git-update-ref - Linux


git-update-ref is a command used to create, modify, or delete references in a Git repository. References are pointers to specific commits, tags, or other objects in the repository. This command is typically used for managing branches, tags, and remote-tracking branches.


git update-ref <refname> <newvalue>

Required Arguments

  • refname: The name of the reference to create, modify, or delete.
  • newvalue: The new value for the reference. This can be a commit hash, a tag name, or a symbolic reference.


  • -d: Delete the specified reference.
  • -m: Include a message with the reference update.
  • -n: Dry run mode – print what would be done, but don’t actually make any changes.
  • -f: Force the update, even if the reference already exists.


Create a new branch:

git update-ref refs/heads/new-branch HEAD

Modify the reference for an existing branch:

git update-ref refs/heads/main new-commit-hash

Delete a reference:

git update-ref -d refs/tags/v1.0

Update a remote-tracking branch:

git update-ref refs/remotes/origin/master origin/master

Common Issues

Error: Refusing to update insecure ref

This error occurs when trying to update a reference that is not secure (e.g., the reference name contains a null character). To resolve this, use a secure reference name.

Error: Ref already exists

This error occurs when trying to create a reference that already exists. Use the -f flag to force the update.


git-update-ref can be combined with other Git commands to perform more complex operations. For example, it can be used with git checkout to create or switch to a new branch:

git checkout -b new-branch

Related Commands

  • git branch: Manage local branches.
  • git tag: Manage tags.
  • git remote: Manage remote repositories.