Just to chime in here - for anyone coming into PHP for the first time and seeing this, if you're the least bit serious about making it into a career, start with Vagrant right away. Here is a good starter tutorial that gets you up and running in 5 minutes - arguably faster than the XAMPP method and much more robust and professional.
For more Vagrant with PHP tutorials see here.
I strongly recommend you sacrifice a day or two to get familiar with what it's all about. Once you go Vagrant, you never go back - that's a promise. If anyone gets stuck in any part, please post back and I'll do my best to help out.