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Restore Corrupt Git Repository

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I hadn’t used Vim on my GNU/Linux desktop for a month. When I used it again, an error message was shown on the screen.

[owner@localhost ~]$ vi
Error detected while processing
line  153:
E117: Unknown function: nerdtree#ui_glue#setupCommands
Error detected while processing function nerdtree#postSourceActions:
line    2:
E117: Unknown function: nerdtree#ui_glue#createDefaultBindings
Press ENTER or type command to continue

Since I was occupied with another blog, thinking that the problem would be quickly fixed by an update of the NERD tree, a Vim plugin for showing a file tree in a sidebar, I didn’t want to find out the cause.


During this Vundle update, an exclamation mark with red background was displayed on the LHS of the item Plugin 'scrooloose/nerdtree' in the list contained in the status bar. I then checked Vundle’s update log.

[2016-08-12 15:18:40] Plugin scrooloose/nerdtree
[2016-08-12 15:18:40] $ cd '/home/owner/.vim/bundle/nerdtree' && git pull && git submodule update --init --recursive
[2016-08-12 15:18:40] > error: object file .git/objects/2e/2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08480ad8d is empty
[2016-08-12 15:18:40] > error: object file .git/objects/2e/2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08480ad8d is empty
[2016-08-12 15:18:40] > fatal: loose object 2e2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08480ad8d (stored in .git/objects/2e/2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08480ad8d) is corrupt
[2016-08-12 15:18:40] > fatal: The remote end hung up unexpectedly
[2016-08-12 15:18:40] > 

While I was trying to update this plugin manually by typing in Git commands in bash, the electricity supply of my desktop went off suddenly. After it had been switched on again, I tried typing in the commands again, and I got the same error.

How can the Git repository be restored to its previous state, so that it’s intact?


This problem can be fixed by simply undoing all changes done to the directory .git/. First, a list of recently changed files is needed, and find can be used for this purpose. I searched “ls filter by time”, then this question about ls on Unix & Linux Stack Exchange appeared in the search results. After reading the first answer, I tried to find the defective binary objects in .git/objects.

[owner@localhost ~/.vim/bundle/nerdtree/.git]$ find . -maxdepth 1 -mindepth 1 \
> -mtime -1 -type d -print -and -exec ls -lt {} \;
total 20
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner   0 Aug 12 15:18 2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08480ad8d
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 256 May 12 20:38 c9b3dd9d6b8d11f2a3c12924f88588a846517d
total 44

-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner  341 May 12 20:38 8be22b1d5052e9140fc7c7b840755980cb960
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner   49 May 12 20:38 9492c9f3b3b463114c0b6308a8ccd46ce3869
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 3029 Nov  1  2014 12c042bb8f5ab387a2bd0aabcfe30fce25027
total 20
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner   0 Aug 12 15:43 019ff4d6b033f37efd9b1a99daf6c9797796b1
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 468 May 12 20:38 b89b83d8cd02f8043840a48b0b2cf3724bee1c
total 20
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner   0 Aug 12 15:43 24ab207162ca18cf5844d00b351ade1b5122f6
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 342 May 12 20:38 0935cab8f1e7dec23bb3bda0e2f7dd84c867d9
total 20
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner  0 Aug 12 15:43 d79fd1123213f2ceb3d6c32e8dad42bd587ec8
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 55 May 15  2015 569aab72ab0cbf466c40658ab9a3d86b55263e
total 8
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 0 Aug 12 15:43 9f81cd6e309fa01e063f3e12fb7615e712d7f4
total 36
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner    0 Aug 12 15:43 a3bece220f147f85172fe43430d069276d835
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 7025 Jun 24  2015 f07ddbaf243cef8de791b45e7ff4232025a93
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner  277 May 15  2015 a1964c1ba8fd40f3fdebf64efd0ba3756115a
total 20
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner   0 Aug 12 15:43 23fee57c918ba3fd06057398e0a905fde7b80e
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 277 May 15  2015 2300417059ab5c52ac26c318e6b67bcefbe1e2
total 20
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner  0 Aug 12 15:43 9312442b0961241eb0de3d6d65893c52f4d9d1
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 49 May 15  2015 ab6021b2473c60ba443c5ad197f2e3e3692895
total 20
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner   0 Aug 12 15:43 7e67fafb0d6c63b790b37ab46f67cf0654ea22
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 466 May 15  2015 258b21d3a02dfcc0c5c10f3ab186763ae0c38b
total 36
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner    0 Aug 12 15:43 bfb3869eb16ca691d93e1a3a05d375e87c1c7
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner   57 May 15  2015 be8a2baee075d0935e3af349d85c2553d77bf
-r--r--r-- 1 owner owner 6830 Nov  1  2014 df1a366dbdf08c5f7412ff867d859d6818376

Objects are grouped according to the first two digits of their Git hash. The following list is easier to read.

[owner@localhost ~/.vim/bundle/nerdtree/.git/objects]$ find . -mindepth 2 \
> -maxdepth 2 -mtime 0 -type f -exec file {} \;
./2e/2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08480ad8d: empty 
./7e/e42eb25e86a6825cdba370f20d2e146ed61ae6: empty 
./a0/019ff4d6b033f37efd9b1a99daf6c9797796b1: empty 
./29/24ab207162ca18cf5844d00b351ade1b5122f6: empty 
./38/d79fd1123213f2ceb3d6c32e8dad42bd587ec8: empty 
./d7/9f81cd6e309fa01e063f3e12fb7615e712d7f4: empty 
./2a/a3bece220f147f85172fe43430d069276d835c: empty 
./b7/23fee57c918ba3fd06057398e0a905fde7b80e: empty 
./c9/9312442b0961241eb0de3d6d65893c52f4d9d1: empty 
./e8/7e67fafb0d6c63b790b37ab46f67cf0654ea22: empty 
./4c/bfb3869eb16ca691d93e1a3a05d375e87c1c77: empty 

I removed these files and typed git status.

[owner@localhost ~/.vim/bundle/nerdtree]$ git status
fatal: bad object HEAD

I googled “invalid sha1 pointer in cache-tree”, and read a webpage a Stack Overflow post on empty Git objects. The command git fsck --full can be used to check the integrity of a Git repository.

[owner@localhost ~/.vim/bundle/nerdtree/.git]$ git fsck --full
Checking object directories: 100% (256/256), done.
Checking objects: 100% (3525/3525), done.
error: HEAD: invalid sha1 pointer 2e2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08480ad8d
error: refs/heads/master: invalid sha1 pointer 2e2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08
error: refs/remotes/origin/HEAD: invalid sha1 pointer 2e2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5
error: refs/remotes/origin/master: invalid sha1 pointer 2e2b649232d6ae4d02d74793
error: HEAD: invalid reflog entry 2e2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08480ad8d
error: refs/heads/master: invalid reflog entry 2e2b649232d6ae4d02d74793e5da0ee08
error: refs/remotes/origin/master: invalid reflog entry 2e2b649232d6ae4d02d74793
error: d79f81cd6e309fa01e063f3e12fb7615e712d7f4: invalid sha1 pointer in cache-t
missing blob 2aa3bece220f147f85172fe43430d069276d835c

The above message inspired me to make the following list of files changed due to this failed Git pull.

[owner@localhost ~/.vim/bundle/nerdtree/.git]$ find . -mtime 0 -type f -print

I looked at the relevant files in the folder logs/refs/. The change time in Unix timestamp, the old and new commit IDs were found. I restored these files (including the logs) with the help of these logs except FETCH_HEAD and index.

At this stage, git status would still throw out an error if it was invoked. However, since the references to HEAD and ORIG_HEAD had been manually set, git reset --hard HEAD could restore the Git repository.


Finally, I could update the NERD Tree.

[owner@localhost ~/.vim/bundle/nerdtree]$ git pull
remote: Counting objects: 11, done.
remote: Total 11 (delta 3), reused 3 (delta 3), pack-reused 8
Unpacking objects: 100% (11/11), done.
   d280b15..2e2b649  master     -> origin/master
Updating d280b15..2e2b649
 autoload/nerdtree/ui_glue.vim | 16 ++++++++--------
 1 file changed, 8 insertions(+), 8 deletions(-)

Lessons learnt


  • Control the depth of the search with -maxdepth and -mindepth.
  • Search files by time. (To be put before -type)
    • -mtime [n]: last modified time equal to n day(s) *24 hours. (rounded down to an integer)
      • -mtime +[n]: modified before n day(s) *24 hours.
      • -mtime -[n]: modified within the last n day(s) *24 hours.
      • -mmin [n]: modified time calculated in number of minutes instead of days.
    • -atime [n], -amin [n]: last access time
    • -ctime [n], -cmin [n]: last change of file status
    • -anewer, -cnewer, -newer: followed by filename (-mnewer doesn’t exist.)
    • -daystart: use the start of day for calculations. (Preceed -mtime)


Use -t flag to sort files using their last modified time in descending order.


One can find files from a Git SHA1 hash using git ls-tree -r <hash>. To search contents in commits, you may refer to a question about Git on Stack Overflow.

When I wrote my list of low-level commands last year, I couldn’t understand the role of index. Now, I know that the binary objects stored in objets/ and the references can work independently of index, which can be re-created by git write-tree.