How To Run Multiple PHP Versions

The PHP programming language has gone long way since its beginnings. It made another big step by making it easy and convenient to run Apps in different versions of PHP at the same time. In this post, I go over the compiling of any PHP Version you wish, installation of the PHPFarm technology and the configuration of the Apache web server, all of which part of the task to run different PHP versions simultaneously on one machine with different apps

System: Ubuntu 14, Apache 2.4, LAMP

Installation of PHPFarm

Before compiling different versions of PHP, we install the PHPFarm. To do so

Step 1 – Install supporting necessary libraries:
udo apt-get install libxml2 libxml2-dev libssl-dev
sudo apt-get install libcurl4-openssl-dev pkg-config
sudo apt-get install libcurl4-gnutls-dev libjpeg-dev libpng12-dev libmysqlclient-dev
Step 2 – Install the PHPFarm

We grab the PHPFarm from PHPFarm Git repo

cd /home/tools
sudo git clone

This will clone PHPFarm at /home/tools/phpfarm directory

Compile PHP Versions

Once, we have the PHPFarm, lets compile some version of PHP.

Step 3 – Custom Configurations

First, we specify some custom configurations for new php version. Go to the ‘src’ directory of PHPFarm and create file of certain naming

cd /home/tools/phpfarm/src
sudo vim

For some example of custom options, please see AmacGregor Git Repo
In our case, we use the following custom options by inserting them in the /home/tools/phpfarm/

--enable-bcmath \
--enable-calendar \
--enable-exif \
--enable-ftp \
--enable-mbstring \
--enable-pcntl \
--enable-soap \
--enable-sockets \
--enable-sqlite-utf8 \
--enable-wddx \
--enable-zip \
--disable-debug \
--with-mysql \
--with-zlib \
--with-gettext \
--with-pdo-mysql \
--with-curl \
--with-openssl \
Step 4 – Compile PHP

Next, we compile new PHP version with our custom options:

cd /home/tools/phpfarm/src
sudo ./ 5.3.29

This will generate new version of PHP 5.3.29. Afterwards, test that it is working

cd /home/tools/phpfarm/inst/bin
./php-5.3.29 --version

Configure Virtual Host of Apache For Certain Version

Step 5 – Install supporting modules of PHPFarm for Apache

The FastCGI is technology to incorporate PHPFarm into Apache, so we are installing supporting libraries

sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-fastcgi apache2-mpm-worker apache2-suexec
sudo a2enmod actions fastcgi suexec
sudo service apache2 restart

After restarting Apache service, the newly installed modules are included

Step 6 – Mapping CGI to PHPFarm

Next, we create web directory with configurations to map each PHP Version to the CGI service of Apache

sudo mkdir /var/www/cgi-bin
cd /var/www/cgi-bin
sudo vip php-cgi-5.3.29

Afterwards, we are adding mapping in form of Bash script named php-cgi-5.3.29 as follows

export PHPRC
exec /home/tools/phpfarm/inst/bin/php-cgi-5.3.29

As you see the last line it maps to our PHP version. The variable “PHPRC” also specifies the location of php.ini file to use. By default, it uses the php.ini in the dir of /home/tools/phpfarm/inst/php-cgi-5.3.29/lib.php

Make our file of mapping is executable and chown rights to apache user („www-data“ by default):

sudo chmod +x /var/www/cgi-bin/php-cgi-5.3.29
sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/cgi-bin
Step 7 – Configure Virtual Host of Apache

At last, we configure particular application via Virtual Host Configurations at Apache to use the PHPFarm and our certain version of PHP by editing /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/some-domain.conf

<VirtualHost *:80>
	DocumentRoot /home/websites/min-view-drupal
	#LogLevel debug
	#FastCgiServer /home/websites/cgi-bin/php-cgi-5.3.29
    	FastCgiServer /home/websites/cgi-bin/php-cgi-5.4.27
	ScriptAlias /cgi-bin-php/ /home/websites/cgi-bin/
	<Directory "/home/websites/min-view-drupal">
		Options Indexes MultiViews FollowSymLinks
		AllowOverride All
		Require all granted
		AddHandler php-cgi .php
		#Action php-cgi /cgi-bin-php/php-cgi-5.3.29
		Action php-cgi /cgi-bin-php/php-cgi-5.4.27
		<FilesMatch "\.php$">
                	SetHandler php-cgi
	<Directory "/home/websites/cgi-bin">
   		Order allow,deny
   		Allow from all 
  		Require all granted
 	Errorlog "${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/virtual-hosts/minnehaha/error.txt"
	CustomLog "${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/virtual-hosts/minnehaha/customLog.txt" common

Here, all the highlighted lines involve configuring the PHPFArm. The line 7,8 includes the PHPFarm service. The lines 13-18, enables the certain version for our application. The lines 20-24 enables apache server to read our mapping configuration file which should be moved to general Apache configuration script since this directory may be shared between other Virtual hosts. In short if you have multiple Virtual Hosts then the following should be moved into general to declare only once:

FastCgiServer /home/websites/cgi-bin/php-cgi-5.4.27
ScriptAlias /cgi-bin-php/ /home/websites/cgi-bin/
<Directory "/home/websites/cgi-bin">
   		Order allow,deny
   		Allow from all 
  		Require all granted

At last, restart Apache to load our newest changes:

sudoe services apache2 restart
Step 8 – Test it

To test it, include the phpinfo command into the index.php file of the root dir(i.e./home/websites/min-view-drupal) of the application

<?php phpinfo();?>

This should display php version along other setting once pointing the browser to the application of virtual host configured above(i.e.

Switching PHP Versions

After compiling another version of PHP as we did in Step 4, the switching between PHP Versions is as easy as configuring apache virtual host to read another mapping as done in Step 8(see commented out php version 5.4.27) to point to another php version done by creating new mapping as done in Step 7.


1. client denied by server configuration:

This error we got when the location(i.e. /home/websites/cgi-bin) of our mapping script of step 7 wasn’t configured to be loaded by Apache in virtual host missing the following:

<Directory "/home/websites/cgi-bin">
   		Order allow,deny
   		Allow from all 
  		Require all granted

By including the above snippet and restarting Apache, the problem was solved

2. FastCgiServer: redefinition of a previously defined FastCGI server phpFarm

This error appeared when I declared the following in multiple Virtual host configurations:

FastCgiServer /home/websites/cgi-bin/php-cgi-5.4.27
ScriptAlias /cgi-bin-php/ /home/websites/cgi-bin/

Once, I moved it out into the general apache configuration while commenting out all other instances, it solved the problem



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