Php – Suppress error with @ operator in PHP


In your opinion, is it ever valid to use the @ operator to suppress an error/warning in PHP whereas you may be handling the error?

If so, in what circumstances would you use this?

Code examples are welcome.

Edit: Note to repliers. I'm not looking to turn error reporting off, but, for example, common practice is to use


and then check afterwards… but you can get rid of the @ by doing

if (file_exists($file))
    die('File not found');

or similar.

I guess the question is – is there anywhere that @ HAS to be used to supress an error, that CANNOT be handled in any other manner?

Best Solution

Note: Firstly, I realise 99% of PHP developers use the error suppression operator (I used to be one of them), so I'm expecting any PHP dev who sees this to disagree.

In your opinion, is it ever valid to use the @ operator to suppress an error/warning in PHP whereas you may be handling the error?

Short answer:

Longer more correct answer:
I don't know as I don't know everything, but so far I haven't come across a situation where it was a good solution.

Why it's bad:
In what I think is about 7 years using PHP now I've seen endless debugging agony caused by the error suppression operator and have never come across a situation where it was unavoidable.

The problem is that the piece of code you are suppressing errors for, may currently only cause the error you are seeing; however when you change the code which the suppressed line relies on, or the environment in which it runs, then there is every chance that the line will attempt to output a completely different error from the one you were trying to ignore. Then how do you track down an error that isn't outputting? Welcome to debugging hell!

It took me many years to realise how much time I was wasting every couple of months because of suppressed errors. Most often (but not exclusively) this was after installing a third party script/app/library which was error free in the developers environment, but not mine because of a php or server configuration difference or missing dependency which would have normally output an error immediately alerting to what the issue was, but not when the dev adds the magic @.

The alternatives (depending on situation and desired result):
Handle the actual error that you are aware of, so that if a piece of code is going to cause a certain error then it isn't run in that particular situation. But I think you get this part and you were just worried about end users seeing errors, which is what I will now address.

For regular errors you can set up an error handler so that they are output in the way you wish when it's you viewing the page, but hidden from end users and logged so that you know what errors your users are triggering.

For fatal errors set display_errors to off (your error handler still gets triggered) in your php.ini and enable error logging. If you have a development server as well as a live server (which I recommend) then this step isn't necessary on your development server, so you can still debug these fatal errors without having to resort to looking at the error log file. There's even a trick using the shutdown function to send a great deal of fatal errors to your error handler.

In summary:
Please avoid it. There may be a good reason for it, but I'm yet to see one, so until that day it's my opinion that the (@) Error suppression operator is evil.

You can read my comment on the Error Control Operators page in the PHP manual if you want more info.