Check and Update Your PHP Version: A Guide

The Importance of Updating Your WordPress Site’s PHP Version

Websites are built on code, and modern sites use multiple programming languages like JavaScript and CSS for scripts and design elements. However, there is another highly important programming language that runs on a website’s server: PHP. If you’re loading or hosting a WordPress site, PHP is responsible for almost everything on the front and back end.

What is PHP?

PHP is a popular programming language used to create websites. It’s an open-source language that’s free to use, just like WordPress. PHP is server-side, meaning it gets processed on whatever machine is using a hard drive that stores the PHP code. This differs from client-side languages, such as JavaScript, that display the work they do on a user’s internet browser.

Why Updating Your WordPress Site’s PHP Version is Important

PHP is inextricable from your WordPress site and its performance. It’s responsible for pulling the right data from your database, packing it up in CSS and HTML, and rendering a complete website visible from your users’ internet browsers. In other words, if PHP slows down, so does everything else.

Additionally, using old versions of PHP can compromise your site’s security to vulnerabilities and cybersecurity threats. As PHP improves over time, it becomes much faster and more secure. According to WordPress’s official recommendation, you’ll want your server to at least be running PHP 7.4 so that you can run the current version of WordPress. At the time of this article’s writing, you’ll have the greatest speed and security if you’re running PHP 8.1 on your server.

How to Check Your WordPress Site PHP Version

There are several options at your disposal when it comes to checking your WordPress site’s PHP version. You can view it in WordPress’s Site Health section, check with your hosting provider, or use a troubleshooting plugin like WP Tools.

How to Update Your PHP Version for WordPress

Before you upgrade your PHP version, first things first. Check to see what the latest compatible version of PHP is for WordPress. Backup your WordPress site in case you run into incompatibilities between your site’s existing code and the version of PHP that you’re upgrading to.

Once you’ve created your local copy and finished backing up your site, you can also use the free PHP Compatibility Checker WordPress plugin to verify that you have no compatibility issues. Install the plugin and scan for potential errors and warnings, then update or possibly replace your incompatible themes or plugins.

To actually upgrade your version of PHP, log into your hosting provider’s administrator dashboard. For WP Engine users, you’ll see a warning symbol next to your PHP version if there is an update available. Just click to open a popup window and proceed with your PHP upgrade. Alternatively, your admin dashboard might have a menu item called something similar to ‘PHP Version Manager,’ after which you can go to the location of your website and choose the PHP version you want to run.

Note: Because PHP is used on your server, which is typically owned and managed by your hosting company, they are the ones who decide when a PHP update will be available to you. This is a good thing though since trusted WordPress hosts will test for stability and compatibility before upgrading their server PHP and enabling update options for their customers.

In conclusion, PHP is essential to keeping all the pieces of your WordPress site together, and it’s crucial that you keep your PHP version updated. Doing so will provide you with greater site security and speed, ensuring that your site continues to perform optimally into the future.

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