This is the commonest question that I’m asked at the moment: “There is a message in the WordPress dashboard saying that a PHP update is required – what should I do?”
The answer is fairly simple. You can change the PHP version using your Cpanel hosting control panel. But if you don’t like the idea of doing it yourself, or you get stuck, you can ask me to do it, it’s only a 2 minute job.
To update the PHP version yourself, in your Cpanel hosting control panel, scroll down to the Software section, then click on ‘Select PHP Version’. Then there is a heading saying “Current PHP Version” and to the right of it, a drop down list of version numbers. At the moment, the drop down list might have “7.2 (current)” selected, but it could be a different number. Make a note of the current version, just in case you need to go back to it later if something on your website isn’t compatible with the new PHP version. Now choose a higher number from the drop down list, e.g. 7.4 or 8.0 (those numbers will be different if you’re reading this months or years after I wrote it, but choose the highest or second highest number). Having chosen, click on the text that says “Set as current”. Now your hosting space/website will be using the new version of PHP that you’ve chosen. It’s a bit of a bad design feature of Cpanel that you have to confirm by clicking on the “Set as current” link, otherwise nothing actually changes!
Having changed the PHP version, normally WordPress will be fine, perhaps a little faster than before, and will no longer be nagging you to update the PHP version. However, once in a while your website might not work with a later version of PHP until you have updated your wordpress version, your plugins or your theme – something might be too old to run on the version of PHP you’ve selected. (The symptom of this could be “website alarmingly completely disappears!” – but don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it looks). In this case, in Cpanel, go back to the old PHP version to get the website running again, then (having backed up your website, as always, before updating!) apply any wordpress/theme/plugin updates that are due. Once your site is up to date, you can try going to the newer version of PHP again and it should be fine.