Tell Git not to track a file any more (remove from repo)

Git “remove” FAQ: How do I tell Git not to track a file (or files) any more? (i.e., I want to remove the file from the Git repo.)

While working on an application named Sarah yesterday, I accidentally checked some files into Git that I didn’t mean to. These were primarily binary files in my project’s bin and target directories.

Because I didn’t want these files in my Git repository, I needed a way to remove them from the repository but still keep them on disk. Fortunately there’s a Git command for just this situation:

git rm --cached [filenames]

Here’s how I removed all the files I wanted to delete from one of my bin subdirectories:

git rm --cached bin/com/devdaily/sarah/\*

I use the unusual  \* syntax at the end of that command instead of * because you need to escape the * from the git command. In a simpler example, if there was just one file in the bin directory named Foo.class that I wanted to remove from the Git repository, I would use this command:

git rm --cached bin/Foo.class

To be clear, what this command means is:

You want to keep these files on your hard drive, but you don’t want Git to track them any more.

(I got this quote directly from page 25 of the excellent book, Pro Git.)

More Git remove (“don’t track”) examples

If it helps to see some more examples, here's a list of all the git rm --cached commands I ended up running:

git rm --cached src/main/resources/\*
git rm --cached target/scala-2.9.1/classes/\*
git rm --cached target/streams/\$global/compilers/\$global/out

After running a few more git rm commands, I learned that I could have just run the following git command to remove all files in the target directory from the git repository:

git rm --cached target/\*

Followup: I just read that this command may still keep the files in the history, and completely removing them is a more difficult problem. However, I'm not very concerned about that, in my case I just want Git to stop tracking those files, so this solution works fine for me.