Upgrading your WordPress site to the latest PHP version

Overview

PHP versions below 7.3 have been removed from the DreamHost panel. It's highly recommended that you always upgrade to a recent version as older versions will soon be removed completely from all DreamHost servers.

PHP 8 offers several improvements over earlier versions. You can read more about those here:

A major issue with older versions is that they consume more memory than necessary and run slower than newer versions.

The latest WordPress core software releases have been compatible with PHP 7 and later for a few years now. Upgrading to PHP 8 is a quick and easy way to get more performance for your WP site and server.

Not all third-party themes and plugins have been updated to be compatible with PHP 8. If your site relies on a specific plugin or theme, make sure you verify that it is PHP 8 compatible before upgrading.

How do I know if I need to upgrade?

WordPress.org recommends at least PHP 7.4. You may see a warning message in your WordPress dashboard asking you to upgrade PHP if it still uses a version lower than 7.4. You can find steps to upgrade your WordPress version below.

DreamPress hosting plans

  1. Navigate to the Managed WordPress page.
  2. To the right of your domain, click the Manage button.
  3. At the top under your domain name, you should see the PHP version:
    • If you see PHP-FPM, you are already on a supported version of PHP 7 (or PHP 8.0, if you specifically requested an upgrade or manually upgraded using a DreamPress Staging site).
    • If you see an older version or if you specifically requested a downgrade on PHP-FPM, you should upgrade to PHP 7.4 or 8.0.

All other hosting plans

This includes any WordPress site installed on a plan other than DreamPress. For example, Shared Hosting, VPS, or Dedicated.

  1. Navigate to the Manage Domains page.
  2. Click the Edit link to the right of a domain.
  3. On the domain's settings page, look under the Web Options section for the PHP version:

Which version should I upgrade to?

It's highly recommended that you upgrade to the latest PHP version if your site's software is able to do so without issue.

The latest version is the one that will be supported the longest and has the most fixes to improve performance.

If you encounter an issue with the latest version, you can try the next most recent version without much difference in performance or support.

Each PHP version offers two options: FastCGI and CGI. Typically you should choose FastCGI as this offers faster performance for most sites. If your site’s PHP version is currently set to CGI, you may have at one point encountered performance issues with FastCGI which prompted the change to CGI. You are welcome to try either one to compare performance.

Preparing your WordPress site for a PHP upgrade

Using the checklist below will help minimize the risk of issues when upgrading the PHP version, however, there is always a small chance of an error or issue after an upgrade due to the thousands of themes, plugins, and customizations available to WordPress.

Remember that you can always try the upgrade and downgrade if there’s an issue. These steps aren’t required, but they are highly recommended for a PHP upgrade as well as for the regular maintenance and security of your site.

Checklist

  • Are you on the latest version of the WordPress core software?
  • Do you have any pending updates displaying in your WordPress Admin dashboard?
  • Do you have any older themes or plugins that haven’t been updated by the developer in over a year, or any paid themes/plugins that have expired licensing for updates?
  • Do you have any customizations written in PHP that you need a developer to review?

All One-Click installs in the panel are always set to update automatically (unless you specifically turn it off).

Testing the upgrade using a staging site

A safe way to test the new PHP version is to create a staging website. This staging site will become a duplicate of your existing live website. You can then proceed to run tests on this staging site to see how it reacts. If nothing unusual happens, you can then proceed with upgrading your live website. View the following articles for information on how to create a staging website for WordPress:

Upgrading PHP

DreamPress sites

DreamHost support can upgrade your site's PHP version for you. To request this, submit a support ticket in your panel. Make sure to include your DreamPress site name and the version you'd like to be upgraded to.

WordPress sites on all other hosting plans

The following guide explains how to change the PHP version of your site:

See also

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