Photo by Danny Meneses:
Photo by Danny Meneses:


It’s not uncommon to accidentally push a file to a GitHub repository that shouldn’t have been included, such as a file containing sensitive information. This can pose a security risk, as anyone with access to the repository can view the file’s contents. Fortunately, there are ways to remove files from your repository’s history, even after they have been pushed. In this article, we’ll discuss the steps to remove a file from a GitHub repository that has already been pushed.


Before proceeding, ensure that you have the following:

  1. Git installed on your computer.
  2. Access to the GitHub repository in question.
  3. A local copy of the repository on your computer.

Step-by-step Guide

Follow these steps to remove a file from a GitHub repository that has already been pushed:

Clone the Repository (if not already done)

If you haven’t already cloned the repository to your local machine, do so with the following command:git clone

This will create a copy of the repository on your local machine.

Navigate to the Repository Folder

Change to the repository’s directory using the command:cd your_repository

This will take you to the root folder of the repository.

Delete the File Locally

Delete the file you want to remove from your local repository:git rm path/to/your_file

Replace “path/to/your_file” with the path to the file you want to remove. This command stages the file for deletion in your local repository.

Commit the Deletion

Commit the deletion to your local repository:git commit -m “Remove file from repository”

This creates a new commit that removes the file from your local repository.

Push the Changes to GitHub

Push the changes to your GitHub repository:git push origin <branch_name>

Replace “<branch_name>” with the name of the branch you’re pushing to, such as “main”. This step updates your remote repository with the deletion commit.

Remove the File from Your Repository’s History

To remove the file from your repository’s history, use the following command:git filter-branch –tree-filter ‘rm -f path/to/your_file’ HEAD

Replace “path/to/your_file” with the path to the file you want to remove. This command applies the “rm” command to each commit in your repository’s history, effectively removing the file from all past commits.

Force Push the Changes

Force push the changes to your repository to update the commit history:git push origin –force –all

Note that this step can be risky and should be used with caution. It’s important to communicate with your collaborators and inform them about the changes to avoid conflicts.

Add the File to .gitignore

To prevent accidentally pushing the file again in the future, add it to your repository’s .gitignore file:echo “path/to/your_file” >> .gitignore

Replace “path/to/your_file” with the path to the file you want to ignore. This step tells Git to ignore the file and not include it in future commits.

Inform Your Collaborators

Inform your collaborators of the changes, and instruct them to update their local copies by running the following commands:git fetch origin git reset –hard origin/main

Replace “main” with the name of the branch you modified, if different. This step ensures that your collaborators have the latest version of the repository with the removed file.

Why You Should Remove Sensitive Files from Your GitHub Repository

There are several reasons why you should remove sensitive files from your GitHub repository:

  1. Security: Sensitive information, such as passwords, API keys, or personal data, should not be publicly available. If such information is accidentally pushed to a GitHub repository, it can pose a security risk to yourself or your organization.
  2. Compliance: Depending on the type of data that was accidentally pushed, there may be legal or regulatory requirements to remove it from public view.
  3. Reputational damage: If sensitive information is accidentally exposed, it can damage your or your organization’s reputation. Removing the information as soon as possible can help mitigate the damage.
  4. Good coding practices: Removing unnecessary files from your repository can make it more efficient and easier to manage. Additionally, using .gitignore files to prevent accidentally pushing sensitive files can help ensure that your repository only contains necessary code and documentation.


By following the steps above, you can effectively remove a file from a GitHub repository that has already been pushed. Remember to be cautious with sensitive data and take preventive measures, such as using .gitignore files and environment variables, to avoid accidentally exposing sensitive information in the future. Additionally, informing your collaborators of the changes can help avoid conflicts and ensure that everyone is aware of the updates to the repository.