Protected branches

In GitLab, permissions are fundamentally defined around the idea of having read or write permission to the repository and branches. To impose further restrictions on certain branches, they can be protected.

The default branch for your repository is protected by default.

Who can modify a protected branch

When a branch is protected, the default behavior enforces these restrictions on the branch.

Action Who can do it
Protect a branch At least the Maintainer role.
Push to the branch GitLab administrators and anyone with Allowed permission. (1)
Force push to the branch No one.
Delete the branch No one. (2)
  1. Users with the Developer role can create a project in a group, but might not be allowed to initially push to the default branch.
  2. No one can delete a protected branch using Git commands, however, users with at least Maintainer role can delete a protected branch from the UI or API.

Set the default branch protection level

Administrators can set a default branch protection level in the Admin Area.

Configure a protected branch

Prerequisite:

  • You must have at least the Maintainer role.

To protect a branch:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. From the Branch dropdown list, select the branch you want to protect.
  5. From the Allowed to merge list, select a role, or group that can merge into this branch. In GitLab Premium, you can also add users.
  6. From the Allowed to push list, select a role, group, or user that can push to this branch. In GitLab Premium, you can also add users.
  7. Select Protect.

The protected branch displays in the list of protected branches.

Configure multiple protected branches by using a wildcard

If both a specific rule and a wildcard rule apply to the same branch, the most permissive rule controls how the branch behaves. For merge controls to work properly, set Allowed to push to a broader set of users than Allowed to merge.

Prerequisite:

  • You must have at least the Maintainer role.

To protect multiple branches at the same time:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. From the Branch dropdown list, type the branch name and a wildcard. For example:

    Wildcard protected branch Matching branches
    *-stable production-stable, staging-stable
    production/* production/app-server, production/load-balancer
    *gitlab* gitlab, gitlab/staging, master/gitlab/production
  5. From the Allowed to merge list, select a role, or group that can merge into this branch. In GitLab Premium, you can also add users.
  6. From the Allowed to push list, select a role, group, or user that can push to this branch. In GitLab Premium, you can also add users.
  7. Select Protect.

The protected branch displays in the list of protected branches.

Create a protected branch

Users with at least the Developer role can create a protected branch.

Prerequisites:

  • Allowed to push is set to No one
  • Allowed to merge is set to Developers.

You can create a protected branch by using the UI or API only. This prevents you from accidentally creating a branch from the command line or from a Git client application.

To create a new branch through the user interface:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Repository > Branches.
  3. Select New branch.
  4. Fill in the branch name and select an existing branch, tag, or commit to base the new branch on. Only existing protected branches and commits that are already in protected branches are accepted.

Require everyone to submit merge requests for a protected branch

You can force everyone to submit a merge request, rather than allowing them to check in directly to a protected branch. This setting is compatible with workflows like the GitLab workflow.

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. From the Branch dropdown list, select the branch you want to protect.
  5. From the Allowed to merge list, select Developers + Maintainers.
  6. From the Allowed to push list, select No one.

    note
    Setting a role, group or user as Allowed to push also allows those users to merge.
  7. Select Protect.

Allow everyone to push directly to a protected branch

You can allow everyone with write access to push to the protected branch.

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. From the Branch dropdown list, select the branch you want to protect.
  5. From the Allowed to push list, select Developers + Maintainers.
  6. Select Protect.

Allow deploy keys to push to a protected branch

Version history
  • Introduced in GitLab 13.7.
  • This feature was selectively deployed in GitLab.com 13.7, and may not be available for all users.
  • This feature is available for all users in GitLab 13.9.

You can permit the owner of a deploy key to push to a protected branch. The deploy key works, even if the user isn’t a member of the related project. However, the owner of the deploy key must have at least read access to the project.

Prerequisites:

  • The deploy key must be enabled for your project. A project deploy key is enabled by default when it is created. However, a public deploy key must be granted access to the project.
  • The deploy key must have write access to your project repository.

To allow a deploy key to push to a protected branch:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. From the Branch dropdown list, select the branch you want to protect.
  5. From the Allowed to push list, select the deploy key.
  6. Select Protect.

Deploy keys are not available in the Allowed to merge dropdown list.

Allow force push on a protected branch

Version history

You can allow force pushes to protected branches.

To protect a new branch and enable force push:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. From the Branch dropdown list, select the branch you want to protect.
  5. From the Allowed to push and Allowed to merge lists, select the settings you want.
  6. To allow all users with push access to force push, turn on the Allowed to force push toggle.
  7. To reject code pushes that change files listed in the CODEOWNERS file, turn on the Require approval from code owners toggle.
  8. Select Protect.

To enable force pushes on branches that are already protected:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. In the list of protected branches, next to the branch, turn on the Allowed to force push toggle.

Members who can push to this branch can now also force push.

Require Code Owner approval on a protected branch

Version history
  • Introduced in GitLab 12.4.
  • Introduced in GitLab 13.5, users and groups who can push to protected branches do not have to use a merge request to merge their feature branches. This means they can skip merge request approval rules.

For a protected branch, you can require at least one approval by a Code Owner.

To protect a new branch and enable Code Owner’s approval:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. From the Branch dropdown list, select the branch you want to protect.
  5. From the Allowed to push and Allowed to merge lists, select the settings you want.
  6. Turn on the Require approval from code owners toggle.
  7. Select Protect.

To enable Code Owner’s approval on branches that are already protected:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > Repository.
  3. Expand Protected branches.
  4. In the list of protected branches, next to the branch, turn on the Code owner approval toggle.

When enabled, all merge requests for these branches require approval by a Code Owner per matched rule before they can be merged. Additionally, direct pushes to the protected branch are denied if a rule is matched.

Any user who is not specified in the CODEOWNERS file cannot push changes for the specified files or paths, unless they are specifically allowed to. You don’t have to restrict developers from pushing directly to the protected branch. Instead, you can restrict pushing to certain files where a review by Code Owners is required.

In GitLab Premium 13.5 and later, users and groups who are allowed to push to protected branches do not need a merge request to merge their feature branches. Thus, they can skip merge request approval rules, Code Owners included.

Run pipelines on protected branches

The permission to merge or push to protected branches defines whether or not a user can run CI/CD pipelines and execute actions on jobs.

See Security on protected branches for details about the pipelines security model.

Delete a protected branch

Users with at least the Maintainer role can manually delete protected branches by using the GitLab web interface:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Repository > Branches.
  3. Next to the branch you want to delete, select Delete ( ).
  4. On the confirmation dialog, type the branch name.
  5. Select Yes, delete protected branch.

Protected branches can only be deleted by using GitLab either from the UI or API. This prevents accidentally deleting a branch through local Git commands or third-party Git clients.