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Removing files from Mercurial history

alexjitbit profile image Alex Yumashev Originally published at ・2 min read

Sometimes you need to remove files from Mercurial completely, even from the history. For instance, if you have accidentally stored a sensitive file in the repo (some password, or an access key, or a code-signing certificate etc. etc.) or committed a huge binary. Here's how you remove it:

Enter the "Convert" extension

You will need the hg convert command. This command is normally used to convert an SVN/GIT repository to Mercurial, but it can also be used to "convert" from Mercurial to Mercurial too.

The cool thing about it is the --filemap option that specifies which files should be included in the conversion process and which should not.

Add this code to .hgrc to enable the extension:


Steps to remove a file from hg

  1. Make sure all your teammates have pushed their local changes to the central repo (if any)

  2. Backup your repository

  3. Create a "map.txt" file:

# this filemap is used to exclude specific files
exclude "subdir/filename1.ext"
exclude "subdir/filename2.ext"
exclude "subdir2"

Then run this command:

hg convert --filemap map.txt c:/oldrepo c:/newrepo 

NOTE: You have to use "forward-slash" in paths, even on Windows.

Then wait and be patient. After a while you will have a new repo at c:\newrepo just without the files

(optional) Pushing your new repo back to central repo (e.g. Bitbucket)

If you have some central hg-storage you will have to "strip" all your changesets and then "push" your local repostiroy again.

For instance, if you use Bitbucket like us, go to "Admin - Strip". Enter "0" into the "Revision" box and this will remove all commits, but the "wiki" and "issues" areas will be preserved. Then - push the local repo back to Bitbucket again.

There's an important catch though - because the above procedure affects history and re-assigns new "ids" to all your changesets, your teammates have to reclone the repo from the central repo again.

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