kbro kbro - 20 days ago 6x
Git Question

Git: Correct way to change Active Branch in a bare repository?

I have a bare repository that's used as the central store for my project. All the developers do

git clone <repo>
to share with it. When they do the clone, they get a checkout of the master branch (unless they do
git clone -n
) because
ref: refs/heads/master
, making this the Active Branch.

The question is, how do I change the Active Branch properly? I could simply hack the
file directly, but that seems nasty and, well, hacky.

I tried doing
git checkout <otherbranch>
in the repo
directory, but that failed because I wasn't in a work tree.

I tried
git update-ref HEAD refs/heads/otherbranch
but that just updated refs/heads/master to be the same as refs/heads/otherbranch (okay, I did that one in a dummy repository, not my production one!)

I tried
git update-ref --no-deref HEAD refs/heads/otherbranch
and that almost worked. It updated the
file, but it set it to the SHA1 of the commit pointed to by

I'm testing with git version

I'm guessing there's no way to do this through
git push
, as allowing all and sundry to change your default branch seems a bit unsafe (!), but surely there's a better way to do it in the repo
directory than directly hacking the


If you have access to the remote bare repo, this article suggests:

git symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/mybranch

Which will update the HEAD file in your repository so that it contains:

ref: refs/heads/mybranch

as documented in the git-symbolic-ref

If you don't have access to the remote repo, see my previous answer.

Remember that a command like git remote set-head:

  • doesn't change the default branch of the remote repo.
    It only changes a remote tracking branch stored in your local repo as refs/remotes/<name>/HEAD

  • doesn't change HEAD itself (again, only refs/remotes/<name>/HEAD), hence the need for git symbolic-ref.

So git remote set-head is not the answer here.
git symbolic-ref HEAD is, if you have direct access to the remote repo.