Git inside Git

Posted on 11 February 2010 by .

UPDATE 2011: I don’t use this technique any more, because Git submodules kinda suck. Instead, I use felixge’s technique.

How do you keep another Git repository inside a folder that’s already under version control with Git? Why would you do this?

  • I keep my vim config files under revision control, and I tried cloning other people’s vim modules from github into subdirectories of my repository.
  • I use underscore.js inside some of my javascript projects. Both are kept in git.

If you git clone, git will happily comply and clone the repository into your folder, but you won’t be able to add the .git folder into revision control. If you try to git add subrepository/.git, your request will be ignored, as if the .git folder doesn’t exist at all:

git add subrepository/.git
fatal: pathspec 'subrepository.git' did not match any files

And that’s just as well - keeping track of a repository’s history inside another repository would be horribly wasteful. And every time the subrepository updates, the parent repository will need to update both the working directory files and the subrepository history files, complicating the diffs. And it’s just not necessary: git has a great way of keeping git repositories inside git.


Submodules are a way of importing code from other git repositories into your source tree, and keeping them up to date after they are imported.

cd my_git_repo_root
git submodule add *remote repository* *local path*

This will checkout the remote repository into the local path, and records the remote repository in a .gitmodules at the root of your repo.

Then, later on, if a new version of a submodule is released, you can update your copy with

git submodule update

That’s the basics. For more info:

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