Git Clone

The git clone command is used to create a copy of a specific repository or branch within a repository.

Git is a distributed version control system. Maximize the advantages of a full repository on your own machine by cloning.

What Does git clone Do?

git clone

When you clone a repository, you don’t get one file, as you may in other centralized version control systems. By cloning with Git, you get the entire repository – all files, all branches, and all commits.

Cloning a repository is typically only done once, at the beginning of your interaction with a project. Once a repository already exists on a remote, like on GitHub, then you would clone that repository so you could interact with it locally. Once you have cloned a repository, you won’t need to clone it again to do regular development.

The ability to work with the entire repository means that all developers can work more freely. Without being limited by which files you can work on, you can work on a feature branch to make changes safely. Then, you can:

How to Use git clone

Common usages and options for git clone

You can see all of the many options with git clone in git-scm’s documentation.

Examples of git clone

git clone [url]

The most common usage of cloning is to simply clone a repository. This is only done once, when you begin working on a project, and would follow the syntax of git clone [url].

git clone A Branch

git clone --single-branch: By default, git clone will create remote tracking branches for all of the branches currently present in the remote which is being cloned. The only local branch that is created is the default branch.

But, maybe for some reason, you would like to only get a remote tracking branch for one specific branch, or clone one branch which isn’t the default branch. Both of these things happen when you use --single-branch with git clone.

This will create a clone that only has commits included in the current line of history. This means no other branches will be cloned. You can specify a certain branch to clone, but the default branch, usually main, will be selected by default.

To clone one specific branch, use:

git clone [url] --branch [branch] --single-branch

Cloning only one branch does not add any benefits unless the repository is very large and contains binary files that slow down the performance of the repository. The recommended solution is to optimize the performance of the repository before relying on single branch cloning strategies.

git clone With SSH

Depending on how you authenticate with the remote server, you may choose to clone using SSH.

If you choose to clone with SSH, you would use a specific SSH path for the repository instead of a URL. Typically, developers are authenticated with SSH from the machine level. This means that you would probably clone with HTTPS or with SSH – not a mix of both for your repositories.