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The Urgency of Updating Outdated PHP Version in WordPress

Rohan Timalsina

May 20, 2024 - TuxCare expert team

  • Outdated PHP versions lack security patches, compromising site security.
  • Upgrading PHP ensures better performance, compatibility, and security, essential for a stable and reliable WordPress site.
  • Upgrading PHP can sometimes introduce compatibility issues with older themes and plugins, leading to errors and malfunctions.

WordPress relies on PHP, a powerful server-side language, to function. Just like any other programming language, PHP receives updates that introduce new features, improve performance, and most importantly, patch security vulnerabilities. Every year a new PHP version gets released with two years of active support and an additional one year of security support for critical fixes only. Once this period ends, the PHP version reaches its “End-of-Life” (EOL) period and no longer receives essential security updates. This makes websites running on outdated PHP versions vulnerable to emerging security threats.

To keep up with evolving PHP, WordPress needs to maintain compatibility with the latest PHP versions, and it does. Upgrading PHP is highly recommended for security and performance benefits. However, the main issues while upgrading your PHP version are compatibility issues with older themes and plugins. These issues might cause specific features to malfunction or generate errors in the admin dashboard.


Outdated PHP Warning in WordPress


If you’ve been managing an old WordPress site, chances are you’ve encountered the warning: “PHP Update Required.” This warning isn’t just a nagging suggestion; it’s a flashing red security light. Ignoring PHP updates can leave your site susceptible to various security threats, potentially compromising site security.


Why Upgrading PHP Matters


While your website may continue to run, using an end-of-life PHP version in WordPress poses significant risks. Here’s a breakdown of the risks associated with outdated PHP:

Security: Older PHP versions become prime targets for hackers. Security vulnerabilities are no secret – they’re well-documented and attackers are actively trying to exploit them. You can find every PHP vulnerability discovered until now in the National Vulnerability Database. Upgrading to the latest PHP version is like putting a security guard on your website. It ensures you have the latest patches in place, making it much harder for hackers to break in and steal your data or disrupt your site.

Performance: New PHP versions aren’t just about security; they’re also packed with performance improvements. Upgrading can mean faster page load times for your visitors, ensuring that your WordPress site runs smoothly and efficiently. This not only enhances the user experience but also improves your search engine ranking (since speed is a factor).

Compatibility: Themes and plugins are updated frequently to leverage the latest PHP features and functionalities. Using an out-of-date version of PHP might cause some plugins or themes to become incompatible, which can cause errors, malfunctions, or even site outages.

Support: Staying on a supported PHP version ensures that you have access to ongoing support and assistance from both the PHP community and WordPress developers. If you encounter issues or need guidance, running the latest PHP version increases the likelihood of receiving timely and effective support.


How to Fix Outdated PHP Issue


PHP update warnings should be taken seriously, and there are mainly two options to mitigate the risks of outdated PHP versions.


Upgrade Your PHP Version


Upgrading to the latest stable version of PHP is generally the recommended course of action for most users. It gives you access to the latest security patches, improved performance, and compatibility with the newest WordPress features.

Many hosting providers offer multiple PHP versions and have a straightforward process to switch between them seamlessly. However, it’s crucial to ensure compatibility with your existing WordPress theme and plugins before upgrading. Popular themes and plugins usually include compatibility information in their documentation or support forums.

Additionally, it is essential to create a backup of your website before upgrading. This ensures that you can quickly restore your site in case anything goes wrong after the update process.


PHP Extended Support


While upgrading to the latest PHP version is ideal, there may be situations where it’s not immediately feasible due to compatibility concerns. If your theme and plugins are no longer maintained and use older PHP versions, then upgrading the PHP version may throw errors, breaking the site design and functionality. 

In such cases, you can consider utilizing extended support. TuxCare offers Extended Lifecycle Support (ELS) for end-of-life PHP versions, such as PHP 5.x to 7.x. This means you can continue using outdated PHP versions while TuxCare takes care of all security vulnerabilities. This can give you extra time to carefully plan and execute your migration to a newer, supported PHP version.


Final Thoughts


Ignoring the PHP updates warning creates a security risk and can hinder the performance and functionality of your website. Upgrading to the latest supported PHP version is the most secure and future-proof solution. But if you’re worried about compatibility issues with your themes or plugins, you can opt for TuxCare’s PHP ELS.

Send questions to a TuxCare security expert to find out the cost and time to secure your outdated PHP workloads.

The Urgency of Updating Outdated PHP Version in WordPress
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The Urgency of Updating Outdated PHP Version in WordPress
Discover the risks of using outdated PHP versions in WordPress. Learn why updates are crucial for security, performance, and compatibility.
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