Traditionally, tips of branches and tags (collectively known as refs)
were stored one file per ref in a (sub)directory under $GIT_DIR/refs
directory. While many branch tips tend to be updated often, most tags
and some branch tips are never updated. When a repository has
hundreds or thousands of tags, this one-file-per-ref format both
wastes storage and hurts performance.
This command is used to solve the storage and performance problem by
storing the refs in a single file, $GIT_DIR/packed-refs. When a ref
is missing from the traditional $GIT_DIR/refs directory hierarchy, it
is looked up in this file and used if found.
Subsequent updates to branches always create new files under
$GIT_DIR/refs directory hierarchy.
A recommended practice to deal with a repository with too many refs
is to pack its refs with --all once, and occasionally run git
pack-refs. Tags are by definition stationary and are not expected to
change. Branch heads will be packed with the initial pack-refs --all,
but only the currently active branch heads will become unpacked, and
the next pack-refs (without --all) will leave them unpacked.
The command by default packs all tags and refs that are already
packed, and leaves other refs alone. This is because branches are
expected to be actively developed and packing their tips does not
help performance. This option causes branch tips to be packed as
well. Useful for a repository with many branches of historical
The command usually removes loose refs under $GIT_DIR/refs
hierarchy after packing them. This option tells it not to.
This page is part of the git (Git distributed version control system)
project. Information about the project can be found at
⟨http://git-scm.com/⟩. If you have a bug report for this manual page,
see ⟨http://git-scm.com/community⟩. This page was obtained from the
project's upstream Git repository ⟨https://github.com/git/git.git⟩ on
2017-03-13. If you discover any rendering problems in this HTML ver‐
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information in this COLOPHON (which is not part of the original man‐
ual page), send a mail to email@example.com
Git 2.7.0.rc1.5.gf3a 12/17/2015 GIT-PACK-REFS(1)