Tutorial

How to Push an Existing Project to GitHub

Updated on March 28, 2024
authorauthor

Nicholas Cerminara and Bradley Kouchi

How to Push an Existing Project to GitHub

Introduction

GitHub is a cloud-hosted Git management tool. Git is distributed version control, meaning the entire repository and history lives wherever you put it. People tend to use GitHub in their business or development workflow as a managed hosting solution for backups of their repositories. GitHub takes this even further by letting you connect with coworkers, friends, organizations, and more.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to take an existing project you are working on and push it so it also exists on GitHub.

How to Push an Existing Project to GitHub

  1. Create a new GitHub Repo
  2. Initialize Git in the Project Folder
  3. Initialize the Git Repo

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Prerequisites

To initialize the repo and push it to GitHub, you’ll need:

  1. A free GitHub Account
  2. git installed on your local machine

Step 1 — Create a new GitHub Repo

Sign in to GitHub and create a new empty repo. You can choose to either initialize a README or not. It doesn’t really matter because we’re just going to override everything in this remote repository anyway.

Screenshot of the user interface to create a new repository on GitHub.

Warning: Through the rest of this tutorial, we’ll assume your GitHub username is sammy and the repo you created is named my-new-project. It is important that you replace these placeholders with your actual username and repo name.

Step 2 — Initialize Git in the project folder

From your terminal, run the following commands after navigating to the folder you would like to add.

Step 3 - Initialize the Git Repo

Make sure you are in the root directory of the project you want to push to GitHub and run:

Note: If you already have an initialized Git repository, you can skip this command.

  1. git init

This step creates a hidden .git directory in your project folder, which the git software recognizes and uses to store all the metadata and version history for the project.

Add the files to the Git index

  1. git add -A

The git add command is used to tell git which files to include in a commit, and the -A (or --all) argument means “include all”.

Commit Added Files

  1. git commit -m 'Added my project'

The git commit command creates a new commit with all files that have been “added”. The -m (or --message) sets the message that will be included alongside the commit, used for future reference to understand the commit. In this case, the message is: 'Added my project'.

Add a new remote origin

  1. git remote add origin git@github.com:sammy/my-new-project.git

Note: Remember, you will need to replace the highlighted parts of the username and repo name with your own username and repo name.

In git, a “remote” refers to a remote version of the same repository, which is typically on a server somewhere (in this case, GitHub). “origin” is the default name git gives to a remote server (you can have multiple remotes), so git remote add origin instructs git to add the URL of the default remote server for this repo.

Push to GitHub

  1. git push -u -f origin main

The -u (or --set-upstream) flag sets the remote origin as the upstream reference. This allows you to later perform git push and git pull commands without having to specify an origin since we always want GitHub in this case.

The -f (or --force) flag stands for force. This will automatically overwrite everything in the remote directory. We’re using it here to overwrite the default README that GitHub automatically initialized.

Note: If you did not include the default README when creating the project on GitHub, the -f flag isn’t really necessary.

All together

  1. git init
  2. git add -A
  3. git commit -m 'Added my project'
  4. git remote add origin git@github.com:sammy/my-new-project.git
  5. git push -u -f origin main

Deploy a GitHub Repo to DigitalOcean

Now that you have your GitHub repo, it is as easy as 1-click to deploy this repo to make it live by using DigitalOcean App Platform.

Conclusion

Now, you are all set to track your code changes remotely in GitHub! As a next step, use the Introduction to GitHub and Open-Source Projects tutorial series to master Github.

You can use the Github Cheatsheet and keep it as a reference.

Once you start collaborating with others on the project, you’ll want to know how to create a pull request.

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About the authors
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Nicholas Cerminara

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Bradley Kouchi

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This otherwise good tutorial leaves out security steps. Here, the github repo is used as a remote repository. An alternative is to treat it as an https site and use a PAT (Personal Access Token).

To set up a PAT, log into github and go to settings --> developer settings --> personal access tokens (classic). For permissions, I chose to click all in the repo category and all in the user category. You should probably check a good tutorial on PATs if you want to know more about the other permissions. With these two, I was able to push my project to the new github repo.

In the CLI instructions, replace git remote add origin git@github.com:sammy/my-new-project.git with git remote add origin https://github.com/sammy/my-new-project.git

I ran into the following issue when working through this, which required me to set up my SSH keys between my local workstation and the github account. Since I tend to use specific SSH keys for different purposes, there is a little more work to do; I’ll show both standard (using default SSH keys) and extended (using specific SSH keys) approaches here.

NB: Do this before you attempt to Push to Github or if you get the following error:

% git push -v -u -f origin main 
Pushing to github.com:github_username/github_repository.git
git@github.com: Permission denied (publickey).
fatal: Could not read from remote repository.

Please make sure you have the correct access rights
and the repository exists.

Standard approach

This uses the default SSH keys for the user account in question. The drawback (in my opinion and scenario) is that my default SSH keys typically have passphrases which I don’t want to include for my CI/CD pipelines.

  1. Generate the ssh key without a passphrase; you may include one, if you wish, but bear in mind you will be prompted for this each time you run a command that needs to access the remote repository
% ssh-keygen
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/bigdev/.ssh/id_rsa): 
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): <<Enter a passphrase if required>>
Enter same passphrase again: <<Re-Enter a passphrase if required>>
Your identification has been saved in /Users/bigdev/.ssh/id_rsa
Your public key has been saved in /Users/bigdev/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
The key fingerprint is:
SHA256:Rx349489384djasdfJD+ywf3M3q3R52wJ3qJ2KjILN0OZ0Q90 bigdev@tintin.local
The key's randomart image is:
+---[RSA 3072]----+
|       ..o o+ .o |
|      *C+o +... o|
|        ..@..  + |
|        .........|
|     . 0D8s    o |
|    . + o.  . ooB|
|     **=--..   =O|
|    . =  =+oBB .+|
|       ..oo .. 0.|
+----[SHA256]-----+

Extended approach

This uses a specific SSH key dedicated to this function; may be reused for others if needed. The advatage (in my opinion and scenario) is that it separates the keys used for standard activities and these dedicated SSH keys typically can exclude passphrases making my CI/CD smoother (IMHO).

  1. Generate the ssh key without a passphrase; you may include one, if you wish, but bear in mind you will be prompted for this each time you run a command that needs to access the remote repository
% ssh-keygen
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/bigdev/.ssh/id_rsa): /Users/bigdev/.ssh/id_rsa_github # Note we have specified a specific filename here!
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): 
Enter same passphrase again: 
Your identification has been saved in /Users/bigdev/.ssh/id_rsa_github
Your public key has been saved in /Users/bigdev/.ssh/id_rsa_github.pub
The key fingerprint is:
SHA256:Rx349489384djasdfJD+ywf3M3q3R52wJ3qJ2KjILN0OZ0Q90 bigdev@tintin.local
The key's randomart image is:
+---[RSA 3072]----+
|       ..o o+ .o |
|      *C+o +... o|
|        ..@..  + |
|        .........|
|     . 0D8s    o |
|    . + o.  . ooB|
|     **=--..   =O|
|    . =  =+oBB .+|
|       ..oo .. 0.|
+----[SHA256]-----+
  1. Add a config to enable to use of the specific ssh key when invoking commands for github
  • Edit the file ~/.ssh/config as below
Host github.com
   Hostname github.com
   User git
   IdentityFile /Users/bigdev/.ssh/id_rsa_github
   IdentitiesOnly yes

#Final step

Copy the content of the .pub file created and add this to the GitHub settings.

  • Navigate to Settings > SSH and GPG keys > New SSH key
  • Enter a title / name for the key, any informative name will do, this is just a label
  • In the Key textbox, paste the content from the chosen .pub file
  • Click on Add SSH key

That’s it, you’re all set!.

This comment has been deleted

    Have a great day!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks for the article - its a great writeup to address this common issue. For this to work for me, at least using https github repo paths, I had to add

    git branch -M main
    

    after adding my commit message.

    It says this:

    The authenticity of host ‘github.com (13.234.210.38)’ can’t be established.
    ED25519 key fingerprint is SHA256:+DiY3wvvV6TuJJhbpZisF/zLDA0zPMSvHdkr4UvCOqU. This key is not known by any other names Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no/[fingerprint])? yes Warning: Permanently added ‘github.com’ (ED25519) to the list of known hosts. git@github.com: Permission denied (publickey). fatal: Could not read from remote repository.

    Please make sure you have the correct access rights and the repository exists.

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