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Manage large binary files with git

Project description

A tool for managing large binary files in git repositories.


Checking large binary files into a distributed version control system is a bad idea because repository size quickly becomes unmanagable. Every operation takes longer to complete and fresh clones become something that you do start doing overnight. Using git-fat allows you to separate the storage of largefiles from the source while still having them in the working directory for your project.


  • Cloning the source code remains fast because binaries are not included
  • Binary files really exist in your working directory and are not soft-links
  • Only depends on Python 2.7, rsync and ssh
  • Download only the files you need with pattern matching
  • Supports anonymous downloads of files over http


You can install git-fat using pip.

pip install git-fat

Or you can install it simply by placing it on your path.

curl \
| sudo tee /usr/local/bin/git-fat && sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/git-fat


First, create a git attributes file in the root of your repository. This file determines which files get converted to git-fat files.

cat >> .gitattributes <<EOF
*.deb filter=fat -crlf
*.gz filter=fat -crlf
*.zip filter=fat -crlf

Next, create a .gitfat configuration file in the root of your repo that contains the location of the remote store for the binary files. Optionally include the ssh user and port if non-standard. Also, optionally include an http remote for anonymous clones.

remote =
user = git
port = 2222
remote =

Commit those files so that others will be able to use them.

Initalize the repository. This adds a line to .git/config telling git what command to run for the fat filter is in the .gitattributes file.

git fat init

Now when you add a file that matches a pattern in the .gitattributes file, it will be converted to a fat placeholder file before getting commited to the repository. After you’ve added a file remember to push it to the fat store, otherwise people won’t get the binary file when they try to pull fat-files.

git fat push

After we’ve done a new clone of a repository using git-fat, to get the additional files we do a fat pull.

git fat pull

Or if you’re doing an anonymous pull, and the repository managers support it.

git fat pull-http

To list the files managed by git-fat

git fat list

To get a summary of the orphan and stale files in the repository

git fat status

Orphans are files that exist as placeholders in the working copy. Stale files are files that are in the .git/fat/objects directory, but have no working copy associated with them (e.g. old versions of files).

Implementation notes

For many commands, git-fat by default only checks the current HEAD for placeholder files to clone. This can save on bandwidth for frequently changing large files and also saves on processing time for very large repositories. To force commands to search the entire history for placeholders and pull all files, call git-fat with -a. e.g.

git fat -a pull

If you add git-fat to an existing repository, the default behavior is to not convert existing binary files to git-fat. Converting a file that already exists in the history for git would not save any space. Once the file is changed or renamed, it will then be added to the fat store.

To setup an http server to accept git-fat requests, just configure a webserver to have a url serve up the git-fat directory on the server, and point the .gitfat http remote to that url.


  • More friendly configuration for multiple fat remotes
  • Private setting of a different remote.

Project details

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