How to Update the PHP Version of Your WordPress Site 

How to Update the PHP Version of Your WordPress Site

WordPress operates using PHP, a programming language responsible for processing data required to showcase your website.

While PHP is not typically visible to the average user, it plays a critical role in maintaining your WordPress site’s functionality. Keeping your PHP version up to date is essential for ensuring your site runs securely and efficiently.

As you may be aware, PHP has transitioned to a predictable release schedule. Each new version is actively supported for two years, with an additional year for critical security updates. We are aligning with this schedule to ensure that your WordPress sites remain fast and secure. This means that we will discontinue support for PHP versions that have reached their end-of-life (EOL). This article will explore the significance of updating PHP in WordPress and provide various methods to accomplish this task.


Why Update the PHP Version of Your WordPress Site?

Similar to how you upgrade WordPress to safeguard against security vulnerabilities, updating PHP is equally important. Furthermore, upgrading PHP typically leads to a notable improvement in speed, as demonstrated by our PHP benchmark reports.

Security: Older PHP versions may have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Updating to the latest PHP version ensures that your site is protected against known security threats.

Performance: Newer PHP versions are generally faster and more efficient, which can lead to improved website performance. This means faster page load times and a better user experience.

Compatibility: As WordPress and its plugins and themes evolve, they may require newer PHP features. Updating your PHP version ensures that your site remains compatible with the latest WordPress updates and plugins.

Support: Older PHP versions are no longer supported by the PHP development team, which means they no longer receive bug fixes or security updates. Updating to a supported version ensures that you have access to ongoing support and updates.

Future-Proofing: By keeping your PHP version up to date, you are future-proofing your site against potential compatibility issues and security vulnerabilities that may arise in older versions.

Updating the PHP version of your WordPress site is essential for security, performance, compatibility, support, and future-proofing. Contact Smart Web Ninja today to ensure your site is running on the latest PHP version.

How to Update the PHP Version of Your WordPress Site


What If My Site Breaks?

Challenges arising from updating PHP versions often occur due to code on your site using outdated functions that newer PHP versions no longer support. The source of this issue is often a plugin or an active theme. Our guide below provides detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to troubleshoot and address this problem.


How to Update PHP Versions in WordPress

The process of testing your WordPress site for compatibility before updating PHP versions. For many users, this process should not result in any downtime and will require minimal effort.

However, some users may need to conduct additional testing, troubleshooting, or even enlist the help of a WordPress developer to ensure compatibility.

Web Developer working on the code of a program or website

If you prefer to update the PHP version on your live WordPress site immediately, you can proceed to Step 5. Nevertheless, we strongly advise following all the steps below to ensure everything functions correctly, especially if you are using an older version like PHP 7.4.

  1. Create a Staging Site
  2. Change PHP Engine
  3. Test Site, Plugins, Theme
  4. Push Staging to Live
  5. Update PHP on the Live Site


Step 1 – Create a Staging Site

The initial step is to create a staging site, a separate environment from your live site. This staging site will enable you to safely test newer PHP versions without affecting your live website.

To create a staging site, you can use your hosting provider’s staging feature, if available, or manually create a copy of your site in a subdomain or subdirectory of your hosting account. Once the staging site is set up, you can proceed with testing the new PHP version.


Step 2 – Update PHP Version for WordPress

To update the PHP version of your WordPress site, navigate to the “Sites” section and select the specific site you want to modify. Then, access the “Tools” tab and locate the “PHP Engine” section. Click on the “Modify” button and choose your desired PHP version from the drop-down menu.

If you wish to test a new PHP version, ensure you have selected your WordPress staging environment instead of your live environment. We recommend starting with a PHP version that is one step higher than your current installation.

The PHP version change process typically lasts around three minutes. During this process, the PHP engine is restarted, causing a brief downtime of a few seconds for your WordPress backend only. Visitors to your site will not experience any downtime.

While the PHP version is being updated, you can move away from the page mentioned above. However, certain actions, such as cache management, will be unavailable until the new engine is activated. A notification will be displayed in the dashboard once the change is complete.


Step 3 – Test Your Site, Plugins, Theme

Once you have set up a staging site running on the latest PHP version (or your desired version), the next step is to test its functionality. Begin by navigating through your WordPress site to identify any potential issues.

If you encounter compatibility problems, such as a 500 error or a white screen of death, it may be due to an incompatible plugin or theme. To troubleshoot, start by deactivating all third-party plugins and then reactivating them one by one. Since you are working on a staging site, there is no risk of disrupting your live site during this process.

To deactivate all plugins, go to the Plugins screen in your WordPress dashboard, select all plugins, choose Deactivate from the Bulk Actions drop-down menu, and click Apply.

WordPress Plugin Bulk Deactivation Screen

WordPress Plugin Bulk Deactivation Screen

You can reactivate them individually, testing your WordPress site after each activation to identify any potential problems. If you can’t access your WordPress dashboard due to an error, you can disable plugins via FTP.

You can apply the same method to test your WordPress theme. Temporarily switch to the default WordPress theme, like Twenty Nineteen, to see if the issue persists.


Step 4 – Push Staging to Live

After completing your PHP testing, if you’ve made any adjustments to plugins or themes, you can either push the staging site changes to the live site or manually implement the same changes on the live site.

For those who have made extensive modifications in staging to ensure compatibility with a newer PHP version, utilizing the push-to-live feature can significantly streamline the process and save time.

To use this feature, ensure that your staging environment is selected, and then simply click the Push Environment button.


Step 5 – Update PHP on Your Live Site

Once your site is prepared for a PHP update, changing the PHP version on your live site is a straightforward process, similar to the steps outlined in Step 2 (Tools > PHP Engine > Modify > select your desired PHP version).


Disadvantages of Using Older PHP Versions on WordPress

All PHP versions preceding 8.0 have reached their end of life. It is strongly recommended to upgrade to the latest version to avoid exposing your website to unaddressed security vulnerabilities. Even PHP 8.3 will reach its end of life on 23 Nov 2025.

Why take the chance with your website’s security when you can easily update to the latest PHP version and benefit from the latest improvements and features?

Additionally, it’s crucial to choose a secure WordPress hosting provider to protect your sites from malicious traffic, DDoS attacks, and malware.

Using older PHP versions not only poses security risks but also impacts your website’s performance.

How to Update the PHP Version of Your WordPress Site

Who would sacrifice performance in today’s competitive environment, where everyone is striving to optimize their site’s performance and capture their users’ attention?

Enhance your website’s security and performance by discontinuing the use of outdated PHP versions. Upgrade your WordPress website’s PHP version to 8.3 for maximum safety and performance.

Upgrade your WordPress website’s PHP version now to stay secure and enhance performance! Contact Smart Web Ninja for expert guidance.