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Updating PHP manually on Windows systems

Disclaimer: before attempting to update the PHP version of your website we would highly recommend that you make a full backup of it, just in case anything goes wrong.

PHP can be installed onto windows in one of various ways as outlined below. We have listed them in what we consider to be order of difficulty with the simplest first.

If you are using Microsoft Internet Information Server as your web server

If you are using, or intend to use Microsoft Internet Information Server (provided with most versions of Windows) as your web server then the easiest way to install PHP is via the Microsoft Web Platform Installer tool. Firstly make sure that you are running the latest version.

Once you are inside the Platform Installer select a relevant version of PHP. The versions listed should all be fairly recent however there is sometimes a lag between releases being made available for the Platform installer and their original release date by the PHP foundation. If you find that there is a significant difference in latest safe PHP versions available (check the header of this page) and what is provided in the installer then it's best to look further down this article to the 'Install PHP manually for IIS' option.

If you are going to want to switch between different versions of PHP for testing be sure to download the PHP Manager tool that is also available via the Platform Installer. If you find that the PHP Manager add-on fails to install download the latest version manually, available on github here.

Once you have chosen and downloaded the PHP verion/s you want for your IIS web server you can switch between them using the PHP Manager tool.

Install a bundled web server with PHP and database server included

Various LAMP like bundled software solutions exist to get users up and running with an open-source Apache or similar web server. These software bundles allow you to install the web server, database server and PHP engine in a single install, greatly simplifying the setup process.

If you are going to be running anything with a database, from something simple like a basic WordPress blog to an advanced bespoke application this can often be a very good way to get everything up and running quickly.

For many developers that want to build a website on a local system before uploading to a hosting environment, using a bundled solution has the advantage of not running via Microsoft's ISS web server. Most web hosting is run on variants of the Linux operating system, so by installing the Apache web server on your Windows system you will end up with a hosting environment closer to the one the website will ultimately be running on.

One of the most common web hosting software bundles made for Windows is XAMPP, which installs Apache, MariaDB, PHP (as well as the Perl programming language).

Install PHP manually for ISS

Instructions for doing this can be found here.

Install PHP manually and then configure via Apache for Windows

Instructions for doing this can be found here.

Are you still stuck?

It may be time to call in a professional to assist. Check out our listings of PHP developers that can help upgrade or maintain your website.
Article last updated: 21st Jamuary, 2021