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How to use a custom PHP CLI version on Site5

April 05, 2021


I needed to use PHP 7.1 with wp-cli on a shared Site5 server, but wp --info reported using PHP 5.6.3. I tried using the WP_CLI_PHP environment variable to specify the php binary location to use, but that didn’t work. --info would report that it was using 7.1, but then the script would blow up, saying it wasn’t.

I contacted Site5 support via chat, only to be told that not only could I not use a custom PHP CLI version in my shell, I couldn’t use wp-cli on their shared servers. Since I use wp-cli all the time on their shared servers, and it is available at /usr/local/bin/wp, I opted not to believe anything they had said.

Solving the Problem

To create a binary of your own which will forward your commands to other PHP versions, make a new file called php which has the following contents (this example uses PHP 7.1):

#!/usr/bin/env bash
php71 "$@"

After that, run chmod +x php.

Testing the solution

Log out of your shell, then log back in. If you execute /usr/bin/env php -v, you should be greeted by something like this:

PHP 7.1.30 (cli) (built: Jul 24 2019 06:39:52) ( NTS )
Copyright (c) 1997-2018 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v3.1.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2018 Zend Technologies
with the ionCube PHP Loader (enabled) + Intrusion Protection from (unconfigured) v10.2.0, Copyright (c) 2002-2018, by ionCube Ltd.

If everything is setup correctly, you should see the version you are hoping to use.

Future Versions

Since you don’t have read access to list files in /usr/local/bin, you can’t list the available PHP CLI versions. Because of that, you have to experiment to figure out which PHP versions are available.

To do that, run commands such as php71 -v and look at the output. If you see an error saying the file or directory is not available, you have tried a version which is not available. At the time of writing (April 5, 2021), the latest binary available is php72.

Other Use Cases

My original problem was actually that I needed to execute wp-cli using a custom version of PHP. In order to do that, I ended up using a modified version of the script above:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
php71 /usr/local/bin/wp "$@"

I created this file in my path, and named it wp. This caused the wp shell command to use my custom script, executing the system wp in the custom version of PHP and passing arguments on to it.

Thanks, Friend

I hope you found this useful and will come by again in the future.

Brandon Conway
I enjoy learning about and writing code in many programming languages