update php in wordpress

How & Why to Update PHP in WordPress

By in Beginners Guide

If I told you that your website could run faster than it ever has before while also being more secure, what would you say?

I know I’d be ecstatic!

It’s hard to beat faster speeds and better security with the press of a button.

To some people, PHP is a scary thing to update because it’s a programming language. It’s actually what builds a lot of your WordPress website. 

Updating something sensitive like this can be a recipe for disaster if you’re not careful. Luckily for us, most WordPress hosts make this a breeze, so have no fear!

If your current web host doesn’t let you update PHP easily, it could cause problems. It could decrease your site’s load times and increase the number of security risks on your site. That’s why you should always know when it’s a good time to switch web hosts.

If your web host doesn’t offer a low-risk method of updating your PHP, then here are the best WordPress hosting providers to choose from instead.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to update PHP on your WordPress website. Before I show you how, I’ll fill you in on what this small improvement could do for your WordPress website.

Why Update WordPress PHP

There are three main benefits you get from updating your website PHP:

  1. Load Times – The main goal of developers, when updating a programming language like PHP, is to increase the speed and add features. Speed is always first. In some cases, this can make your website almost twice as fast.
  2. Security – PHP, like most programming languages, is open source. This means that anyone can look under the hood and see what makes it tick. This also means they can find out what is most natural to exploit. That’s why having a reputable security plugin is so important.
  3. SEO – One of Google’s ranking factors is website load time. If your site is lightning quick, then you’ll rank higher in search results.

I don’t know about you, but those seem like some pretty incredible benefits just for updating your site’s PHP.

Before Updating PHP for WordPress

Something you’ll want to do before updating your site PHP is back your WordPress site up.

A good rule of thumb is anytime you’re updating something on your site, you should back it up. Doing this prevents you from losing anything if something goes wrong during the update.

You know how technology is, always one step forward and two steps back. It pays to be careful!

The most popular way to back up your WordPress site is with a plugin. But finding a good backup plugin can be difficult. I’d suggest checking out these 8 best backup WordPress plugins.

How to Update Your WordPress PHP

Now that we’ve backed up our WordPress site, it’s time to update the PHP.

First, you’ll want to go to your hosting site and log into your account. Next, find the dashboard for your WordPress site you’d like to update the PHP on.

For me, this is SiteGround.

siteground dashboard

Next, find your account section. This is on the top tab for me, where it says “My Accounts.”

siteground my account page

From here, it gets a little more tricky. We want to get to our cPanel.

Go to “Information & Settings.” This is where the cPanel access link is for me.

If you can’t find your website’s cPanel, then I’d suggest Googling it.

What I’d Google is something like “how to get to siteground cpanel.”

Except replace SiteGround with whatever web host you’re using. Doing this always yields the results you’re looking for.

Click the button that says, “Access cPanel.”

This should take you to a screen that looks like this:

siteground cPanel

It may look a bit different depending on your web host. What’s important is that you’ve made it to your cPanel for your site through your web host.

While scrolling down, look for something that says “software” or some variation.

For me, this is a heading that houses icons related to software.

software and PHP version manager

In here, you’ll see something that says “PHP Version Manager.” Click on it. You should see a page that looks like this:

PHP version manager

What we are looking for is the public_html link.

Don’t pay any attention to the other files in here. We do not need to change them in this tutorial.

Click on the public_html link.

Some sites, like SiteGround, actually manage updating your PHP manually for all the sites that want it.

current PHP version

As you’ll notice, the Managed PHP version (currently PHP 7.1) is what’s filled in currently.

PHP 7.4.2 is the latest version out at the moment. This means SiteGround is updating our PHP when they’re ready. To change this so we can take advantage of the latest and greatest version of PHP, we need to check 7.4.2. 

update PHP version

The new warning that pops up is just telling us that our PHP version won’t update automatically when a new one comes out. We have to come back and update it manually in the same way we are now. That’s what we want.

Then click the “Save” button.

Your changes now begin going into effect. This could take a bit of time.

PHP version updated

Your website PHP is now running PHP version 7.4.2 and should be faster and more secure than ever.

Keeping up to Date

It’s common for a web host to start supporting the newest version of PHP shortly after its release. It’s a good practice to check about once a month to see what’s the newest version of PHP supported by your web host.

For example, if a month from now I check and PHP 7.5.0 is out, then I can upgrade to that if I’d like. 

Try to avoid forgetting about it at all costs. If a year from now you remember and check, then you’re going to be pretty far behind. This means you’re lucky your site hasn’t been the subject of an attack from a hacker. It also could mean that it’s prolonged because it’s running on a much older version of PHP from the previous year.

If you don’t think you’ll remember for a long time, then stick with the managed option your web host offers. You can always revert your PHP to what it was the same way you updated it, if you change your mind.

If you don’t have a WordPress website yet then this beginner’s guide to making a WordPress website is a great first step for you.

Have you ever updated your WordPress site’s PHP version? Or do you rely on your web host to do it for you? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

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