Uninstall Methods

Your plugin may need to do some clean-up when it is uninstalled from a site.

A plugin is considered uninstalled if a user has deactivated the plugin, and then clicks the delete link within the WordPress Admin.

When your plugin is uninstalled, you’ll want to clear out any plugin options and/or settings specific to to the plugin, and/or other database entities such as tables.

Less experienced developers sometimes make the mistake of using the deactivation hook for this purpose.

This table illustrates the differences between deactivation and uninstall.

Scenario Deactivation Hook Uninstall Hook
Flush Cache/Temp Yes No
Flush Permalinks Yes No
Remove Options from {$wpdb->prefix}_options No Yes
Remove Tables from wpdb No Yes

Method 1: register_uninstall_hook Method 1: register_uninstall_hook

To set up an uninstall hook, use the register_uninstall_hook() function:

register_uninstall_hook(__FILE__, 'pluginprefix_function_to_run');

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Method 2: uninstall.php Method 2: uninstall.php

To use this method you need to create an uninstall.php file inside the root folder of your plugin. This magic file is run automatically when the users deletes the plugin.

For example: /plugin-name/uninstall.php

When using uninstall.php, before executing, the plugin should always check for the constant WP_UNINSTALL_PLUGIN to prevent direct access.

The constant will be defined by WordPress during the uninstall.php invocation.

The constant is NOT defined when uninstall is performed by register_uninstall_hook().

Here is an example deleting option entries and dropping a database table:

// if uninstall.php is not called by WordPress, die
if (!defined('WP_UNINSTALL_PLUGIN')) {

$option_name = 'wporg_option';


// for site options in Multisite

// drop a custom database table
global $wpdb;
$wpdb->query("DROP TABLE IF EXISTS {$wpdb->prefix}mytable");

In Multisite, looping through all blogs to delete options can be very resource intensive.