Revert a Git Submodule pointer

I have a git submodule in my main git repo. As I understand it, the main repo stores a SHA value (somewhere…), pointing to the specific commit of the submodule that it is “linked to”.

I went in to my submodule and typed git checkout some_other_branch. I have no idea which commit I came from.

I would like to revert that pointer so that the main repo and the submodule are in sync again.

My first (probably naive) instinct was to say git reset –hard – that seems to work for everything else. To my surprise, it did not work for this scenario.

So I’ve figured out that I can type git diff, note the SHA ID that the submodule pointer used to have, and then head into the submodule and git checkout [SHA ID]… but surely there must be an easier way?

As I’m still learning about git submodules, please feel free to correct my terminology if there are words for concepts that I don’t know.

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To change the commit that a submodule points to, you need to checkout that version in the submodule, then go back to the containing repo, add and commit that change.

Or, if you want the submodule to be on the version the top repo points to, do git submodule update –recursive. Add –init if you’ve just cloned.

Also, git submodule without a submodule command will show you the commit you are pointing to. There will be a – or a + in front of the commit if it’s not in sync.

If you look at a tree with a submodule in it, you can see that the submodule is marked as a commit as opposed to the rest that are blobs or trees.

to see what a particular commit points wrt to submodules you can:

git ls-tree <some sha1, or branch, etc> Submodule/path

you can then see the commit or anything else if you like by passing that into log, etc (the git-dir option at the git command level allows you to skip having to cd down to the submodule):

git --git-dir=Submodule/path log -1 $(<the above statement>)

You want to update your submodule so it is in sync with what the parent repository believes it should be. This is what the update command is for:

From the submodule manpage:

Update the registered submodules, i.e. clone missing submodules and
checkout the commit specified in the index of the containing
repository. This will make the submodules HEAD be detached unless
--rebase or --merge is specified or the key submodule.$name.update
is set to rebase or merge.

Run this and all should be well:

git submodule update

Use git ls-tree HEAD in the “superproject” folder to see what commit your submodule was originally at. Then change into the submodule directory and use git log –oneline –decorate to see what branch the original commit is on. Finally, git checkout original-commit-branch.

Using some test directories I set up, here’s what the commands might look like:

$ git --version
git version
$ git status
# On branch master
# Changes not staged for commit:
#   (use "git add <file>..." to update what will be committed)
#   (use "git checkout -- <file>..." to discard changes in working directory)
#   modified:   sm2 (new commits)
no changes added to commit (use "git add" and/or "git commit -a")
$ git ls-tree HEAD
100644 blob 76813a07ae558db274cefc6d903ec24323fdeb0d    .gitmodules
100644 blob e69de29bb2d1d6434b8b29ae775ad8c2e48c5391    main
160000 commit 7c5889497938cd5699a9234a98ee93947e52b1ed  sm1
160000 commit f68bed61cba6f94cef57554f2cf46a45a4a0d337  sm2
$ cd sm2
$ git log --oneline --decorate
5b8d48f (HEAD, foo1) foo1.1
f68bed6 (origin/master, origin/HEAD, master) Initial commit.
$ git checkout master
Switched to branch 'master'
$ cd ..
$ git status
# On branch master
nothing to commit (working directory clean)

The “superproject” shows the sm2 submodule at commit f68bed6 but sm2 has it’s HEAD at 5b8d48f. The submodule commit f68bed6 has three branches on it that may be used for checkout in the submodule directory.