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Why You Need to Upgrade Your WordPress PHP to Version 8

Rohan Timalsina

June 19, 2024 - TuxCare expert team

  • PHP 7.4, the most popular PHP 7 version, stopped receiving security updates after the end of life on November 28, 2022.
  • Running WordPress websites on outdated PHP versions like 7.4 or older poses a significant security risk.
  • Upgrading the WordPress PHP version is a straightforward process, but requires careful planning to avoid disruptions.

Upgrading the PHP version of your WordPress site is required for maintaining security, performance, and compatibility. When a PHP version reaches its end-of-life (EOL), it no longer receives official support, including security updates and bug fixes. This may leave your website vulnerable to potential exploits and malware. By moving to PHP 8, you protect your WordPress site from security vulnerabilities, enhance performance, and gain access to the latest features and optimizations. 

In this article, we’ll explore the risks of ignoring a WordPress PHP update and discuss why upgrading to PHP 8 is essential for maintaining a secure online presence.

Ready to see if your WordPress site needs a PHP update? Let’s find out together!


How To Check PHP Version in WordPress


There are multiple ways to identify your current PHP version used in WordPress. Here, we will use the easiest one, which is using the default WordPress tool.


  1. Login to your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Navigate to Tools > Site Health.
  3. Click on the Info tab.
  4. Under the Server section, locate the PHP version.


If your PHP version is 8.1 or higher, you’re good for now! However, if it’s lower than 8.1 (such as 8.0, 7.x, or 5.x), your website is on an outdated and insecure PHP version. You might also see “PHP Update Required” warnings within your Dashboard or Site Health prompting you to update PHP.

At the time of writing, the supported PHP versions are PHP 8.1, 8.2, and 8.3. PHP 8.0 reached the end of life on November 26, 2023. Find more information here.


Risks of Not Upgrading Your WordPress PHP


Is upgrading the WordPress PHP version so crucial? Let’s explore some potential risks of sticking with outdated PHP versions:


Increased Security Vulnerabilities


PHP 7.4 is the most widely used PHP version and many websites still run on it. However, after the end of life on November 28, 2022,  PHP 7.4 stopped receiving updates from the PHP Foundation. Without ongoing security updates, new vulnerabilities in outdated PHP go unfixed. This significantly increases the risk of attackers exploiting these weaknesses to compromise your website. If exploited, attackers can gain access to your website, steal sensitive data, or even inject malicious code. 

WordPress still supports the PHP 7.4 version, but it does not mean it is safe to use it without any security support. Websites running on PHP 7.4 or any other unsupported versions are at significant risk of cyberattacks. Don’t let your website become vulnerable!


Compatibility Issues


As PHP evolves, so does WordPress to maintain compatibility with the latest PHP versions. A new PHP version may include bug fixes and security patches, performance optimizations, additional features, or improvements. Similarly, themes and plugins also receive PHP updates to leverage these benefits. These updates often require compatibility with the latest PHP version.

By clinging to older versions, you risk running into compatibility issues down the line. This can lead to broken features, unexpected errors, and a frustrating user experience for both you and your website visitors. Upgrading to PHP 8 ensures compatibility with the latest web technologies and standards.


Performance Issues


Newer PHP versions are often optimized for speed and performance. This results in a faster website, which is crucial for user experience and search engine rankings. By not upgrading to PHP 8, you could be missing out on these improvements. A slow website is one of the factors that lead to a higher bounce rate and decreased user engagement.


Access to New Features


PHP 8 introduces new, exciting features and improvements that are not available in PHP 7.4. By staying on an outdated version, you’ll miss out on these advancements and potentially limit the functionality of your website.


When Should You Not Upgrade WordPress PHP


While upgrading to PHP 8 brings security benefits, incompatibility with your existing plugins and themes can cause trouble. If your WordPress website uses popular themes and plugins, you will likely find PHP 8-compatible versions. However, if you have custom themes and plugins written on older PHP versions, it may require a lot of code rewriting to ensure they work correctly in PHP 8.

Older plugins and themes that are no longer maintained by their developers often do not support newer PHP versions. If you have installed such components, updating or replacing them can be a complex task, especially for sites with heavily customized features. In some cases, finding suitable replacements might not even be an option, forcing website owners to stick with outdated PHP versions. This maintains compatibility with existing plugins and themes but exposes the website to security risks due to the lack of ongoing security updates in older PHP versions.

All active themes and plugins on the website should support PHP 8.x versions. Otherwise, a WordPress PHP update might cause errors, break the site design and functionality, or even make your site completely inaccessible. Most developers mention compatibility on their websites or within the plugin/theme description itself. If possible, reach out to the developer of your custom theme or plugin to see if they offer a PHP 8.x compatible version.


PHP Extended Support for WordPress


In case upgrading WordPress PHP is not feasible, you can utilize TuxCare’s Extended Lifecycle Support (ELS) for PHP to maintain the security and stability of your WordPress websites. ELS for PHP offers critical security patches for older PHP versions that are no longer officially supported. This helps protect your WordPress site from PHP vulnerabilities and potential cyberattacks, ensuring that your sensitive data remains safe. 

With PHP ELS, you can continue using your existing themes and plugins without worrying about compatibility issues. This support ensures your site remains functional and stable while benefiting from essential security updates. Furthermore, it provides additional time to plan and execute a smooth transition to a newer PHP version. It allows you to test and update your themes and plugins without the pressure of immediate security concerns, ensuring a seamless upgrade process when you’re ready.


Final Thoughts


Upgrading your WordPress website to PHP 8 is no longer optional; it’s essential for the security and smooth operation of your website. Many web hosting providers offer tools to help you easily upgrade your WordPress PHP version. However, directly upgrading PHP on your live site can cause problems if your themes or plugins are not compatible with the new version. You can create a staging site and test the new PHP version there first. This allows you to identify and fix any compatibility issues without affecting your live website.

Send queries to a TuxCare security expert to learn more about securing WordPress websites running on an outdated PHP version.

Why You Need to Upgrade Your WordPress PHP to Version 8
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Why You Need to Upgrade Your WordPress PHP to Version 8
Discover the risks of not upgrading your WordPress PHP. Learn how outdated PHP versions can jeopardize your site's security and performance.
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