Ione Souza Junior

Git Pull vs. Fetch: Unraveling the Differences

February 16, 2024 | 5 Minute Read | Translations: pt | #git

Staying synchronized with remote repositories is paramount for collaborative development and maintaining an up-to-date codebase. Two essential commands, git pull and, git fetch, facilitate this process by retrieving changes from remote repositories. While both commands serve a similar purpose, they differ in their behavior and impact on the local repository. Let's unravel the differences between these commands, exploring their functionalities and optimal use cases to streamline your Git workflow.

Understanding git fetch

Git fetch is a fundamental command that allows developers to retrieve changes from a remote repository without automatically merging them into the local branch. When you execute git fetch, Git fetches the latest commits, branches, and tags from the specified remote repository, updating the corresponding references in your local repository. However, it leaves your local branch unchanged, preserving all ongoing work and allowing you to review the fetched changes before incorporating them into your branch.

Unlike git pull, which automatically merges the fetched changes into the current branch, git fetch provides a more cautious approach, giving you complete control over when and how to integrate the changes. This separation of fetching and merging allows for greater flexibility and enables you to assess the fetched changes independently before merging them into your local branch. By decoupling the fetch and merge operations, git fetch empowers developers to manage their workflow more efficiently and make informed decisions about incorporating remote changes into their local repository.

Understanding git pull

Git pull is a versatile command that combines the functionality of fetching changes from a remote repository and merging them into the current branch in a single operation. When you execute the git pull, Git automatically fetches the latest commits from the specified remote repository and incorporates them into the current branch, updating your local repository to reflect the changes made by other collaborators.

Unlike git fetch, which retrieves changes without merging them into the local branch, git pull simplifies the process by automatically merging the fetched changes into the current branch. This seamless integration ensures that your local repository stays synchronized with the remote repository, allowing you to work with the most up-to-date codebase version.

By providing a convenient way to fetch and merge changes simultaneously, git pull streamlines the collaborative development process and helps maintain consistency across different branches and repositories. However, it’s essential to use git pull judiciously, as automatic merges may occasionally result in conflicts that require manual resolution. Understanding how and when to use git pull effectively can enhance productivity and facilitate smoother collaboration with your team members.

Now we understand the differences, let’s talk about the usage.

Usage of fetch and pull commands

Suppose we need to update the repository main branch we’re working on. Let’s do it using the git fetch.

git fetch origin main

remote: Enumerating objects: 220, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (172/172), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (75/75), done.
remote: Total 220 (delta 113), reused 133 (delta 97), pack-reused 48
Receiving objects: 100% (220/220), 127.11 KiB | 1.90 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (128/128), completed with 53 local objects.
 * branch                main     -> FETCH_HEAD
   0904a0ab2..fe8a56b4e  main     -> origin/main

This command will fetch all the changes of the main branch. But if you prefer, you can fetch all the changes in the entire repository. This can be helpful to get new branches or tags. To do this, remove the branch name.

git fetch origin

remote: Enumerating objects: 202, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (168/168), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (56/56), done.
remote: Total 202 (delta 118), reused 150 (delta 111), pack-reused 34
Receiving objects: 100% (202/202), 56.92 KiB | 4.74 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (145/145), completed with 20 local objects.
 * [new branch]          profile_screen -> origin/profile_screen
 * [new branch]          library_screen -> origin/library_screen
 + 748baff02...0b740f54b update_library -> origin/update_library  (forced update)
 * [new tag]             2024.02.03.4   -> 2024.02.03.4
 * branch                main           -> FETCH_HEAD
   0904a0ab2..fe8a56b4e  main           -> origin/main

Remember that this does not merge the changes into the local repository. To merge the changes, we can use the merge command to sync the local changes with the remote changes we already fetched. Cross your fingers to don’t see a merge conflict message 😅

git merge origin/main

The git pull command goes beyond. It makes the fetch and the merge operations.

git pull origin main

Also, you can execute git pull to the entire repository.

git pull origin

It’s simple, isn’t it? These commands don’t have any mystery. But maybe you’re thinking now: When do I use each of them? There doesn’t exist a rule, unfortunately. We need to think about what we want to do every time we need to update our repository. Sometimes will be safe to execute the git pull command if we only need to update the main branch, and at other times will be better to execute the git fetch to see what was changed and do the merge carefully.

Closing thoughts

Mastering the git fetch and git pull commands is essential for efficient collaboration and version control in Git. Fetching updates from remote repositories with git fetch ensures that your local repository remains up-to-date with the latest changes, while git pull integrates these updates into your working branch seamlessly.

Understanding the usage of these commands is fundamental for effective teamwork and code management. By regularly fetching updates and pulling changes, developers can stay synchronized with the evolving codebase, collaborate smoothly with colleagues, and ensure the integrity of their work, besides a good practice to avoid conflicts or solve them as soon as possible.

Those were my thoughts, but what are yours? Share in the comments, and stay tuned for future posts. Bye!