Check available PHP version in a WordPress Plugin

Currently, WordPress only requires PHP 5.2.4. There has been a lot of debate about this, and I personally think that the core team should bite the bullet and set a date for moving to PHP 5.3 and beyond for reasons of security, performance and the numerous new features it would make available.

However, it seems unlikely that’s going to happen any time soon. This presents a problem: I develop on 5.4 and almost every client site I build uses features that are only available in 5.3 and beyond. If any of my custom code unexpectedly lands on a server where 5.2 is the latest version it will go belly-up and leave me staring at a white screen of death.

Now, of course, I can go in and change the cPanel settings, htaccess or whatever is needed to get things working. But what if I want to ship a plugin? I don’t want someone else’s site to go down without any explanation, so I need to check the available version before including any code that will cause a fatal error.


To help manage this I built a little class that can be included with any plugin (or added to the mu-plugins folder) which does the checking for you. It does two things:

  • On activate_plugin it checks the available version against whatever you specify as the minimum and prevents activation if it’s too low.
  • If the plugin has already been activated, it checks for the PHP version and prevents any further plugin code execution if it is insufficient.

In both cases, a message is displayed to the user if they are logged in or added to the the system error log if they are not.

At the moment the code and instructions are available on GitHub. I am looking into adding it to so it can be installed easily via composer. In the meantime you can add the following to your composer.json:

"repositories": [
        "type": "git",
        "url": ""
"require": {
    "dbisso/wp-version-check": "1.*"

Then composer update to bring in the code.

Use it in you plugin’s main file (ie. the one with the WordPress plugin data headers):

Plugin Name: My plugin
Plugin URI:
Description: Does something
Version: 0.1
Author: Dan Bissonnet <[email protected]>
Author URI:

if ( ! class_exists( 'DBisso_Version_Check' ) ) {
    include_once 'vendor/dbisso/wp-version-check/DBisso_Version_Check.php';

// Check for PHP version and then kick things off
DBisso_Version_Check::bootstrap( '5.3.5', __FILE__, dirname( __FILE__ ) . '/plugin.php' );

DBisso_Version_Check::bootstrap() takes three arguments:

  • (string) Minimum PHP version.
  • (string) The root plugin file – usually __FILE__ will do the trick.
  • (string) The initialising plugin file. This is where your plugin’s main code lives.

Your plugin needs to be organised in so that the main plugin file (the one with the data comment at the top) calls DBisso_Version_Checker first which will in turn include the file with the actual code.

Hopefully it helps out some other developers with the same problem.