Installing GIT for Windows

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Introduction

This tutorial is about downloading and installing Git for Windows and running the client the first time. No knowledge of version control systems is required.

My system is Windows Vista 64-bit running on a dual core Pentium processor.

What is Git?

Git is a free & open source, distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency. Every Git clone is a full-fledged repository with complete history and full revision tracking capabilities, not dependent on network access or a central server. Branching and merging are fast and easy to do. Git is used for version control of files, much like tools such as Mercurial, Bazaar, Subversion, CVS, Perforce, and Visual SourceSafe. (Source: http://git-scm.com/)

Getting Started

The Windows installer for Git is downloaded from the official website here: http://git-scm.com/

Find the Windows download icon and click it to get to the list of available downloads.

Choosing a Download

At the time of this writing, Git for Windows is in beta. Looking at the download list I have a number of choices:

  1. Full installer
  2. Portable application
  3. msysGit

I spent some time looking around the official website for system requirements; however, I could not see any. Usually those would appear right with the download itself, but it just says Windows. At this stage I take a small leap of faith and assume it's going to work ok on any 32-bit system and will be compatible with my 64-bit Vista.

For lack of further easy to find details, I choose the full installer at the top of the list:

  • Git-1.7.4-preview20110204.exe Full installer for official Git 1.7.4 Featured Beta

After I download and virus scan this installer I'm ready to run it.

Running the Installer

My first observation running on a 64-bit system is that it installs to Program Files (x86)/Git so that is good.

The installer gives me options to integrate Git Bash (Command Shell) and Git GUI context menus into Windows Explorer. I'll pass on these options for now, they are not selected by default, and I decide to stick with the defaults today.

I also choose the default Git Bash Only for my PATH variable. At this stage the installer does provide some good feedback about potential stability risks to your Windows system if you want to use the other more advanced options.

The last option I choose is the default Checkout Windows Style, Commit UNIX Style for LF/CRLF. If I use a network repository it means that the CRLF of TEXT files on my computer get translated to LF when I put them up to the network, and it converts them back to CRLF when I download them. I will have to do a bit of research on how Git decides between a text file and a binary file.

With those choices selected, the program installs quickly.

After installation completes I say Yes to reading the Release Notes. These state the last (Windows) update was 4 February 2011, and they include complete technical notes about known issues, changes, compatibility and version history. Nice.

Running Git for the First Time

I see there is Git icon in my quick launcher but it turns out to be Git Bash (the shell interface) so I quickly close that and go to the Start Menu, to All Programs, and find Git in there. I quickly find the Git GUI and run it. (I also remove Git Bash from my quick launcher and put Git GUI in there instead.)

When Git GUI launches it gives me a few options:

  • Create New Repository
  • Clone Existing Repository
  • Open Existing Repository

I have no repository of my own and nobody else's to clone so I select Create New Repository.

Selecting this option, it asks me for a folder. I don't have one so I choose browse and request Git GUI to create a new folder called GitTrial beneath my Documents folder. Then I click Create to confirm my choice.

Git GUI now appears as a clean, compact Windows interface for project management and its looking at my empty GitTrial folder.

The first thing I always like to do it this stage is close the Git GUI and immediately restart it to see how it handles getting back into an existing repository, so I do this.

The second time in I see that in addition to the original launch options it also keeps a list of recent projects so I can get back in with one click. I also try out the Open Existing Repository option and this requires me to browse to the correct folder, a bit more tedious.

One nice feature I did immediately discover under the Repository menu is the option to create a desktop icon to fast access the repository. That works very nice.

Summary

That is all there is to the download, install, and first run. It's a very easy, clean process.

To actually use Git you will need some familiarity with version control systems and for that the official Git page (http://git-scm.com/) has a boatload of documentation, so much it might be a little daunting to a first time version control user. They have tutorials, FAQs, technical references, and a list of available books that you could buy from a bookstore, Amazon, or wherever.