How to Update Your PHP Version in WordPress

For an app that’s straightforward to use, WordPress has a lot of moving parts. It’s a complex Content Management System (CMS), and as such, it needs to be maintained on a regular basis. Updating your PHP version in WordPress is a task you may not have considered before.

Although hosting providers provide automated options to update your PHP version, it’s a good idea to learn the steps too. This lets you carry out updates on your time and terms, rather than leaving it in the hands of your host.

Given this, the following post will show you how to update your PHP version in WordPress. First, let’s give you more information on how WordPress and PHP intertwine.

The Relationship Between PHP and WordPress

As we noted, WordPress is based on lots of moving parts. These ‘cogs’ combine to provide the features and functionality you’re used to. In addition, while WordPress is a modern way of publishing websites, it’s built on top of old (yet popular) tech.

PHP is what’s known as a ‘server-side language’. In other words, it’s used to make changes to the server rather than the front end of a website. For developers, PHP is used to give a website dynamic functionality, rather than flash graphics (such as JavaScript).

The majority of WordPress is coded with PHP, and this is also found on your server. Like any other software, updating this will give you security and performance boosts, and potential new features to work with. We’ll talk more about this next.

Why You Should Update Your PHP Version in WordPress

Updating your PHP version on the server comes with the same benefits it provides to your other software. For example:

  • An update could patch bugs found since the last release.
  • Updates will sometimes fix security issues, including large-scale vulnerabilities.
  • More often, an update will come with a number of new features, performance boosts, and new security provisions.

On the whole, updating is often wise. Though, this brings up how you know when an update is available. We’ll look at this in the next section.

How to Check Your Current PHP Version

Before you dig into your host to check for PHP updates, you’ll want to know if one is available. Often, you’ll have an email from your host noting that there will be an update incoming. There may be any of the following signs:

  • Your host could write a blog post discussing an upcoming update.
  • There could be a newsletter talking about the PHP update.
  • You might get a notification in your hosting dashboard telling you about planned maintenance.

For minor updates, there may be none of these notifiers. Often though, you’ll get lots of advance warning of any major updates from your host.

To check your current PHP version, you’ll want to access your host. It will be different depending on your host and your plan. Often, there will be a clear option for managing your PHP version:

php version wordpress

On this screen, you’ll see the current PHP version. In simple terms, this is what your server is running:

php version panel

We’ll move on to how to update your PHP version later. First, we’ll offer some tips for a safe update.

What You’ll Need to Update Your PHP Version

As with any permanent change to your site, there are a few aspects to have in place before you start. The good news is you don’t need lots of technical knowledge to get the job done:

  • Check your compatibility. Most PHP upgrades will be fine, as a host won’t let you make updates that will compromise your site. Still, it’s worth noting whether your site is compatible with the new PHP version before continuing.
  • Update your core software. The most current WordPress core update is the one to use when updating PHP. This will have been developed with new PHP versions in mind, so the most current will be the best option.
  • Update your themes and plugins. Older versions of your themes and plugins will support newer versions of PHP, much like your core WordPress files.
  • Create a clean, current backup. If the worst happens, you’ll be grateful for a backup to help you restore your site back to normal.

Once you have these in place, everything will be set to update your PHP version in WordPress.

How to Update Your PHP Version in WordPress

If you’ve followed along so far, you’ll be at a screen noting your current PHP version, with a few other options. If not, you’ll need to access the screen that tells you your current PHP version. This should also offer some choices of version to update to.

Lots of hosts have different options to choose from here. Still, the core functionality – updating your PHP version – will be in place.

If the host is super-conscious about security, there will be a small subset of PHP version to choose from:

php drop down

These will be based on what the host supports, and what it deems to be stable. There may also be some ‘bleeding edge’ versions of PHP depending on your host. This means you’ll have early access versions of PHP, but for most sites they’re not to be used.

Our advice is to check the documentation, blog posts, and newsletters you’ve seen to determine what version of PHP you should upgrade to. If you’re still struggling, your host will be able to assist through its support channels.

To carry out the update, click the relevant button. It could be Change PHP Version, Update, Okay, or another affirmation. Regardless, you’ll often find updating your PHP version takes a button click.

Wrapping Up

You get lots of notifications when WordPress elements such as its core files, themes, and plugins need an upgrade. When it comes to PHP though, you might not have the same help. This is because PHP is more of a deliberate task to carry out for a site owner. Hosts will often automate the update for you, based on its own judgement on security and stability.

Still, you can do this yourself, and the good news is it’s simple. Most hosts will offer a dedicated screen, which lets you select a new PHP version, and it takes one click to upgrade.

Do you need to upgrade your PHP version, and will this post help you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Author Bio:

“Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses.

When he’s not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.”

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