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BFG Repo-Cleaner by rtyley

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Tags: git tools bfg repo-cleaner
Clipped on: 2014-04-24

BFG Repo-Cleaner

Removes large or troublesome blobs like git-filter-branch does, but faster. And written in Scala

View project on GitHub
$ bfg --strip-blobs-bigger-than 1M --replace-text banned.txt repo.git

/an alternative to git-filter-branch

The BFG is a simpler, faster alternative to git-filter-branch for cleansing bad data out of your Git repository history:

  • Removing Crazy Big Files
  • Removing Passwords, Credentials & other Private data

The git-filter-branch command is enormously powerful and can do things that the BFG can't - but the BFG is much better for the tasks above, because:

  • Faster : 10 - 720x faster
  • Simpler : The BFG isn't particularily clever, but is focused on making the above tasks easy
  • Beautiful : If you need to, you can use the beautiful Scala language to customise the BFG. Which has got to be better than Bash scripting at least some of the time.


First clone a fresh copy of your repo, using the --mirror flag:

$ git clone --mirror git://

This is a bare repo, which means your normal files won't be visible, but it is a full copy of the Git database of your repository, and at this point you should make a backup of it to ensure you don't lose anything.

Now you can run the BFG to clean your repository up:

$ java -jar bfg.jar --strip-biggest-blobs 500 some-big-repo.git

The BFG will update your commits and all branches and tags so they are clean, but it doesn't physically delete the unwanted stuff. Examine the repo to make sure your history has been updated, and then use the standard git gc command to strip out the unwanted dirty data, which Git will now recognise as surplus to requirements:

$ cd some-big-repo.git
$ git reflog expire --expire=now --all
$ git gc --prune=now --aggressive

Finally, once you're happy with the updated state of your repo, push it back up (note that because your clone command used the --mirror flag, this push will update all refs on your remote server):

$ git push

At this point, you're ready for everyone to ditch their old copies of the repo and do fresh clones of the nice, new pristine data.


In all these examples bfg is an alias for java -jar bfg.jar.

Delete all files named 'id_rsa' or 'id_dsa' :

$ bfg --delete-files id_{dsa,rsa}  my-repo.git

Remove all blobs bigger than 1 megabyte :

$ bfg --strip-blobs-bigger-than 1M  my-repo.git

Replace all passwords listed in a file (prefix lines 'regex:' or 'glob:' if required) with ***REMOVED*** wherever they occur in your repository :

$ bfg --replace-text passwords.txt  my-repo.git

/Your current files are sacred...

The BFG treats you like a reformed alcoholic: you've made some mistakes in the past, but now you've cleaned up your act. Thus the BFG assumes that your latest commit is a good one, with none of the dirty files you want removing from your history still in it. This assumption by the BFG protects your work, and gives you peace of mind knowing that the BFG is only changing your repo history, not meddling with the current files of your project.

By default the HEAD branch is protected, and while it's history will be cleaned, the very latest commit (the 'tip') is a protected commit and it's file-hierarchy won't be changed at all.

If you want to protect the tips of several branches or tags (not just HEAD), just name them for the BFG:

$ bfg --strip-biggest-blobs 100 --protect-blobs-from master,maint,next repo.git


  • The BFG is about completely removing bad stuff from the history of your repo. If something questionable - like a 10MB file, when you're telling The BFG to strip out everying over 5MB - is in a protected commit, it won't be removed, and because it's still there, there's no point deleting it from earlier commits either. If you want the BFG to delete something you need to make sure your current commits are clean.
  • Note that although the files in those protected commits won't be changed, when those commits follow on from earlier dirty commits, their commit ids will change, to reflect the changed history - only the SHA-1 id of the filesystem-tree will remain the same.


The BFG is 10 - 720x faster than git-filter-branch, turning an overnight job into one that takes less than ten minutes.

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