How to Remove Git Submodules

September 02, 2013

Removing a Git submodule is nowhere near as easy as adding one. In my projects I typically use a submodule for managing dependencies that are themselves a Git repository. When that dependency goes away it is necessary to remove the submodule. Here's how I go about that task.

First delete the relevant section from the .gitmodules file at the root of the parent project. This section will have this format:

[submodule "vendor"]
  path = vendor
  url = git://github.com/some-user/some-repo.git

Next stage the .gitmodules file.

$ git add .gitmodules

Now delete the relevant section from the config file located in the .git directory at the root of the project. It will look something like this:

[submodule "vendor"]
  url = git://github.com/some-user/some-repo.git

Now it's time to use git rm to tell Git to stop tracking the submodule.

$ git rm --cached path/to/submodule

Be careful not to include a trailing slash on the git rm command as it will cause errors.

Now that no longer is tracking the submodule it can be deleted from the file system.

$ rm -rf .git/modules/submodule_name

Commit the changes to the repository.

$ git commit -m "Removed <vendor> submodule."

Finally you can delete the actual submodule.

$ rm -rf path/to/submodule

That's it. The submodule has been completely removed from Git and removed from the file system.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.