What to do if You are Running an Outdated Version of PHP on WordPress

running outdated version of php warning wordpress
Cynthia Bartz • July 10, 2018

If you are running PHP 5.5 or older for your WordPress website, you have probably received an error saying: You are running an outdated version of PHP. And, if you are reading this article it is probably because you are tired of seeing this ridiculously large error message in WordPress, but don’t know what to do about it.

In this article I am going to show you how to update your outdated version of PHP, even if you don’t know what PHP is.

Overwhelmed, and don’t want to deal with it?

I got you covered. I can do all of this for you: scan for compatibility, resolve issues, update wordpress and plugins, and upgrade PHP. Just hit the button below to get started.

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What does WordPress mean when it says it is running an “outdated version of PHP”?

Your WordPress website runs lots of different software. Each plugin, theme, and WordPress itself are little chunks of software that have to work together to make your website. At the core of all of those chunks of software is PHP.

You can think about it like this. Each plugin and theme are their own books. Every few months a new version of one of those books comes out, and you have to update to make sure you have the latest copy of that book. PHP is like the language all those books are written in. At some point the new version of the language needs to be updated in all of your books. If you are running an old version of PHP, it is like a middle schooler trying to read Shakespeare. Your new plugins just won’t work well because they are expecting to have the hip new language.

If this still doesn’t make any sense. Have no fear. The important thing that you need to know is that, yes, your PHP needs to be updated. And it takes a few more steps than you might be used to to get it updated.

How to Update PHP

Step 1: Back Up Your Website!

Most likely, when we update PHP, everything will be roses. But, it is possible that everything will go horribly, horribly wrong. If that does happen, we want to be able to roll it all back and put the website back together. All of which is much easier if you have a clean and shiny back up of your website.

Read More: How to Back Up Your Website

Follow steps 1 & 2 to back up your website.

Step 2: Update Everything

Before we get started, we want to make sure that all of your plugins and everything is up to date. This way, we are checking compatibility against the latest of everything, and giving ourselves the best chance of success.

A) Update WordPress itself

B) Update your Theme

C) Update All Plugins

NOTE: All updates can be found by clicking the little “refresh” looking symbol next to the name of your website, in the top left corner.

Step 3: Check for Compatibility

Next you will look to see if your theme and plugins are compatible with PHP 7.0. To do this, you will need to download a plugin that will scan for errors.

A) Download PHP Compatibility Checker by going to Plugins > Add New > search for PHP Compatibility Checker by WP Engine

B) Install and activate the plugin.

C )Navigate to the plugin by going to: Tools > PHP Compatibility

D) Select PHP 7.0 and scan for compatibility.

Step 4: Review Report

Look at the report that is generated. Now you will need to evaluate what you are going to do next.

IF All Your Plugins are “Compatible” with No Errors

Sparky! You get to jump ahead and update to PHP 7.0. Move on to Step 5.

IF All Your Plugins are “Compatible” but there are Warnings

You are probably going to be ok. If the warnings are on plugins you don’t use, take this time to clean up your site by uninstalling the plugins. Then, go ahead to Step 5.

If the warnings are on plugins you are 100% reliant on, AND you have those plugins up to date, you have two choices: a) take a chance and upgrade to PHP 7.0, everything will probably be ok OR b) be super-duper cautious and call in an expert. If you want to call in an expert, look at the step right below for errors or incompatibly plugins.

IF You have “Incompatible” Plugins OR Errors

Run the scan again, but select PHP 5.6. PHP 5.6 is the oldest version that is still considered “acceptable”. If this report comes back mostly clean, you know that you need to update to 5.6.

FYI: You will eventually need to upgrade to 7.0 or newer in the future. Hopefully by then your favorite plugins will be up to date and ready for PHP 7.0 (or newer).

IF you are STILL getting Major Errors from the PHP 5.6 Scan

Call your hosting provider. Make sure that you have a copy of the report to provide to them. Their support staff should be able to tell you if you can update to PHP 5.6 or not.


Contact Me. I can look at the report and evaluate the best course of action.

Step 5: Upgrade PHP

I wish this step was super simple and universal, but it’s not. Sorry, but you are going to need to call your hosting provider. The PHP for your website has to be updated on the server, and the process for each host is a little different. So, this is what you are going to do:

  1. Call your host (GoDaddy, Blue Host, 1&1, ClickHost, etc.) on their support line
  2. Tell them that
    • You have an outdated version of PHP
    • You have a WordPress website
    • You have updated WordPress and your Plugins
    • You need to upgrade PHP to version 5.6 or 7.0 (based on what you determined in step 4)
  3. Do whatever they tell you to do (if you are lucky, they’ll just do it for you!)


You just upgraded your outdated version of PHP and conqured the technology error beast.

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