This seems like a popular error for different causes.
I’ve got a simple bare git repo called “kiflea.git”, I clone it like this:
git clone git://kipdola.be/kiflea.git
Then git tells me:
warning: remote HEAD refers to nonexistent ref, unable to checkout.
And yes, there are no versioned files in the map, except for the .git directory.
Anyway, the only thing I need to do is:
git checkout master
And it works, all the files are there.
But I thought cloning a repo automatically checks out the master, so what is going on exactly, and how do I fix it?
I have noticed that, after I do the
git checkout master bit, this gets added to my local .git config file:
remote = origin
merge = refs/heads/master
It’s probably interesting to know that this git repository used to be an svn repository in a distant past.
Ps: when browsing the bare repository using gitweb, there clearly is a
master branch there: http://kipdola.be/gitweb/?p=kiflea.git;a=summary
warning: remote HEAD refers to nonexistent ref, unable to checkout. means that the remote (bare) repository contains branch reference in the file called
HEAD with a value that does not match any published branch in the same repository. In practice, that file defines which branch should be checked out by default after cloning the repository.
Note that the warning only means that git didn’t do checkout. The cloned repository is otherwise just fine. Just do
git branch -a to see possible branches and
git checkout the-branch-you-want to workaround the issue.
This usually happens because the default contents for that file (
.git/HEAD or plain
HEAD for bare repositories) is
ref: refs/heads/master which says that if somebody is going to
clone this repository, they should by default clone the branch
refs/heads/master. By default Git will create local branch without the
refs/heads/ prefix (that is,
master by default). Try
git help symbolic-ref for more information.
The problem with this situation is that Git does not provide a method for modifying remote symbolic refs so either you use something the Git hosting provider has implemented (e.g. Settings – Default branch in GitHub if you have admin rights) or you have to use branch name
master as the default branch (because that’s the default content for the file
HEAD and if you cannot modify that file, you’ll be stuck with
If you have a shell access to your remote git repo, you can simply
cd path/to/git/repo; git symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/XYZ where
XYZ is the branch name you want to use by default.
One way to hit this issue is to create a new remote bare repo with no commits and then do
git push name-of-the-remote my-special-branch-name which will result in bare repository containing a single branch
my-special-branch-name but the
HEAD symbolic ref still contains the default value pointing to
master. As a result, you’ll get the aforementioned warning. If you cannot modify the remote
HEAD file, you can publish your branch using syntax
git push name-of-the-remote my-special-branch-name:master meaning that your local branch called
my-special-branch-name should be published as branch
master on the remote.