traditionally, tips of branches and tags (collectively known as
'refs') were stored one file per ref in a (sub)directory
under `$GIT_DIR/refs`
directory. While many branch tips tend to be updated often,
most tags and some branch tips are never updated. When a
repository has hundreds or thousands of tags, this
one-file-per-ref format both wastes storage and hurts
This command is used to solve the storage and performance
problem by storing the refs in a single file,
`$GIT_DIR/packed-refs`. When a ref is missing from the
traditional `$GIT_DIR/refs` directory hierarchy, it is looked
up in this
file and used if found.
Subsequent updates to branches always create new files under
`$GIT_DIR/refs` directory hierarchy.
A recommended practice to deal with a repository with too many
refs is to pack its refs with `--all` once, and
occasionally run `git pack-refs`. Tags are by
definition stationary and are not expected to change. Branch
heads will be packed with the initial `pack-refs --all`, but
only the currently active branch heads will become unpacked,
and the next `pack-refs` (without `--all`) will leave them
The command by default packs all tags and refs that are already
packed, and leaves other refs
alone. This is because branches are expected to be actively
developed and packing their tips does not help performance.
This option causes all refs to be packed as well, with the exception
of hidden refs, broken refs, and symbolic refs. Useful for a repository
with many branches of historical interests.
The command usually removes loose refs under `$GIT_DIR/refs`
hierarchy after packing them. This option tells it not to.
--include <pattern>::
Pack refs based on a `glob(7)` pattern. Repetitions of this option
accumulate inclusion patterns. If a ref is both included in `--include` and
`--exclude`, `--exclude` takes precedence. Using `--include` will preclude all
tags from being included by default. Symbolic refs and broken refs will never
be packed. When used with `--all`, it will be a noop. Use `--no-include` to clear
and reset the list of patterns.
--exclude <pattern>::
Do not pack refs matching the given `glob(7)` pattern. Repetitions of this option
accumulate exclusion patterns. Use `--no-exclude` to clear and reset the list of
patterns. If a ref is already packed, including it with `--exclude` will not
unpack it.
When used with `--all`, pack only loose refs which do not match any of
the provided `--exclude` patterns.
When used with `--include`, refs provided to `--include`, minus refs that are
provided to `--exclude` will be packed.
Older documentation written before the packed-refs mechanism was
introduced may still say things like ".git/refs/heads/<branch> file
exists" when it means "branch <branch> exists".
Part of the linkgit:git[1] suite