Remove a Submodule within git

By  on  

For many git-based projects, submodules are useful in avoiding duplicate work and easing utility library updates.  There are times, however, when a submodule needs to be removed from a project.  Submodules aren't removed with git rm submoduledir, they must be removed in a more tedious, manual fashion.  There are many unclear explanations of how to remove a submodule but I found one on Stack Overflow that's concise, so I thought I'd share it.  The steps are as follows:

  1. Delete the relevant section from the .gitmodules file.  The section would look similar to:
    [submodule "vendor"]
    	path = vendor
    	url = git://github.com/some-user/some-repo.git
    
  2. Stage the .gitmodules changes via command line using:git add .gitmodules
  3. Delete the relevant section from .git/config, which will look like:
    [submodule "vendor"]
    	url = git://github.com/some-user/some-repo.git
    
  4. Run git rm --cached path/to/submodule .  Don't include a trailing slash -- that will lead to an error.
  5. Run rm -rf .git/modules/submodule_name
  6. Commit the change:
  7. Delete the now untracked submodule files rm -rf path/to/submodule

Those steps will get you rid of that unwanted submodule.  A lot harder than adding one, eh?

Recent Features

Incredible Demos

  • By
    Create a Simple Slideshow Using MooTools, Part II:  Controls and Events

    Last week we created a very simple MooTools slideshow script. The script was very primitive: no events and no next/previous controls -- just cross-fading between images. This tutorial will take the previous slideshow script a step further by: Adding "Next" and "Previous" controls. Adding...

  • By
    Scroll IFRAMEs on iOS

    For the longest time, developers were frustrated by elements with overflow not being scrollable within the page of iOS Safari.  For my blog it was particularly frustrating because I display my demos in sandboxed IFRAMEs on top of the article itself, so as to not affect my site's...

Discussion

  1. Just an interesting side note, as of git 1.8.3, you can use git submodule deinit to handle a lot of the heavy lifting of removing a submodule.

    • Sam

      deinit didn’t work for me; these instructions did (as of git 1.9.3)

  2. Funny, I had this problem just yesterday! Thanks anyway, I’ll remember where the manual is)

  3. I found a handy bash script that automates this https://gist.github.com/sharplet/6289697

    Change to a directory that’s in your PATH, I used /usr/local/bin and run the following commands:

    $ curl -o git-remove-submodule https://gist.github.com/sharplet/6289697/raw/git-remove-submodule

    $ chmod 755 git-remove-submodule

    Then to remove a submodule run:

    $ git remove-submodule path/to/submodule

  4. Joe

    These instructions are no longer current, I wouldn’t use them.

  5. Kurt

    This should NOT be used… ‘git rm path/to/submodule’ will work fine on recent git versions.

  6. Brian Berneker

    Thank you so much for this!

    I have a project that I am deploying to AWS, and while I want to keep sub folder repos able to push and pull, I don’t want the parent repo to treat them as submodules, because AWS doesn’t init and pull submodules, resulting in empty submodule folders on deployment.

    By using your steps here I was able to keep the files and still keep the folder contents in my repo.

Wrap your code in <pre class="{language}"></pre> tags, link to a GitHub gist, JSFiddle fiddle, or CodePen pen to embed!