#incremental #offline #git #repository #mirroring

app git-ibundle

A tool for incremental offline mirroring of a Git repository

2 unstable releases

0.2.0 Feb 28, 2023
0.1.1 Feb 7, 2023
0.1.0 Feb 6, 2023

#1240 in Command line utilities

MIT license

1.5K SLoC


git-ibundle is a tool for incremental offline mirroring of a Git repository.

Incremental repository data is transferred from a source network to a destination network via a sequence of "ibundle" (incremental bundle) files. No interactive connection is needed between the two networks; only a reliable one-way file transfer capability is required.

Typical transfer process

Consider mirroring repo.git from a source network to a disconnected destination network.

First, perform one-time setup:

  • On the source network, perform a mirror clone of the repository:

    git clone --mirror https://github.com/user/repo.git
    cd repo.git
  • On the destination network, setup an empty bare repository to become the mirror:

    mkdir repo.git
    cd repo.git
    git init --bare

Next, repeat the following steps as often as desired to keep source and destination repositories synchronized:

  • On the source network, fetch any changes and create repo.ibundle:

    # On source network, within the `repo.git` directory:
    git fetch
    git-ibundle create .../path/to/repo.ibundle
  • Transfer the repo.ibundle file to the destination network.

  • On the destination network, fetch from repo.ibundle:

    # On destination network, within the `repo.git` directory:
    git-ibundle fetch .../path/to/repo.ibundle

Change history

See CHANGES for a list of changes.


git-ibundle is licensed under the terms of the MIT license; see LICENSE.


  • git-ibundle executable
  • Git v2.25+ (with git on the PATH)

Note: Git version 2.25 introduced the git bundle create --progress flag required by git-ibundle.

Development and most testing is done on Linux; this is the best-supported platform. Limited testing is done on Windows. No testing is done on Macos.


Options for installation include:

Invocation as git ibundle

git-ibundle is named with a git- prefix so that it can integrate into Git as the command ibundle. If the executable git-ibundle is found on the PATH, then the Git command git ibundle will delegate to git-ibundle. These invocations are then equivalent:

git-ibundle <ibundle-arguments>
git ibundle <ibundle-arguments>

This allows git-ibundle to inherit some generic Git's functionality, the most useful of which is:

git -C path/to/repository <command>

This causes Git to to change the directory to path/to/repository before running <command>. For example:

# Create directory and initialize as a bare Git repo:
mkdir repo.git
git -C repo.git init --bare

This is useful for git-ibundle as well. Consider having a repository and an ibundle file in the same directory:


To fetch from this ibundle into the repository, you could change into the repository directory and fetch like this:

cd repo.git
git ibundle fetch ../repo.ibundle
cd ..

Or you could use -C repo.git to do this in one step:

git -C repo.git ibundle fetch ../repo.ibundle

Note that changing the directory occurs before git-ibundle examines its arguments, so if you use a relative path to repo.ibundle, you must make that path relative to the repository's location (which is why the example above uses ../repo.ibundle).


git-ibundle synchronizes two repositories at discrete synchronization points in time. Each time an ibundle is created via git-ibundle create, a new synchronization point is defined, and the current repository state is recorded. Repository state includes HEAD and all branches, tags, and associated commit IDs. An automatically incrementing sequence number provides a way to identify the synchronization point and to label the associated ibundle file and current repository state.

An ibundle file contains the source repository changes occurring between a previous (basis) state and the current state. At the destination, git-ibundle fetch will apply these changes to the destination, synchronizing that repository with the source. git-ibundle verifies that the destination repository has already applied the changes for the ibundle's basis.

By default, an ibundle is created using the immediately preceding sequence number as a basis; it's possible to choose a different basis via git-ibundle create --basis <seq_num>. This is useful if any previous ibundle files have been lost before fetching them into the destination repository.

For a repository repo.git, git-ibundle uses the directory repo.git/ibundle/ to hold its metadata. This directory is transparent to Git and does not interfere or overlap with normal Git operations.

Mirroring a subset

git-ibundle itself always makes a complete mirror of the source repository. This includes all references in the repository, including anything found below refs/remotes/<REMOTE>. The source repository should be cloned to a local repo.git directory using git clone --mirror to prevent creation of refs/remotes/<REMOTE> and ensure accurate mirroring.

It's possible to mirror a subset of the origin repository by setting up a negative refspec. For example, to avoid mirroring Github pull requests (which have refspecs of the form refs/pull/*), the following negative refspec can be used:


This can't be configured via git clone --mirror --config because the negative refspec doesn't take effect soon enough; instead, manually setup the source repo.git via:

mkdir repo.git
cd repo.git
git init --bare
git remote add origin --mirror=push https://github.com/user/repo.git
git config remote.origin.fetch '+refs/*:refs/*'
git config --add remote.origin.fetch '^refs/pull/*'

You may then fetch and verify that the refs are as expected:

git fetch
git show-ref

Command invocation details

Create an ibundle

Usage: git-ibundle create [OPTIONS] <IBUNDLE_FILE>

  <IBUNDLE_FILE>  ibundle file to create

      --basis <BASIS>  Choose alternate basis sequence number
      --basis-current  Choose basis to be current repository state
      --standalone     Force ibundle to be standalone
      --allow-empty    Allow creation of an empty ibundle
  -h, --help           Print help information
  -V, --version        Print version information
  -v, --verbose...     More output per occurrence
  -q, --quiet...       Less output per occurrence

On the first ibundle creation, the repository is assigned a random repo_id. This is used to help prevent accidental application of an ibundle file to the wrong destination Git repository. The repo_id will be checked during git-ibundle fetch operations.

The basis sequence number defaults to one less than the ibundle's sequence number; for the first ibundle (which will have sequence number 1), the basis sequence number will be 0.

With --basis 0, the created ibundle will assume no prerequisite commits are present at the destination; it will contain everything needed to create a mirror repository via git-ibundle fetch. Note that --basis 0 implies --standalone.

Without --standalone, the ibundle will be created with the assumption that the destination has been synchronized to the --basis sequence number and thus contains all prerequisite commits and references; as a result, the created ibundle file contains only the changed references for compactness, along with a Git "PACK" containing updated Git objects.

With --standalone, the ibundle will instead contain the full set of named references and a full enumeration of prerequisite commit IDs. Commit data will still be incremental and based on the commits implied by --basis. This may be used for cases where the destination repository is known to have the prerequisite commits but lacks the actual basis sequence number (e.g., when using a pre-existing repository mirror on the destination network).

Normally, git-ibundle create will refuse to create an ibundle when there have been no changes since the last ibundle was created. In this case, an exit status of 3 is provided (whereas most failures result in an exit status of 1). To allow creation of an empty ibundle, use --allow-empty.

With --basis-current (which implies --standalone and --allow-empty), the basis is set to the current repository state. The ibundle will be logically empty and standalone, making it suitable for fetching into an existing destination repository known to match the state of the current repository. This provides a way to bootstrap into the use of git-ibundle for an existing pair of mirrored repositories. For example:

# On source network:
cd source.git
git-ibundle create --basis-current ../bootstrap.ibundle

# Transfer `bootstrap.ibundle` to destination network.

# On destination network:
cd destination.git
git-ibundle fetch ../bootstrap.ibundle --force

Fetch from an ibundle

Usage: git-ibundle fetch [OPTIONS] <IBUNDLE_FILE>

  <IBUNDLE_FILE>  ibundle file to fetch

      --dry-run     Perform a trial fetch without making changes to the repository
      --force       Force fetch operation
  -h, --help        Print help information
  -V, --version     Print version information
  -v, --verbose...  More output per occurrence
  -q, --quiet...    Less output per occurrence

With --dry-run, a fetch operation is simulated but no changes will be made to the repository. This is useful for checking the validity of an ibundle file and for testing.

git-ibundle is cautious about fetching from an unexpected bundle. Use --force to override this caution. --force may be used in these cases:

  • The repository is non-empty but no prior fetch has been done and thus no git-ibundle repo_id exists. Without --force, git-ibundle will not risk overwriting the references of the wrong repository.

  • A standalone ibundle with a non-zero basis sequence number is being applied to a repository that lacks that basis. Because the ibundle is standalone, the set of references and prerequisite commit IDs is within the ibundle itself, so the fetch operation is safe to attempt; forcing will not override the requirement that all commit IDs be present.

Show details of an ibundle

Usage: git-ibundle show [OPTIONS] <IBUNDLE_FILE>

  <IBUNDLE_FILE>  ibundle file to examine

  -h, --help        Print help information
  -V, --version     Print version information
  -v, --verbose...  More output per occurrence
  -q, --quiet...    Less output per occurrence

For example:

$ git-ibundle show file.ibundle
standalone: no
repo_id: d64e7f05-9e75-458d-8c3d-9e7380b6d5b5
seq_num: 2
basis_seq_num: 1
head_ref: 'refs/heads/main'
head_detached: no
added_orefs: 1
removed_orefs: 1
moved_orefs: 2
prereqs: 1

With --verbose, more details are shown:

$ git-ibundle show --verbose file.ibundle
standalone: no
repo_id: d64e7f05-9e75-458d-8c3d-9e7380b6d5b5
seq_num: 2
basis_seq_num: 1
head_ref: 'refs/heads/main'
head_detached: no
added_orefs: 1
4575ca5a540085b2569d714fd449ba7a21b3ebf6 'refs/tags/tag2'
removed_orefs: 1
29f7fecbb7c205a4185c59cf50c6ff0d5137979d 'refs/heads/branch1'
moved_orefs: 2
4575ca5a540085b2569d714fd449ba7a21b3ebf6 'HEAD'
4575ca5a540085b2569d714fd449ba7a21b3ebf6 'refs/heads/main'
prereqs: 1
29f7fecbb7c205a4185c59cf50c6ff0d5137979d 'Initial commit.'

Report status

Report status

Usage: git-ibundle status [OPTIONS]

  -h, --help        Print help information
  -V, --version     Print version information
  -v, --verbose...  More output per occurrence
  -q, --quiet...    Less output per occurrence

This provides git-ibundle status for a given repository. For example:

$ git-ibundle status
repo_id: 18450f13-4003-474a-a69e-22782ef3848f
max_seq_num: 13
next_seq_num: 14

The next_seq_num field indicates the sequence number that will be used for the next git-ibundle create operation.

The max_seq_num field indicates the sequence number used by the most recent git-ibundle create operation.

With --verbose, more detail is provided:

$ git-ibundle status --verbose
repo_id: 18450f13-4003-474a-a69e-22782ef3848f
max_seq_num: 13
next_seq_num: 14
  seq_num  num_refs HEAD
  1        0        refs/heads/main
  2        0        refs/heads/main
  3        5        refs/heads/main
  4        5        refs/heads/main
  5        6        refs/heads/main
  6        7        refs/heads/fix1
  7        7        refs/heads/main2
  8        7        refs/heads/main
  9        7        343f8d34eb565c0e97194604fa2c6c3ff8ba4931 (detached)
  10       7        refs/heads/main
  11       7        refs/heads/main
  12       7        refs/heads/main
  13       11       refs/heads/main

Cleanup old sequence numbers

Usage: git-ibundle clean [OPTIONS]

      --keep <KEEP>  Number of sequence numbers to retain [default: 20]
  -h, --help         Print help information
  -V, --version      Print version information
  -v, --verbose...   More output per occurrence
  -q, --quiet...     Less output per occurrence

By default, git-ibundle retains the metadata for all sequence numbers. Use git-ibundle clean to cleanup older sequence numbers.

Comparison with Git bundles

Most of the heavy lifting done by git-ibundle is handled by Git's own bundle functionality. For non-incremental mirroring, Git's bundles provide a complete solution. For example, the following packages the entirety of a source repository into a bundle file:

# Run from within the source Git repository:
git bundle create ../repo.bundle --all

Similarly, in an empty destination repository, the following command fetches from the bundle and replicates almost the entire repository state:

# Run from within the destination Git repository:
git fetch --prune --force repo.bundle "*:*"

The only thing missing is the setting of HEAD to the appropriate symbolic branch name, as bundle files have no means of communicating the name of that branch. But one additional pair of commands takes care of that. In the source repository, query HEAD via:

$ git symbolic-ref HEAD

Then, in the destination repository, manually set HEAD accordingly, e.g.:

git symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/main

Git also provides a way to exclude commits from a bundle by providing them with a leading caret (^). After a single additional commit to main in the source, a new bundle file can be created with just the additional commit (assuming main is the only reference in the repository):

git bundle create ../repo.bundle --all ^HEAD~

The bundle might contain headers such as the following:

# v2 git bundle
-9a3bbf283e30565d9ac378cb73c36ca8a417c5e0 Some commit log message
22a3d70042ecc8bce2772bfa85eadf64adb77441 refs/heads/main
22a3d70042ecc8bce2772bfa85eadf64adb77441 HEAD

The commit 9a3bbf2 was sent in the first bundle; it has become a prerequisite for this incremental bundle file. Git does a great job of distilling the set of requested references and exclusions down to a minimal set of prerequisite commits and changed references.

Unfortunately, Git's prerequisites must always be commits. Annotated tags point to tag objects, which then point to commits. Bundle files have no way to express a tag object as a prerequisite.

In addition, Git will remove any requested reference that points to an object excluded by any of the ^ exclusions. Suppose a repository containing many commits on main is bundled in its entirety via:

git bundle create ../repo.bundle --all

Now suppose the only change is to add a new branch a couple of commits back from HEAD:

git branch branch1 HEAD~2

Attempting to request that this new branch be added to a new incremental bundle will fail:

git bundle create ../repo.bundle branch1 ^main

This is because branch1 points to an ancestor of main, and main has been excluded, causing branch1 to be excluded as well.

To perform incremental mirroring, git-ibundle uses git bundle create in the source repository to create temporary bundle files at each synchronization point. Within the bundle are a list of prerequisite commits, a pack of new objects, and a list of references that are new (i.e., that point to newly created objects in the pack). git-ibundle then extracts this information from the bundle file and combines it with other metadata to create an ibundle file; at the destination repository, the ibundle is combined with stored repository metadata to reconstruct the full set of references that are written into a temporary bundle file; this bundle is applied to the destination repository with git fetch --prune --force temp.bundle "*:*"; finally, HEAD is set appropriately based on the value conveyed in the ibundle file.


~361K SLoC