“The only constant in life is change”. This seemingly banal phrase has been known to mankind for about 2500 years. It is attributed to Heraclitus of Ephesus, the Greek philosopher who claimed that everything was constantly changing and that this is the nature of the universe. Nothing disappears and nothing appears, everything just changes. Well, I won’t go into philosophy any further, but this introduction is not accidental. In our case, the change means to change the hosting service on which we keep our repository.

Most common causes of Bitbucket to GitHub repo transfer

We’ll focus on how to migrate from Bitbucket to GitHub later. Let’s start by answering the question “why?”. There can be many reasons, either subjective or objective. Sometimes it’s a question of price or license limitations. The number of available private or public repositories may also be of key importance to us and migration to another platform may be more profitable.

The reason may also be other software that we want to use in our company. For example, Bitbucket integrates directly with Jira, Bamboo, Crucible and Jenkins. There can be many reasons, even the GUI will suit us more on a different platform, or we just want to change something in the course of learning and our own development, although this reason applies more to individual users, not enterprises. Anyway, we made a decision that we want to perform such a migration. What’s next?

Bitbucket and GitHub: the differences

Let’s go over the differences between the two services in detail. What are their pros and cons? I mentioned above the platforms with which Bitbucket easily integrates. What does it look like on the GitHub side? Here, direct integration occurs with services such as Azure, Google Cloud, Amazon, or Heroku. In addition, GitHub offers GitHub Pages and GitHub Gist services, which can also influence our decision.

In the case of Open Source projects, GitHub offers unlimited public repos for free, while Bitbucket rather targets corporate and private repos clients. There is also a desktop client on the GitHub side, which can be a big advantage for many people. In addition, we have SVN support here. On the other hand, the Atlassian Marketplace is a huge advantage of the competition. Of course, GitHub also has this type of service for Extensions and Third-party apps integrations, however, Bitbucket is more powerful in this area. Mainly because of other Atlassian products that can easily cooperate with it.

Let’s check the popularity of both platforms. Due to its openness to open-source projects, GitHub has the advantage here, currently, over 40 million users are registered there. On the other hand, we have “only” 10 million accounts. However, Bitbucket focuses on business customers, so this difference in numbers should come as no surprise.

Bitbucket to GitHub migration

Now that we have learned more or less the reasons for migration and the differences between various hosting services, let’s finally get down to business and check how to perform such a migration.

First of all, let’s make sure that our repository is up-to-date, that is, that every developer has integrated his code, all tags, and other necessary data are available in the external repository. If so, the migration process is relatively easy. As an example, I prepared a simple test repository with two branches and two tags.

bitbucket to github migration

We should now start by cloning the source repository to the local machine.

When making a clone, remember to download all branches and tags. We can do it manually, but I recommend using the –mirror parameter here, which will do it for us. An important note here, as cloning with this parameter, will trigger the –bare parameter. Effect? The repository cloned in this way means that we will not see Working Tree, but only the contents of the .git directory.

git clone –mirror <Bitbucket_repo_address>

Whether we use –mirror or not, it’s important that we now have all the necessary information locally. The next step is to set a new address, the so-called origin which will point to the target repository. For the sake of order, it is worth removing the previous one first, i.e. the one pointing to the source repository that we just cloned.

git remote rm origin
git remote add origin <GitHub_repo_address>

Before taking the next step, it is worth checking that we have all the branches and tags locally. I will show how it looks in my example project:

GitHub to Bitbucket migration

As you can see, we correctly downloaded all the necessary data. So we have one last thing to do, which is syncing the local copy with the new target repository address in GitHub.

git push origin –all
git push –tags

or just simply

git push –mirror

After completing all the steps, let’s check the result in GitHub. In my case, this is the effect of the entire operation:

checking github migration

To summarize – for successful Bitbucket to GitHub migration you only need few steps:

  • make sure all necessary data is in the repository
  • clone the repo prepared in this way
  • make sure we have checked out all tags and branches
  • replace the remote origin address
  • push the changes to the target repo

Bitbucket to GitHub repo migration risks

There is such a popular joke that people are divided into those who do backups and those who will start. We are clever and we should belong to the first group. Migration always carries the risk of data loss. Rather, we will not lose the code or the history of changes, because Git itself will not allow it, but losing, for example, tags is very possible if we do something carelessly. Plus, according to Murphy’s law, something can always go wrong, and then backup is all the more necessary. So before any operation, let’s make sure we have a well-made and available backup in case a quick restore is needed. You will not regret it.

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