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How to Install PHP on Windows

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In this article, we’re going to discuss how to install PHP on Windows. There are three different ways to install and run PHP on Windows, and we'll look at each one.

PHP is a server-side scripting language which is mostly used to build web applications—these may range from a very simple blog website to a full-fledged eCommerce store. In fact, PHP is one of the most popular server-side scripting languages for web development.

In the next section, we’ll go through the prerequisites for installing PHP on your Windows computer.

Prerequisites

Before we install PHP, let’s make sure of the following things.

The first thing to check is the Windows version. If you're using a Windows version older than Windows 2008/Vista, you won’t be able to install PHP versions that are greater than 5.5. As per the official documentation, as of the PHP 7.2.0 version, Windows 2008 and Windows Vista are not supported.

Thus, it’s important to be sure that your Windows version aligns with the PHP version you want to install.

In the next section, we’ll discuss different ways to install PHP. If you want to install PHP manually, you should be comfortable editing a few system files since that is part of the manual installation process. On the other hand, if you just use the all-in-one package, it will be pretty straightforward, and all the configuration will happen automatically.

Today, we’re going to install the latest stable version of PHP, which is 7.4. In fact, PHP has several different versions, and if you want to install a different version of PHP and are facing any difficulties, drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll be happy to help.

With that out of the way, let's get started installing PHP!

Possible Ways to Install PHP on Windows

In this section, I'll briefly discuss the different ways you can install PHP on Windows.

Manual Installation

In the manual installation process, apart from downloading the PHP package, you need to go through a couple of steps to properly configure it. As I said earlier, if you prefer manual installation, you should be comfortable enough to edit a few configuration files in the text editor.

All-in-One Packages

There are a couple of popular Windows PHP distributions that come as all-in-one packages. Apart from PHP, these also install and configure the Apache web server and a MySQL database server. These packages are really useful for developers who want to set up and run the full web development stack quickly and easily.

XAMPP and WampServer are two of the most popular Windows distributions among the PHP community.

Using a .msi Installer

I would say this was one of the easiest and most preferred ways to install PHP among newbies. But it’s deprecated and not recommended anymore. To install PHP with an installer, you just need to download the .msi installer and run it to install PHP just like any other software you install on Windows.

However, as of PHP 5.4.0, you won’t find the .msi installer files on the PHP downloads page. So this is only going to be useful if you want to install an older PHP version. As it’s deprecated, we won’t discuss this installation method in detail.

How to Install PHP on Windows Manually

In this section, we’ll go through the steps that are required in order to install PHP in your Windows installation manually.

Download and Extract the PHP Package Files

The first thing you have to do is to download the PHP package file of your choice from the official PHP downloads page.

You’ll find .zip files available for both x86 and x64 systems, so make sure to download the correct one as per your Windows OS architecture. Also, you’ll have to choose either to download the non-thread-safe or thread-safe version of PHP. If you’re planning to run PHP as an Apache module, the thread-safe version is recommended. However, if you want to run PHP as a CGI module, you can choose either of them!

Next, you need to extract the .zip file in the directory where you want to install PHP. A common install location is C:\php. Create the php directory and extract the .zip file contents inside the C:\php directory.

Configure the php.ini Configuration File

In this section, we’ll discuss the necessary changes you need to make in the php.ini configuration file.

The PHP package that you’ve just downloaded already contains two different versions of the configuration file: php.ini-development and php.ini-production. The php.ini-development file is designed and configured for your local development. This has a lot of features enabled which make it easier to test and debug your code, but it makes your software run slower and is not secure for a live site. On the other hand, the php.ini-production file is designed for optimum performance and security. We’re going to use the php.ini-production file.

As PHP detects the php.ini file as its configuration file, you’ll have to copy the file which you choose for your local development, and rename it to the php.ini file. As we’re going to use the production version, copy the php.ini-production file to the C:\php\php.ini file.

Next, open the php.ini file in your favorite text editor and find the following line.

It’s the path of the PHP extensions directory, and let’s change it as shown in the following snippet.

It’s important to note that we’ve also removed the semicolon in front of the line to make sure it’s not commented. Of course, you need to adjust the above path to match your installation directory.

And with that, we’ve finished the php.ini configuration file changes.

Configure the PATH Environment Variable

In this final section, we’ll see how to add the PHP installation path to the PATH environment variable. The process of updating the PATH variable in Windows changes from version to version. I’ll show you how to change it in Windows 10, but feel free to ask me if you’re using a different version.

In the Windows search bar, just type the environment keyword and choose Edit the system environment variables in the search results. Go to the Advanced > Environment Variables section. Edit the PATH environment variable and add ;C:\php to the end. This will make it so you can run PHP just by typing php from the command prompt, no matter what folder you're in.

Finally, reboot the system, and you’re done. You’ve successfully installed PHP in your Windows installation!

Installing With an All-in-One Package

As I mentioned earlier, XAMPP and WampServer are popular all-in-one packages that allow you to install PHP along with the other essential web development components like a web server and database server.

Irrespective of the tool you choose, the process of installing these tools is pretty straightforward. You just need to download the corresponding installer and run it to install it in your Windows installation. We won’t go into the details of this, but if you have any queries regarding this, feel free to post them.

In the next section, we’ll see how to enable specific PHP extensions in your PHP installation.

How to Install PHP Extensions

In this section, we’ll see how to enable PHP extensions. 

Every time you want to enable a specific extension in PHP, you just need to find the associated entry in the php.ini configuration file and uncomment it.

For example, let’s say you want to enable the mysqli extension. Then you need to search for the extension=mysqli entry in the php.ini file and uncomment it, as shown in the following snippet.

In the same way, you can enable other extensions as well.

Learn PHP With a Free Online Course

If you want to learn PHP, check out our free online course on PHP fundamentals!

 

In this course, you'll learn the fundamentals of PHP programming. You'll start with the basics, learning how PHP works and writing simple PHP loops and functions. Then you'll build up to coding classes for simple object-oriented programming (OOP).

Along the way, you'll learn all the most important skills for writing apps for the web: you'll get a chance to practice responding to GET and POST requests, parsing JSON, authenticating users, and using a MySQL database.

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