git-sparse-checkout - Linux


git-sparse-checkout enables selective partial clones of Git repositories. It lets you fetch and checkout only a specific subset of files and directories, reducing bandwidth and storage usage. This is particularly useful for large or sprawling repositories where you need to work on a specific module or section.


git sparse-checkout [options...] [<tree-ish>]
git read-tree -s <tree-ish>

<tree-ish>: A commit, branch, tag, or tree-ish to checkout. Defaults to the current commit.


  • -f|--force: Override an existing checkout.
  • -q|--quiet: Suppress progress messages.
  • -l|--sparse-output: List entries in the sparse index.
  • -L|--sparse-checkout-log: Print a git log of the sparse checkout.
  • -C|--full: Perform a full checkout instead of a sparse checkout.
  • -P|--prune: Remove untracked files and directories not in the sparse checkout.
  • -t|--tree: Use the provided tree-ish instead of the current commit.
  • -u|--unsparse: Unsparsify the working directory.
  • -k|--sparse-file <file>: Specify a custom file for the sparse index. Defaults to .git/info/sparse-checkout.


Simple Usage:

git sparse-checkout master --sparse-file=my-files
git sparse-checkout my-branch

Checkout Specific Directories:

git sparse-checkout master --sparse-file=my-files
echo directories/dir1 >> .git/info/sparse-checkout
echo directories/dir2 >> .git/info/sparse-checkout
git read-tree -s master

Checkout Specific Files:

git sparse-checkout master --sparse-file=my-files
echo libs/file1.c >> .git/info/sparse-checkout
echo libs/file2.h >> .git/info/sparse-checkout
git read-tree -s master

Common Issues

Untracked Files: If the --prune option is not used, untracked files outside the sparse checkout may remain in the working directory.

Nested Sparse Checkouts: If a file or directory is already part of a sparse checkout and you add it to another sparse checkout, the later one will take precedence.

Conflicting Sparse Checkouts: If multiple sparse checkouts with conflicting settings are applied, the last applied setting will be used.


Shell Script Example:


# Check if a file is in the sparse checkout
git sparse-checkout -l | grep "libs/file1.c"

# Add a file to the sparse checkout
echo "libs/file3.c" >> .git/info/sparse-checkout
git read-tree -s master

Related Commands

  • git fetch: Fetch objects from a remote repository.
  • git clone`: Clone a repository into new location.
  • git diff: Show differences between two files or commits.
  • git add: Add files to the staging area.
  • git checkout: Checkout a specific commit or branch.