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switch between multiple PHP versions

How To Switch Between Multiple PHP Versions In Ubuntu

By sk

Sometimes, the most recent version of an installed package might not work as you expected. Your application may not compatible with the updated package and support only a specific old version of package. In such cases, you can simply downgrade the problematic package to its earlier working version in no time. Refer our old guides on how to downgrade a package in Ubuntu and its variants here and how to downgrade a package in Arch Linux and its derivatives here. However, you need not to downgrade some packages. We can use multiple versions at the same time. For instance, let us say you are testing a PHP application in LAMP stack deployed in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. After a while you find out that the application worked fine in PHP 5.6, but not in PHP 7.2 (Ubuntu 18.04 LTS installs PHP 7.x by default). Are you going to reinstall PHP or the whole LAMP stack again? Not necessary, though. You don't even have to downgrade the PHP to its earlier version. In this brief tutorial, I will show you how to switch between multiple PHP versions in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

Switch Between Multiple PHP Versions

To check the default installed version of PHP, run:

$ php -v
PHP 7.2.7-0ubuntu0.18.04.2 (cli) (built: Jul 4 2018 16:55:24) ( NTS )
Copyright (c) 1997-2018 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v3.2.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2018 Zend Technologies
with Zend OPcache v7.2.7-0ubuntu0.18.04.2, Copyright (c) 1999-2018, by Zend Technologies

As you can see, the installed version of PHP is 7.2.7. After testing your application for couple days, you find out that your application doesn't support PHP 7.2. In such cases, it is a good idea to have both PHP 5.x version and PHP 7.x version, so that you can easily switch between to/from any supported version at any time.

You don't need to remove PHP 7.x or reinstall LAMP stack. You can use both PHP 5.x and 7.x versions together.

I assume you didn't uninstall php 5.6 in your system yet. Just in case, you removed it already, you can install it again using a PPA like below.

You can install PHP 5.6 from a PPA:

$ sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:ondrej/php
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install php5.6

Switch from PHP 7.x to PHP 5.x

First disable PHP 7.2 module using command:

$ sudo a2dismod php7.2
Module php7.2 disabled.
To activate the new configuration, you need to run:
systemctl restart apache2

Next, enable PHP 5.6 module:

$ sudo a2enmod php5.6

Set PHP 5.6 as default version:

$ sudo update-alternatives --set php /usr/bin/php5.6

Alternatively, you can run the following command to set which system wide version of PHP you want to use by default.

$ sudo update-alternatives --config php

Enter the selection number to set it as default version or simply press ENTER to keep the current choice.

php configuration

Change PHP default version

In case, you have installed other PHP extensions, set them as default as well.

$ sudo update-alternatives --set phar /usr/bin/phar5.6

Finally, restart your Apache web server:

$ sudo systemctl restart apache2

Now, check if PHP 5.6 is the default version or not:

$ php -v
PHP 5.6.37-1+ubuntu18.04.1+deb.sury.org+1 (cli) 
Copyright (c) 1997-2016 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.6.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2016 Zend Technologies
with Zend OPcache v7.0.6-dev, Copyright (c) 1999-2016, by Zend Technologies

Switch from PHP 5.x to PHP 7.x

Likewise, you can switch from PHP 5.x to PHP 7.x version as shown below.

$ sudo a2enmod php7.2
$ sudo a2dismod php5.6
$ sudo update-alternatives --set php /usr/bin/php7.2
$ sudo systemctl restart apache2

A word of caution:

The final stable PHP 5.6 version has reached the end of active support as of 19 Jan 2017. However, PHP 5.6 will continue to receive support for critical security issues until 31 Dec 2018. So, It is recommended to upgrade all your PHP applications to be compatible with PHP 7 .x as soon as possible.

If you want prevent PHP to be automatically upgraded in future, refer the following guide.

And, that's all for now. Hope this helps.

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Serj October 24, 2019 - 2:11 pm

Module php5.6 does not exist!

Abhishek Kandari March 12, 2020 - 10:37 am

Thank you SK for this great and a very helpful article for every PHP developer.

sk March 12, 2020 - 12:58 pm

You’re welcome. Glad I could help.


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