Restore a Deleted WordPress Menu from a Database Backup
May 15 2020

Unlike most types of WordPress content, menus unfortunately have no "trash" concept. When they're removed, they're gone for good. We recently ran into an issue where a large set of menus were accidentally nuked...

If you don't have a recent database backup, your only option is to manually create them using historical reference points like Google Cache or Archive.org as a guide.

But in this case, a backup from the previous day was luckily available. In the database, menus reside in a variety of post, metadata, and taxonomy tables. Finding and exporting everything necessary from the backup is a little tricky, so here are some notes to help. Note this is using mysqldump to export from the backup, but you should be able to use this as a reference for raw queries, other databases, etc.

# export all posts of type nav_menu_item

mysqldump -t -u USERNAME -p PASSWORD DB_NAME wp_posts --where "post_type='nav_menu_item'" --single-transaction

# export all postmeta from the results of the previous posts query

mysqldump -t -u USERNAME -p PASSWORD DB_NAME wp_postmeta --where "post_id in (select ID from wp_posts where post_type='nav_menu_item')" --single-transaction

# export all relevant taxonomies/terms/relationships

mysqldump -t -u USERNAME -p PASSWORD DB_NAME wp_term_taxonomy --where "taxonomy='nav_menu'" --single-transaction

mysqldump -t -u USERNAME -p PASSWORD DB_NAME wp_terms --where "term_id in (select term_id from wp_term_taxonomy where taxonomy='nav_menu')" --single-transaction

mysqldump -t -u USERNAME -p PASSWORD DB_NAME wp_term_relationships --where "object_id in (select ID from wp_posts where post_type='nav_menu_item')" --single-transaction

The above will generate SQL to import in your production database and recreate the menus. But one thing it does not currently restore: assignments of menus to specific template layout positions. I think this is buried in wp_options rows that are template-specific, but I'm not positive. However, restoring the layout assignments are the easy part, so it's not a massive deal to just do it manually.