Upgrading PHP Versions on WordPress: A Technical Guide

Your WordPress website relies on a variety of technologies to function efficiently. One of the crucial components is the PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) version it runs on. PHP powers the server-side aspects of your site, handling dynamic content, processing forms, and more. Keeping your PHP version up-to-date is essential for security, performance, and compatibility. In this comprehensive technical guide, we’ll delve into the process of upgrading PHP versions on WordPress site, ensuring that your web presence remains robust, secure, and fully optimized.

Why Update PHP?

1. Security

Older PHP versions become vulnerable to security exploits over time. Running outdated PHP makes your site an attractive target for hackers. Regularly updating to the latest PHP version helps to protect your site from potential threats. With each new PHP release, security enhancements are introduced, addressing vulnerabilities identified in previous versions. By keeping your PHP version current, you benefit from the latest security patches and ensure your site’s robust defense against evolving threats.

2. Performance

Each PHP release brings performance improvements, optimizing code execution. Updating PHP ensures that your site runs more efficiently, resulting in faster loading times and an improved user experience. With the advancements in PHP, your website’s scripts can execute more quickly, delivering content to your visitors with reduced latency. This results in a snappier and more responsive website that keeps users engaged and satisfied.

3. Compatibility

As the PHP language evolves, plugins and themes may update their code to be compatible with newer versions. Running an outdated PHP version may result in incompatibility issues with these elements, causing your website to break. To ensure that your WordPress site functions seamlessly and is capable of supporting the latest features and functionalities, updating PHP is imperative. By staying current, you guarantee that your site remains compatible with the ever-evolving landscape of WordPress themes and plugins.

How to Check Your Current PHP Version

Before you proceed with the update, you need to determine your site’s current PHP version. You can do this in two ways:

1. WordPress Dashboard

  1. Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard.
  2. Navigate to “Tools” and select “Site Health.”
  3. Under the “Site” tab, you’ll find information about your server and PHP version.

2. CPanel or Hosting Control Panel

  1. Log in to your hosting control panel (e.g., cPanel).
  2. Look for the “PHP Selector” or “Select PHP Version” option.
  3. There, you can see and change your PHP version.

Knowing your current PHP version is essential for determining whether an update is necessary and what version you should be aiming for.

Preparing for the PHP Update

1. Backup Your Website

Before any major changes, it’s essential to create a full backup of your website. This includes both your site’s files and the associated database. In case anything goes wrong during the update, having a backup allows you to restore your site to its previous state. Reliable backup solutions and plugins are available for WordPress, ensuring that your data is safeguarded.

2. Check Compatibility

Before updating PHP, ensure that your current WordPress version, plugins, and themes are compatible with the PHP version you plan to upgrade to. Compatibility issues can lead to errors, broken functionality, or even a non-operational site. Checking compatibility can save you from unexpected issues post-update. WordPress releases often include notes about PHP compatibility, so be sure to check these before proceeding with the update.

3. Review Server Requirements

Different PHP versions have varying server requirements. Before updating, it’s important to verify that your hosting environment supports the PHP version you intend to switch to. Hosting providers typically offer documentation detailing the supported PHP versions. Confirm that your server is equipped to handle the new PHP version without issues.

upgrading PHP versions on WordPress

The process of updating PHP on your WordPress site may vary depending on your hosting environment. Here, we’ll discuss common methods:

1. Hosting Control Panel (cPanel)

If your hosting provider uses cPanel or a similar control panel, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your hosting control panel.
  2. Look for the “Select PHP Version” or “PHP Selector” option.
  3. You’ll see a list of available PHP versions. Choose the latest stable version.
  4. Save your selection.

cPanel simplifies the process of updating PHP by allowing you to switch to a different version seamlessly. The availability of PHP versions may depend on your hosting provider, so be sure to check which versions are offered.

2. .htaccess File

If you have access to your site’s .htaccess file, you can specify the PHP version using the following code:

# Use PHP 7.4
AddHandler application/x-httpd-php74 .php

Replace “7.4” with your desired PHP version. Ensure that your hosting environment supports this method, and always back up your .htaccess file before making changes. Editing the .htaccess file allows you to set your desired PHP version for your site directly. However, it’s important to note that not all hosting providers permit this method.

3. Contact Your Hosting Provider

If you’re unsure about the process or don’t have access to certain settings, contact your hosting provider’s support team. They can assist you with the PHP update and ensure a smooth transition. Hosting support teams are well-equipped to guide you through the process, and they can address any hosting-specific considerations you may encounter.

Post-Update Testing

After updating PHP, it’s essential to thoroughly test your website to identify any issues. Here’s a checklist to help you ensure that everything is functioning correctly:

  1. Check Frontend: Test your website’s front-end features, including navigation, forms, and interactivity. Ensure that your site’s layout remains intact and that all visual elements are rendering correctly.
  2. Test Plugins: Verify that all your installed plugins are working as expected. Test their functionality and look out for any error messages or issues that may arise.
  3. Theme Compatibility: Ensure your theme is fully compatible with the updated PHP version. Test different aspects of your theme, including its layout, custom features, and styling.
  4. Admin Dashboard: Check the WordPress admin dashboard for any error messages or issues. Ensure that you can perform administrative tasks without any hitches.
  5. Website Speed: Assess the speed and performance of your site to confirm that it’s improved with the new PHP version. Check the load times of your pages and ensure that your site is responsive and swift in delivering content.
  6. Security: Confirm that your website remains secure by running security checks and monitoring for any unusual activity. Your website’s security is paramount, and an update should not compromise it.
  7. Database Connection: Ensure that your website is properly connected to the database. In some cases, updating PHP can disrupt the connection. Check that your database credentials are correctly configured in your site’s wp-config.php file.
  8. Memory Limit: Some PHP versions may require more memory. If you encounter memory limit errors or issues related to PHP’s memory usage, you can increase the memory allocation in your site’s wp-config.php file.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting: Upgrading PHP Versions on WordPress

While updating PHP is generally straightforward, you may encounter some common issues:

  1. Plugin or Theme Incompatibility: Some plugins or themes may not be compatible with the new PHP version. In such cases, you may need to update the plugin or theme or find alternatives that are compatible. Always keep your plugins and themes up-to-date to ensure compatibility with the latest PHP versions.
  2. White Screen of Death (WSOD): If your site displays a white screen or error message after the PHP update, it’s likely due to a compatibility issue or a critical error. Access your site’s error logs or debug mode to diagnose the problem. The WSOD can be caused by a variety of issues, including syntax errors, memory limits, and plugin conflicts.
  3. Database Connection Errors: Updating PHP can sometimes disrupt the connection to your database. Ensure that your database credentials are correctly configured in your site’s wp-config.php file. Make sure you have the correct database host, username, password, and database name specified.
  4. Memory Limit Exhaustion: Some PHP versions may require more memory to operate efficiently. If you encounter memory limit errors, increase the memory allocation in your site’s wp-config.php file. You can do this by adding the following line to your wp-config.php file:
define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');

This line sets the memory limit to 256 megabytes, but you can adjust the value as needed.

Monitoring and Ongoing Maintenance

After updating PHP, continue to monitor your site for any issues or compatibility problems. Regularly review your website’s performance, security, and functionality to ensure everything remains in excellent working order.

It’s also important to keep your WordPress core, plugins, and themes up-to-date, as developers often release updates to ensure compatibility with newer PHP versions. Staying on top of these updates will help maintain the health and security of your site.


Updating PHP on your WordPress site is a vital task for maintaining security, performance, and compatibility. With the steps outlined in this comprehensive technical guide, you can ensure that your website remains in top shape. Remember to back up your site, check compatibility, and test thoroughly after the update to address any issues promptly.

PHP evolves, and so should your website. By staying up-to-date, you can enjoy a secure, efficient, and fully functioning WordPress site that provides an exceptional experience for your visitors. A well-maintained website is not only more secure but also capable of taking full advantage of the latest features and optimizations. Make updating PHP a regular part of your site’s maintenance routine, and your WordPress website will continue to thrive in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

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