How to change a git submodule to point to a subfolder?

GitGit Submodules

Git Problem Overview

Skimming through the SubModule tutorial, I created a submodule out of the boto project. Then, I discovered that I actually need only a subset of this project - specifically, the boto folder.

I would like to change my submodule to point to this folder. When I look in .gitmodules, I see

[submodule "backup/src/boto"]
	path = backup/src/boto
	url =

What URL should I use instead of After I change the URL, should I delete the boto folder locally and re-pull?

Git Solutions

Solution 1 - Git

I'm afraid the URL for submodules always just points to the repository - you can't specify that you only want a subfolder of a repository, in the same way that git doesn't support "narrow clones" in general.

If you can't live with having the whole repository as a submodule, you could always create a new repository that's cloned from boto and then set up a cron job to:

  1. git fetch that repository into a directory
  2. Use git filter-branch to update a branch where the subdirectory is at the top level.
  3. Add that branch of the repository as the submodule. However, that's all a bit fiddly and my preference would just be to live with having the whole repository as a submodule.

Solution 2 - Git

You cannot clone only a part of a repository. This is because git treats the repository as a whole object : when you get it, you get it all.

So, the solution here would be to fetch the submodule in another directory, then use a symlink to achieve your goal.

Solution 3 - Git

What you want to do is create a branch in the submodule and move the folder up and delete what you don't need. You can then manage that branch instead. If you want to push up your changes, you should be able to back merge first. Git will know that you moved the files and do the merge successfully.

Hope this helps.

Solution 4 - Git

All the answers here are pretty dated. You could use the newer git sparse-checkout command docs here, further examples in this article to grab pieces of a repo. This is effective if you only want a directory or two from a larger git project.


git sparse-checkout init --cone
git sparse-checkout set <dir1> <dir2> ...
git checkout main


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Content TypeOriginal AuthorOriginal Content on Stackoverflow
Questionripper234View Question on Stackoverflow
Solution 1 - GitMark LongairView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 2 - GitArtefact2View Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 3 - GitAdam DymitrukView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 4 - GitJustin HammondView Answer on Stackoverflow