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PHP notifications in the WordPress dashboard

by | Nov 15, 2020 | Technical Help, Web Hosting, WordPress

Every piece of popular software gets updated over time. PHP is no different.

PHP 7.4 is the latest version of PHP 7 at the time of this writing. It was originally rolled out November 28, 2019 and will receive security support until November 28, 2022. It also appears that PHP 7.4 may be the last of the PHP 7 releases, as PHP 8.0 was rolled out on November 26, 2020.

This is all great news, since each newer PHP version so far has continued to provide:

  • considerable (but not total) backward compatibility
  • faster execution speeds
  • greater security.

We’ve seen many PHP upgrades since running WordPress over many, many years. Our preliminary testing has always shown that many WordPress plugins and themes don’t work seamlessly with new versions of PHP as they are rolled out. As for PHP 7.4, the WordPress core and its latest default themes do. Unfortunately, many sites will simply break if caution isn’t taken to ensure all of their components – the core, the plugins and the themes – are PHP 7.4 compliant. For this reason, we usually don’t switch PHP to the later version until we are confident most things will work. When you think about the many thousands of themes and plugins out there for WordPress, it is no surprise that sometimes this takes longer than a year.

WordPress PHP notifications

PHP versions older than PHP 7.2 now trigger the red circle with an exclamation point PHP notification that administrative users see in the WordPress dashboard.

PHP update required notification - Site Health Status - Should be improved

PHP update required notification
Site Health Status – Should be improved

Bear in mind that WordPress only issues a warning about 7.1 and lower. The red notice in the dashboard is not shown for higher versions. Navigating to Tools > Site Health yields more details about site health.

Site Health - Should be Improved - Site Health Status - 1 critical issue - running outdated version of PHP 7.1 requires an update

Site Health – Should be Improved
Site Health Status – 1 critical issue – running outdated version of PHP 7.1 requires an update

PHP 7.2 just went to end of life November 30, 2020 – hence the red PHP update required notice that shows in the dashboard for anything older than 7.2 doesn’t show if you are running PHP 7.2 and above.

Site Health Status - Good - PHP 7.2 which should be updated

Site Health Status – Good
PHP 7.2 which should be updated

If you are running PHP 7.3 (or newer) you will not get the red notice described above. However, in the site health you will see an indication stating “Your site is running an older version of PHP (7.3.x) which worries many when they see it.

Site Health - Good - Site Health Status - 1 recommended improvement - running an older version of PHP - PHP 7.3.25

Site Health – Good
Site Health Status – 1 recommended improvement – running an older version of PHP – PHP 7.3.25

The fact is that PHP 7.3 will be receiving security updates until December 6, 2021. Given that, there is plenty of time to get ready for PHP 7.4.

Site Health Status - Good - PHP 7.2 and above

Site Health Status – Good
PHP 7.2 and above

The plan at CharlesWorks is to make PHP 7.4 available in the upcoming months. When that happens, you will notice that each of the PHP 7.x versions you see in the DirectAdmin interface will be bumped up by one version. So you will always still be able to go back to 7.3 if needed.

PHP 8.0 was released on November 26, 2020 with an expected security support date of October 26, 2023. There appears to be more incompatibility between it and PHP 7. CharlesWorks would not expect to roll this version out until nearer the end of 2021. Let’s give the world a chance to find all of the bugs for us.

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