Git Copy File From Another Branch: A Step-by-Step Guide

Got a file in another git branch that you need in your current working branch? Don’t sweat it! Copying a file from one branch to another in git is a fairly straightforward process. If you follow the steps below, you’ll have that file in no time.

Step by Step Tutorial to Git Copy File from Another Branch

Before we dive into the steps, let’s address what we’re about to do. By completing these steps, you will copy a specific file from one branch to another without the need to merge or switch branches. This can be incredibly handy for those times you just need that one file without the extra baggage.

Step 1: Identify the file and the branch

Identify the file you need to copy and the branch it’s currently on.

It’s important to know exactly which file you need and the branch that it’s on. This information will be used in the git commands to ensure the correct file is copied.

Step 2: Use the git checkout command

Use git checkout -- to copy the file to your current branch.

The git checkout command is not just for switching branches. Here, you’re using it to grab a file from a different branch. Replace with the name of the branch you're copying from, and with the path to the file you want to copy.

Step 3: Confirm the file has been copied

Check the status of your current branch to confirm the file has been copied.

After executing the git checkout command, it’s a good practice to use git status to confirm that the file has indeed been copied over to your current branch.

Once you’ve completed these steps, the file will be in your current working branch as if it had been there all along. Now, you can add, commit, and push the file as needed, just like any other file in your branch.

Tips for Git Copy File from Another Branch

  • Always double-check the branch names and file paths to avoid any mistakes.
  • If you’re unsure about the changes, consider creating a backup before proceeding.
  • Use tab completion in the terminal to help with branch and file path names.
  • Remember that copying a file this way won’t bring over the file’s individual commit history.
  • After copying the file, make sure to add and commit it to your branch to track changes going forward.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I get a ‘pathspec’ error when trying to copy the file?

This usually means the file path is incorrect. Double-check the file’s exact location and try again.

Can I copy multiple files at once?

Yes, you can copy multiple files by specifying each file’s path, separated by spaces, in the git checkout command.

Will copying a file this way overwrite an existing file with the same name on my current branch?

Yes, it will. If you have a file with the same name in your current branch, it will be replaced with the file you’re copying.

Can I copy files from a remote branch?

Yes, but you’ll need to fetch the remote branch first using git fetch before you can use the git checkout command.

Does this method preserve the file’s commit history?

No, it does not. This method only copies the file’s current state from one branch to another.


  1. Identify the file and branch.
  2. Use git checkout --.
  3. Confirm the file has been copied.


Git is an incredibly powerful tool that can handle a myriad of tasks for version control. Copying a file from another branch is just one of the many features that can make your life as a developer a lot easier. With the steps and tips provided in this article, you should now be able to copy files between branches with confidence. Remember to be cautious and always verify the file paths and branch names before executing commands. Happy coding, and may your branches always be free of conflicts!

If you’re looking to further broaden your git knowledge, consider exploring other git functionalities like rebasing, cherry-picking, and using submodules. As you become more familiar with these concepts, you’ll find yourself wielding git with greater proficiency, efficiency, and maybe even a bit of wizardry. By mastering the art of git copy file from another branch and beyond, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a version control virtuoso.