git - how to revert multiple recent commits

Let’s assume we have a history like this:

G1 - G2 - G3 - B1 - B2 - B3

Where G1-G3 are ‘good’ commits and B1-B3 are ‘bad’ commits and we want to revert them.

Here is the shell script to create the revision history like above, you can use it to try and see the effect of different commands.

git reset

The first method is a simple way to throw away few recent commits. It re-writes the commit history, so only use it when your changes are not public yet (you can do this locally or on your private branch).

The git reset command can be used to throw away recent commits (the --hard flag will also remove any local changes that are not commited yet):

Careful: `git reset` will rewirte history.

Careful: `--hard` will remove not-commited local changes.
$ git reset --hard HEAD~3

Here we can refer to B3 as HEAD, B2 is HEAD~1, B1 is HEAD~2. This way the last good commit G3 is HEAD~3:

G1 - G2 - G3 - B1 - B2 - B3
           \    \    \    \-- HEAD
            \    \    \------ HEAD~1
             \    \---------- HEAD~2
              \-------------- HEAD~3

git revert

If your changes are public already (for example, merged to master or other public branch), then it is better to avoid history rewrites and use git revert to generate anti-commit for your changes.

The revert command takes SHA1 of one or several commits and generates the new change to reverse the effect of these commits.

Note for Mercurial users: in Mercurial, the revert command works differently - it takes the revision identifier and reverts the state of the repository to that revision. So we can ask Mercurial to revert current state to the state of the revision G3. In git, the revert takes one or multiple revision identifiers and reverts the effect of the specified revisions. When we are talking to git, we ask it to revert the effect of revisions B3, B2, B1.

Here is how we can use git revert:

$ git revert --no-commit HEAD~2^..HEAD


$ git revert --no-commit HEAD~3..HEAD

We need to revert a range of revisions from B1 to B3. The range specified with two dots like <rev1>..<rev2> includes only commits reachable from <rev2>, but not reachable from <rev1> (see man -7 gitrevisions).

Since we need to include B1 (represented by HEAD~2) we use HEAD~2^ (its parent) or HEAD~3 (also parent of HEAD~2). The HEAD~2^ syntax is more convenient if commit SHAs are used to name commits.

The --no-commit option tells git to do the revert, but do not commit it automatically.

So now we can review the repository state and commit it. After that we will get the history like this:

G1 - G2 - G3 - B1 - B2 - B3 - R`

Where R' is a revert commit which will return repository state to the commit G3. Run git diff to check this (output should be empty):

$ git diff HEAD~4 HEAD

Another way to run revert is to specify commits one by one from newest to oldest:

$ git revert --no-commit HEAD HEAD~1 HEAD~2

In this case there is no need to specify HEAD~3 since it is a good commit we do not want to revert. This is very useful if we want to revert some specific commits, for example, revert B3 and B1, but keep B2:

$ git revert --no-commit HEAD HEAD~2

Revert the commit in the middle of the history

For example, we have history like this:

G1 - G2 - G3 - B1 - G4 - G5

And want to revert the B1 commit.

The safe way is to use the git revert B1-sha1 command, as described above - it will generate an anti-commit for B1.

The other method is to use interactive rebase to move the bad commit to the top of the history and then remove it with git reset:

git rebase -i HEAD~3

pick B1-sha commit message
pick G4-sha commit message
pick G5-sha commit message

Here (in the file, opened by git rebase) we can edit the order of the commits and move the bad commit to the end of the commit history:

pick G4-sha commit message
pick G5-sha commit message
pick B1-sha commit message

Save the file and exit the editor. If everything is alright (commit has no dependencies), the command will be completed successfully. Note: otherwise (you’ve got conflicts error) it is probably better to do git rebase --abort to get back to the previous state and re-consider the update strategy.

Now the history should look like this:

G1 - G2 - G3 - G4 - G5 - B1

And we can remove the last commit with git reset --hard HEAD~1 (again, careful, it will remove any local uncommited changes and will rewrite history, do not use on public branches).

Rollback to the specific revision

The git revert command reverts a range of specified revisions, but sometimes we just want to restore the state of some specific revision instead of reverting commits one-by-one.

This is also how hg revert works in Mercurial.

This is especially useful if we want to revert past the merge point, where it can be quite difficult to use git revert because we will also need to specify which parent to follow at merge point (you’ll see a Commit XXX is a merge but no -m option was given. message).

Revert to the specific revision using git checkout

Having a history like this:

 /-- master
G1 - G2 - G3 - B1 - B2 - B3
                          \--- branch

We can rollback the branch state to G3 commit this way:

git checkout G3-sha
git branch -D branch  # Delete existing branch
git checkout -b branch  # Checkout branch with the same name again
git push -f origin HEAD  # Force-push the new branch

So, basically, we are removing the existing branch and creating another branch with the same name from G3.

Revert to the specific revision using git reset

The solution comes from the Revert to a commit by a SHA hash in Git? question.

Here we first hard reset the state of the repository to some previous revision and then soft reset back to current state. The soft reset will keep file modifications, so it will bring old state back on top of the current state:

Careful, reset --hard will remove non-commited changes
$ git reset --hard 0682c06  # Use the SHA1 of the revision you want to revert to
HEAD is now at 0682c06 G3
$ git reset --soft HEAD@{1}
$ git commit -m "Reverting to the state of the project at 0682c06"

Rollback to the specific revision using git read-tree

This solution comes from How to do hg revert –all with git? question:

git read-tree -um @ 0682c06  # Use the SHA1 of the revision you want to revert to

The -m option instructs read-tree to merge the specified state and -u will update work tree with the results of the merge.


Stackoverflow: Revert multiple git commits

Stackoverflow: Revert a range of commits in git

Stackoverflow: Git diff .. ? What’s the difference between having .. and no dots

What’s the difference between HEAD^ and HEAD~ in Git?

Stackoverflow: Revert to a commit by a SHA hash in Git?

How to do hg revert –all with git?

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