Most recent experimental work on H 2 desorption from the monohydride Si(100) surface seems to point to a pairwise desorption mechanism involving the concerted desorption of two hydrogen atoms on different Si atoms of a single dimer. Using ab initio SCF and CI theory and a cluster model of the surface, the present work finds that the lowest energy pathway is symmetric rather than asymmetric. The desorption energy barrier is calculated to be 3.7 eV. Compared with an experimental value of 2.6 eV, the large barrier suggests that this direct desorption mechanism is not applicable. A multi-step desorption mechanism which involves a delocalized process in the formation of dihydride SiH 2 and a localized desorption of H 2 is proposed and is shown to explain the experimental observations.