Resolve Merge Conflicts: Avoid Overwritten Working Tree Files

When working with a team on a project, it's inevitable that multiple people will be making changes to the same files. This can lead to merge conflicts, where two or more changes conflict with each other and cannot be automatically merged. If you're not careful, resolving these conflicts can lead to overwritten working tree files, which can cause a lot of frustration and lost work. In this guide, we'll walk you through how to resolve merge conflicts and avoid overwritten working tree files.

What are Merge Conflicts?

Merge conflicts occur when two or more changes are made to the same file and cannot be automatically merged together. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Two people make changes to the same line of code
  • One person deletes a file while another person modifies it
  • Two people rename the same file to different names

When a merge conflict occurs, Git will let you know which files have conflicts and where those conflicts are located.

Resolving Merge Conflicts

Step 1: Identify the Conflicting Files

The first step in resolving merge conflicts is identifying which files have conflicts. You can do this by running the following command in your terminal:

$ git status

This will show you which files have conflicts and which branch they are conflicting with.

Step 2: Open the Conflicting Files

Next, you'll want to open the conflicting files in your text editor. Look for the section of the file that has been marked as conflicted. It will look something like this:

<<<<<<< HEAD
This is the code that was in the file before the merge.
This is the code that was added during the merge.
>>>>>>> other-branch

The <<<<<<< HEAD and >>>>>>> other-branch lines indicate the two conflicting changes. The ======= line separates the two changes.

Step 3: Resolve the Conflicts

To resolve the conflicts, you'll need to decide which change to keep and which change to discard. You can do this by manually editing the file to remove the conflicting lines and keep the changes you want.

Once you've made your changes, save the file and exit your text editor.

Step 4: Add and Commit the Changes

After you've resolved the conflicts, you'll need to add and commit the changes. You can do this by running the following commands in your terminal:

$ git add <file>
$ git commit -m "Resolved merge conflicts"

Replace <file> with the name of the file you just resolved conflicts in.

Avoiding Overwritten Working Tree Files

When resolving merge conflicts, it's important to be careful not to overwrite any changes that you or your team members have made. To avoid overwritten working tree files, follow these tips:

  • Always pull the latest changes from the remote branch before making changes yourself
  • Communicate with your team members to avoid making conflicting changes
  • Use a version control system like Git to track changes and manage conflicts

By following these tips, you can avoid the frustration of overwritten working tree files and ensure that your team is working efficiently.


How can I prevent merge conflicts from happening in the first place?

One way to prevent merge conflicts is to communicate with your team members about the changes you plan to make. If two people are working on the same file, talk to each other about who will make changes first and when. You can also use branching strategies to separate work and minimize conflicts.

What should I do if I accidentally overwrite someone else's changes?

If you accidentally overwrite someone else's changes, the first thing you should do is apologize and communicate with your team member about what happened. Then, work together to figure out how to restore the lost changes. You can also use Git's reflog command to recover lost commits.

How can I tell which branch a merge conflict is coming from?

When running git status, Git will tell you which branch the merge conflict is coming from. Look for the line that says "both modified" and the branch name will be listed there.

Can merge conflicts happen with binary files?

Yes, merge conflicts can happen with binary files such as images or videos. In these cases, you'll need to manually resolve the conflicts in the file using a tool like a hex editor.

Can merge conflicts be automated?

Some merge conflicts can be automatically resolved by Git's merge algorithms, but others require manual intervention. It's always a good idea to review merge conflicts carefully to ensure that no changes are lost or overwritten.

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