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Traditionally, tips of branches and tags (collectively known as
refs) were stored one file per ref in a (sub)directory
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
$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
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
--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/refshierarchy 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
--excludetakes precedence. Using
--includewill 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-includeto 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-excludeto clear and reset the list of patterns. If a ref is already packed, including it with
--excludewill not unpack it.
When used with
--all, pack only loose refs which do not match any of
When used with
--include, refs provided to
--include, minus refs that are
--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 git suite