Beginner: simulated web server on my computer for development?

I’m pretty much a beginner but I plan on redoing our website with one of the open source CMS and a different shopping cart. Considering that I don’t know what I’m doing and that it’s going to take a while to redo this thing, is there a way to use my computer as a simulated web server so I can test all the different aspects of the site as if it were already online? That way when it’s completely finished, all I need to do is upload it to the real domain.

I don’t know which CMS I want to use yet, not sure if that matters or not as far as being able to develop and test on my computer…

Just looking for a push in the right direction if anyone has any relevant links to where I can read up, software to get, etc…

There are only two web servers with significant usage out there, Apache and IIS. Most websites in the world run on Apache, and Apache is free open-source software. It is also available for just about every major operating system, including Windows.

A simple way to get started is a package called XAMPP which will install Apache, PHP, Perl, and MySQL on your computer. You can then access the web server by going to a local URL In your browser, http://localhost or, etc.

Thanks so much for that, I think it will be very helpful!!

I installed xampp…I can’t find any documentation though about how to use it… For example, where should I build my website, any specific folder?

Sounds like you may need a grounding in how to run php on your ‘own’ server as well.
There are a few Sitepoint books for php in the books section that may be of interest.
David Powers has also just launced a new book on php -
I can certainly vouch for his books, they are easy to understand, particularly for a newbie - he leads you by the hand on installing the testing server on your own machine and then has practical exercises for you to walk through.

He also has this tutorial up - which may help with installing php:

Most of the php instructions on the web should be able to help you understand how to set it all up and where you should be saving your files etc., Here’s one at

Good Luck - I know how daunting this can be - having only just gone through it myself :slight_smile:


I don’t have XAMPP installed, but if I remember right, the document root was something like “C:\Program Files\apachefriends\xampp\htdocs”. All your web-accessible files would be in there or in subdirectories.

You can change the document root by editing the httpd.conf file, the Apache configuration file, which is probably somewhere in a nearby folder.

ah yes, I figured that out that the website files are to reside in that htdocs folder by going to http://localhost/index.html or php and seeing what came up, then searching for that file and that led me to the location :slight_smile:

I was able to install Zen Cart without much difficulty at all… I’ve used phpMyAdmin before with GoDaddy to install various scripts that use mysql databases so I’m about 1% familiar with how to install a pre-configured script such as zen cart and what not.

The main question I still have is how can I go about creating everything for th new site and then just be able to upload it to root when I’m ready? Should I assume that /htdocs folder is synonymous with the root of the final webserver when it’s uploaded?

Yes. You’re running the same web server software your host is running. It works exactly the same.

So in order for it to work correctly, I shouldn’t have any absolute links to If everything is a relative link to the site root, then when I upload the site to the real domain, it should work, correct?