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This command is meant to safely cancel the effect of `cvs checkout'. Since CVS doesn't lock files, it isn't strictly necessary to use this command. You can always simply delete your working directory, if you like; but you risk losing changes you may have forgotten, and you leave no trace in the CVS history file (see section C.7 The history file) that you've abandoned your checkout.
Use `cvs release' to avoid these problems. This command checks that no uncommitted changes are present; that you are executing it from immediately above a CVS working directory; and that the repository recorded for your files is the same as the repository defined in the module database.
If all these conditions are true, `cvs release' leaves a record of its execution (attesting to your intentionally abandoning your checkout) in the CVS history log.