How do I install PHP on Windows 7?

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Installing PHP on Windows 7 is quite a simple affair. If you follow the steps exactly as described in this tutorial you will have PHP up and running without any problems. However, as experienced developers know, you first need to have a web server running on the system. Here are instructions on how to install Apache on Windows 7 operating system – the world’s most popular web server.

Also, if you are a budding PHP programmer, you would soon like to use it with MySQL database. So once you are through with this page, check out the detailed step by step instructions on how to install MySQL on Windows 7.

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Which PHP download file should you use?

The aim of this tutorial is to set up PHP so that you can learn the language and start developing web applications. PHP is available for download in many forms. There are the Thread Safe and Non Thread Safe versions and each comes as a zip, installer and debug pack.

To make things simple we shall install PHP from the zip archive. Point your browser to the ‘Windows binaries and sources Releases’ page or click this link – Scroll down a little and locate the VC9 x86 Thread Safe section and download the zip file [Slide 1].

  • Download the PHP zip archive file
  • Create a folder named PHP in the C drive
  • Copy the php.ini-development file
  • Paste the php.ini-development file
  • File is pasted as a copy
  • Rename the file to php.ini
  • Ignore Windows warning message of file being unstable
  • Open the Apache web server configuration file
  • httpd.conf file is opened in Notepad
  • Add the LoadModule line
  • Include the AddType for PHP files
  • Specify the PHP install directory to the Apache web server
  • Change the Document root
  • Organize web site files on your computer in a separate folder
  • Change the directory
  • The directory that has web site files include PHP scripts
  • Save the Apache configuration file - httpd.conf
  • Right-click on the php.ini file and open it in Notepad to edit it.
  • Locate the PHP error reporting line.
  • Modify the error reporting line in the php.ini file
  • Ensure that display_errors is On
  • Specify the PHP extensions directory
  • Create the phpinfo.php file
  • Save the file to test the PHP installation on your Windows 7 computer
  • phpinfo file displayed in a browser

Create a folder to install PHP

The first thing is creating a folder to which we would extract the PHP files from the zip archive. Since I like to keep things segregated and yet accessible, I’ll be installing PHP in its own directory under the C: drive and recommend you do the same. So go ahead and create a folder called PHP on the C drive [Slide 2].

Move to the folder in which you have downloaded the PHP zip file and double-click on it to reveal its contents. Select and copy all the files in the archive (Tip: use the Ctrl-A and Ctrl-C keyboard shortcuts). Now paste all the files (Ctrl-V) in the empty C:\PHP folder.

You’ll see a file called php.ini-development. Right-click on this file and choose Copy – [Slide 3]. Now paste the file in the same directory – [Slides 4 and 5]. Rename this file to php.ini [Slide 6]. Windows will tell you that changing the extension will make it unusable – answer ‘Yes’ [Slide 7].

Note #1: Your computer might not display the file extensions, in which case I suggest you read how to get the file extension on Windows 7.
You can also try your hand with DOS commands to change the file extension on Windows 7; definitely a more geeky way to get things done!

Note #2: The newer PHP versions come with two files: php.ini-development and php.ini-production. The former is more suited for a developer machine such as yours, while the latter is for web servers that host ‘live web sites’ where security is of paramount importance. Thus, use php.ini-development instead of php.ini-production.

Configuration Apache 2.2 web server for PHP installation

Though you have been able to put PHP on your computer, it’s still not “installed” in the true sense of the word. We have to help the Apache web server communicate with PHP. This is done by editing the Apache configuration file, httpd.conf.

Go to All Programs -> Apache HTTP Server 2.2 -> Configure Apache Server -> Edit the Apache httpd.conf Configuration File [Slide 8]. This opens httpd.conf file in Notepad [Slide 9].

Gear up to make some changes to this file and please check the screenshots in the slideshow as you go along.

  1. Locate the “LoadModule section” (Tip: Use the Find feature – the Ctrl-F key combination). Add the following line [Slide 10]

    LoadModule php5_module “c:/PHP/php5apache2_2.dll”

    Note: If you have chosen to install PHP in a different folder than C:\PHP, please change the path in the above line accordingly.

  2. Find the “AddType” section and put in the line below [Slide 11].

    AddType application/x-httpd-php .php

    Note: Make sure that you put this before the </IfModule> line. You can also use other file extensions for PHP like .php3 or .php4; simply add these at the end of the above line separated by a blank space.

  3. Move to the end of the httpd.conf file and add the line below [Slide 12]

    PHPIniDir “C:/PHP”

    Note: This tells the Apache web server the location of the PHP configuration file, php.ini.

  4. If you’ve read my instructions on installing Apache on Windows 7, you know that all web site files are to be kept in the htdocs folder located under the Apache install directory. This means when you load http://localhost, Apache checks the htdocs folder; for instance, the “It works” file that’s displayed the first time you test Apache installation is actually the index.html file in this folder.
    In accordance to my habit of having things organized, I like to keep web site files in their own folder away from Apache program and configuration files… something like C:/websites. The good news is that Apache allows you to make such a change pretty easily and to do this you need to specify this new directory path as the document root.
    First create a folder for your web site files – C:/websites is what I use and suggest you do the same. Find the DocumentRoot “C:/Apache/htdocs” in the Apache configuration file and change it to DocumentRoot “C:/websites” [Slides 13 and 14].
  5. Change <Directory “C:/Apache/htdocs”> to <Directory “C:/websites”> [Slides 15 and 16].
  6. Save the Apache configuration file. Go to the File menu and select Save or use the Ctrl-S keyboard shortcut [Slide 17]. Close the Notepad window.

Edit php.ini – PHP configuration file

  1. We now need to change the php.ini file, the one you set up in slides 3, 4 and 5. Remember? Go to the C:\PHP folder, right-click on php.ini and choose “Open with” -> “Notepad” [Slide 18].
  2. Using the ‘Find’ feature (Ctrl-F or “Edit” -> “Find“), locate the following [Slide 19]:
    error_reporting = E_ALL | E_STRICT

    Change it to [Slide 20]:

    error_reporting = E_ALL & ~E_NOTICE

    Tip: instead of typing it out, simply copy-n-paste.
    Also make sure display_errors is set to On. Thus, hunt for it and ensure the line reads [Slide 21]:

    display_errors = On
  3. We need to tell PHP where the extensions reside. Locate the following line (yes, it starts with a semi-colon):
    ; extension_dir = "ext"

    Under it, type (or copy-paste) the line below [Slide 22]:

    extension_dir = C:\PHP\ext

    I’ve assumed that you’ve installed PHP in C:\PHP else, you need to put in the correct path.

  4. Restart your computer.

Testing the PHP installation

It’s now time to test whether PHP was properly installed on Windows 7. Open a blank Notepad window and type in the line below exactly as it appears – you can copy-paste if you want.

<?php phpinfo(); ?>

Save this file as phpinfo.php in the document root folder which should be C:/websites if you have followed my suggestion.
IMPORTANT: By default, Notepad will save the file as .txt. So you need to select “All Files” from the “Save as type” drop down and enter the full file name in the “File name” field. Confused? Check the screenshots [Slides 23 and 24].

Open a browser window and load http://localhost/phpinfo.php. A long page with details of the installed PHP version should display [Slide 25]. If you see the PHP code instead, you’ve probably not saved the file with a .php extension.

You can also have index.php instead of index.html as the web server index file. Read that article for details.

This completes the instructions on how to install PHP on Windows 7. Your next step should be installing MySQL – keep reading.

Problems in installing PHP and Apache set up

Problem #1 – Cannot load php5apache2_2.dll: The installation of Apache web server and PHP should go pretty smoothly if you’ve followed my instructions to the T. However, some people have mentioned getting a “Cannot load php5apache2_2.dll” error. This message is displayed because the web server cannot find the PHP dll file. For a detailed solution, please refer Apache cannot load php5apache2_2.dll – file not found blog post.

Problem #2 – Requested URL not found: Not Found – The requested URL /phpinfo.php was not found on this server. Assuming, you had followed the steps exactly as detailed above, the only reason you are getting this error is because you haven’t restarted the computer after modifying the Apache configuration file. The web server has to be restarted properly for the changes in the httpd.conf to take effect.

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