Home Using Git Bisect to Find the Commit Introducing a Bug

Using Git Bisect to Find the Commit Introducing a Bug

Git bisect is a powerful tool that helps you find the specific commit that introduced a bug into your codebase. By performing a binary search through your commit history, Git bisect allows you to efficiently narrow down the problematic commit. This tutorial will provide a detailed explanation of what Git bisect is and how it works, followed by a step-by-step guide with an example.

Understanding Git Bisect

Git bisect is a command-line tool that automates the process of finding the commit that introduced a bug. It uses a binary search algorithm, which repeatedly divides the commit range in half, to efficiently pinpoint the problematic commit. Git bisect operates under the assumption that you know two points in the commit history: a “good” commit (a known bug-free state) and a “bad” commit (a state with the bug).

The binary search algorithm in Git bisect works as follows:

  1. The range of commits is divided in half, and the midpoint commit is checked out for testing.
  2. Based on the test result, the range is halved again, and the new midpoint commit is checked out.
  3. This process continues until the problematic commit is identified.

Git bisect automates the process of checking out each commit, allowing you to focus on testing your code to determine if the bug is present. By systematically dividing the commit range, Git bisect significantly reduces the search space and quickly narrows down the problematic commit.

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Start the Git Bisect Process

  1. Open your terminal or command prompt.
  2. Navigate to the root directory of your Git repository using the cd command.

Step 2: Begin the Bisecting Process

  1. Start the bisect process by entering the following command:
    git bisect start
  2. Specify the good (bug-free) and bad (bug-introduced) commits between which Git bisect should search.

Step 3: Mark Commits as Good or Bad

  1. Git bisect will automatically check out a commit, which represents the midpoint between the good and bad commits. Test your code to determine if the bug exists in this commit.
  2. Based on the test result, mark the commit as good or bad using the appropriate Git bisect command.

Step 4: Identify the Bug-Introducing Commit

  1. After bisecting several commits, Git bisect will identify the commit where the bug was introduced.
  2. Git bisect will output a message indicating the problematic commit and display the commit hash.

Step 5: End the Bisecting Process

  1. Once you have found the bug-introducing commit, end the bisect process by running:
    git bisect reset
  2. This command will reset your repository to its original state, checking out the commit you were on before starting the bisect process.


Let’s walk through an example scenario:

Suppose you have a repository with the following commit history:

A -> B -> C -> D -> E (bug introduced) -> F -> G

You know that commit A is good (bug-free), and commit G is bad (contains the bug). We want to identify the specific commit where the bug was introduced.

Follow the step-by-step guide outlined above to use Git bisect and narrow down the problematic commit.

Wrapping Up

Git bisect is a valuable tool that automates the process of finding the commit introducing a bug in your codebase. By leveraging a binary search algorithm, Git bisect efficiently narrows down the search space and helps you identify the problematic commit. Understanding how Git bisect works and following the step-by-step guide provided in the tutorial will empower you to effectively utilize Git bisect and streamline your debugging process. By leveraging its capabilities, you can quickly identify and address bugs in your codebase, ensuring a stable and reliable software development workflow.

Remember, Git bisect relies on accurate marking of commits as good or bad. It’s essential to carefully test each commit to ensure precise identification of the bug-introducing commit. With practice and experience, you’ll become proficient in utilizing Git bisect as a valuable tool in your development toolkit.

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of Git bisect and how it operates, let’s proceed with the step-by-step guide and example to put your knowledge into practice.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.