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    Completely Remove a File from Pushed git History

    Chris AchardChris Achard

    If we want to completely remove a file from github - including all history - there is a tool that we can use called the BFG.

    The github help article is here:

    And the BGF itself is available here:

    We'll start by downloading the BFG jar file, and then cloning a mirror of our repo with:

    git clone --mirror [repo-url]

    Then we can delete our .env file with:

    java -jar ~/Downloads/bfg-1.13.0.jar --delete-files .env my-repo.git

    which will delete the .env file. Then we can use the following command to prune the entire history and garbage collect the remains:

    git reflog expire --expire=now --all && git gc --prune=now --aggressive

    And finally, use git push to push that change to github, and remove the .env file from all of the history on github as well.



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    Instructor: We pushed a .env file with a secret here and we want to really scrub this from the git repo. There is one nuclear option that we could do, although you should still consider any secret you push to GitHub as lost or compromised and changed it.

    If we go to this GitHub help article and the link is in the description, it has this BFG repo cleaner, which will be able to delete files in the repo and all of the repo's history. Let's go to that tool here and see how to use this for out .env file.

    First, we have to download the JAR file and tell Chrome we want to keep it. We have to follow the instructions in the usage section. Let's do that. First, we're going to go up one directory and we're going to make a new directory and I'll call it clean up, but you can call it whatever you like. I'll see the enter clean up.

    Now, I need to git clone as a mirror my repository. Let's go back to GitHub, back to my repository and get the URL for it. When I'm cloning as a mirror, what the BFG tool is going to do is delete the history locally and then when we push to GitHub, GitHub won't mirror our new re-written histories.

    Let's look at LS and we have just the gitMistakes.gitDirectory. What we're going to do is look at the instructions and use the delete files command. Because it's a JAR file, we have to run it with java-jar. Let's do java-jar and mine went to the downloads directory under bfg.jar.

    I want to --delete files, the files I want in my repository. I'm going to do --delete files. I want to delete the .env file in the gitMistakes.gitRepository. We can see that it did that and now the instructions. The files are deleted, but now I need to strip that file from the history.

    I'm going to copy this exact command. First, we're going to see into the repository. Then we're going to use ref log to do a garbage collection of all the history of that file. I'm going to look and see into git mistakes and I'm going to copy and paste that line and it send it's done cleaning the objects.

    Now I can do a git push. What happened is the BFG rewrote the history locally and then we're pushing it up to GitHub. It doesn't work on the pull request here, but that's OK because our environment was in master.

    If we look at GitHub now, we can go to get mistakes and if we look at the commit history, here's where it says we added the ENV file. If we look at the files in that commit, we can see that is showing zero changes with zero additions or deletions.

    We've successfully removed this file completely from GitHub. Again, if you have secrets in that file, consider them compromised at this point, but this is how we can actually clean up GitHub history.