CentOS 7.0 - man page for git-pack-refs (centos section 1)
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GIT-PACK-REFS(1) Git Manual GIT-PACK-REFS(1)
git-pack-refs - Pack heads and tags for efficient repository access
git pack-refs [--all] [--no-prune]
Traditionally, tips of branches and tags (collectively known as refs) were stored one file
per ref in a (sub)directory under $GIT_DIR/refs 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 traditional
$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
A recommended practice to deal with a repository with too many refs is to pack its refs
with --all --prune once, and occasionally run git pack-refs --prune. 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 pack-refs (without --all) will leave them unpacked.
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 branch tips to be
packed as well. Useful for a repository with many branches of historical interests.
The command usually removes loose refs under $GIT_DIR/refs hierarchy after packing
them. This option tells it not to.
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(1) suite
Git 126.96.36.199 06/10/2014 GIT-PACK-REFS(1)
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