Using register_shutdown_function() instead of desctructor in PHP

Amit Merchant · February 18, 2020 ·

The usual and might be the most used way of cleaning the object is to use the good old __destruct() magic method in PHP. The magic method proves to be good in most of the cases. But there might be some scenario where even the __destruct() method will fail. For instance, a scenario where your PHP script exceeds the maximum execution time, and terminates thusly. And a fatal error would occur called Maximum execution time of 20 seconds exceeded in - on line XX.

What would you use in such a case? This is where an alternative method register_shutdown_function() can be used.

Basically, you can register a function in register_shutdown_function() that gets executed after script execution finishes or exit() is called.

To understand this, let’s take the following example which I found on


class Destruction 
    private $name;

    public function __construct($name) 
        $this->name = $name;
        register_shutdown_function([&$this, "shutdown"]);

    public function shutdown()
        echo 'shutdown: '.$this->name."\n";

    public function __destruct()
        echo 'destruct: '.$this->name."\n";

$a = new Destruction('a: global 1');

function test() 
    $b = new Destruction('b: func 1');
    $c = new Destruction('c: func 2');


$d = new Destruction('d: global 2');

The output of the above code snippet would be something like below.

shutdown: a: global 1
shutdown: b: func 1
shutdown: c: func 2
shutdown: d: global 2
destruct: b: func 1
destruct: c: func 2
destruct: d: global 2
destruct: a: global 1

We can conclude following things by observing the output.

  • The shutdown function is called before the destructor.
  • Shutdown functions are called in there “register” order.
  • Destructors are always called on script end.
  • Destructors are called in order of their “context”: first functions, then global objects.
  • Objects in function context are deleted in order as they are set (older objects first).
  • Objects in global context are deleted in reverse order (older objects last)

Also, as I mentioned previously, shutdown functions will always gets called no matter the execution time limit gets exceeded for the script. So, it will always be safe to use instead of destructors.

A Parctical Usecase

Many PHP frameworks use this approach for special cases. For instance, Laravel uses register_shutdown_function() here in Illuminate\Console\Scheduling\CallbackEvent in order to remove the mutex for the event no matter what happend to the event. They probably used register_shutdown_function() for the issue with desctructors I’ve mentioned above.

In Closing

The register_shutdown_function() method is clearly not the replacement to the destructors but would turn out to be helpful in certain scenarios. Hope you liked this article and learned a thing or two.

Until next time!

Hi there! I'm Amit. I write articles about all things web development. If you like what I write, buy me a coffee. I'd highly appreciate that. Cheers!


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