Resolving 'fatal: you have not concluded your merge (merge_head exists)' Error: A Step-by-Step Guide

When working with Git, you might encounter a common error message: fatal: you have not concluded your merge (merge_head exists). This error typically occurs during a merge conflict when you may have left the conflict resolution process incomplete. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to resolve this issue and get your Git repository back on track.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Error

Before diving into the steps to resolve this error, it's essential to understand what caused it in the first place. When you attempt to merge two branches in Git, sometimes there might be conflicting changes that Git cannot resolve automatically. In such cases, Git will halt the merge process and ask you to manually resolve the conflicts.

If you try to perform any other Git operation without resolving the conflicts, Git will display the 'fatal: you have not concluded your merge (merge_head exists)' error message. This error indicates that you have an incomplete merge in progress, and you need to either resolve the conflict or abort the merge process.

Step 1: Identify Merge Conflicts

To resolve the error, you first need to identify the files with merge conflicts. You can do this by running the following command:

git status

This command will display a list of files with conflicts, along with their current status.

Step 2: Resolve Merge Conflicts

Once you've identified the files with conflicts, open them in your preferred text editor. You will see conflict markers (<<<<<<<, =======, and >>>>>>>) that indicate the conflicting changes between the two branches.

Manually edit the files to resolve the conflicts by choosing which changes to keep, and remove the conflict markers. Save the files after resolving the conflicts.

Step 3: Commit the Changes

After resolving the conflicts, stage the changes by running:

git add <file1> <file2> ... <fileN>

Replace <file1> <file2> ... <fileN> with the file names you resolved the conflicts in.

Then, commit the changes by running:

git commit -m "Resolved merge conflicts"

Step 4: Remove the Merge Head

In some cases, the error might persist even after committing the changes. If this happens, you can manually remove the MERGE_HEAD file, which Git uses to track the ongoing merge process. Run the following command:

rm .git/MERGE_HEAD

Step 5: Push Your Changes

After resolving the conflicts and committing the changes, you can now push your changes to the remote repository:

git push origin <branch-name>

Replace <branch-name> with the name of the branch you are working on.


1. How can I abort the merge process if I don't want to resolve the conflicts?

To abort the merge process, run:

git merge --abort

This command will revert your working directory to the state it was in before the merge was initiated.

2. How can I avoid merge conflicts in the future?

Regularly pulling changes from the remote repository, using feature branches, and communicating with your team about changes can help reduce the likelihood of merge conflicts.

3. What is the difference between a merge conflict and a merge error?

A merge conflict occurs when there are changes in the same part of the code that Git cannot automatically resolve, whereas a merge error is a more general term for any error that occurs during the merge process.

4. How do I know which branch has the conflicting changes?

The conflict markers in the files will indicate the conflicting changes from both branches. The lines between <<<<<<< and ======= correspond to the current branch, while the lines between ======= and >>>>>>> correspond to the branch you are trying to merge.

5. Can I use a GUI tool to help resolve merge conflicts?

Yes, there are several Git GUI tools available that can help you visualize and resolve merge conflicts more easily.

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