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Sync local repo with the original on GitHub (Git merge upstream)

This post was most recently updated on September 3rd, 2021.

2 min read.

This is one of those “note to self” -kind of entries. This workflow is probably so natural to a lot of you all, that you won’t need to ever google it – but since I don’t do that much development with the full “fork – clone – branch – submit pull request” -process (whihc is really typical with GitHub and I guess Open Source in general), I always need to look up the instructions on how to add pull any changes from the original repository to yours.

I even need to do that often enough, that I wanted to document it somewhere where I can find it easily. Like my blog :)

So, here goes:

Synchronizing your local changes with the upstream repository

While easy in principle, there are a few steps to remember – see below.

Time needed: 10 minutes.

How to synchronize your forked and local repositories with the original one on GitHub?

  1. Open a command prompt

    Open Git Bash or similar command prompt with git executable available.

  2. Change the current working directory to your local project.

    This can be done running the following command:

    cd [your_project_directory]

  3. Change to your desired branch

    You’ll probably want to merge to your main or master – so make sure it’s checked out!

    You can change it from GitHub Desktop (if you’re using it), or you can run this:

    git checkout [branch_name]

  4. Configure the origin as a remote repository

    This needs to be done to enable you to fetch the new commits from it. You can verify if it already is by running this:

    git remote -v

    If it isn’t, then run this:

    git remote add upstream

  5. Sync your local repository with the upstream (the original one)

    Run the following command in command prompt:

    git fetch upstream

  6. Perform merge

    Run this:

    git merge upstream/master

    If you get a text editor window in your bash, that’s just Vi asking for your commit comment for your merge. Don’t have to enter anything, just write “:wq” and you should be good.

    If you’re on Windows, install the latest git version and it’ll actually let you set Visual Studio Code as the default text editor.

  7. Push your local changes to your repository

    “Your local changes” = your merge from upstream = all of the new stuff from the original repository on GitHub.

    You can perform this step in GitHub Desktop, or by running this in your comsole prompt:

    git push

And now you should be good!


To sync local changes back to the GitHub repository you run three commands, what is the final command?

From the statistics, I’m seeing tons of you flocking on to the site to look for the answer to this particular question. So let me give you the short and sweet:

git push

No big surprise there, right? 😁


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