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How to Install PHP on Windows 10 (with Apache & MySQL)

By Craig Buckler
PHP
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This article explains how to install PHP 8 and Apache 2.4 on Windows 10 (64-bit).

Linux and macOS users often have Apache and PHP pre-installed or available via package managers. Windows 10 requires a little more effort. The steps below may work with other editions of Windows, PHP, and Apache, but check the documentation of each dependency for specific instructions.

Why PHP?

PHP remains the most widespread and popular server-side scripting language in web development.

It’s installed by most web hosts, and has a simple learning curve, close ties with the MySQL database, superb documentation, and an excellent collection of libraries to cut your development time.

PHP may not be perfect, but it should be considered as an option for your next web application. It’s the language of choice for Facebook, Slack, Wikipedia, MailChimp, Etsy, and WordPress — the Content Management System which powers 40% of the web.

Why Install PHP Locally?

Installing PHP on your development PC allows you to safely create and test websites and applications without affecting the data or systems on your live server.

Alternative Installation Options

Before you jump in, there may be a simpler installation options…

Use an All-in-One package

All-in-one packages are available for Windows which contain Apache, PHP, MySQL, and many other dependencies in a single installation file — such as XAMPP, WampServer and Web.Developer.

These packages are easy to use, but they may not exactly match your live server. Installing Apache and PHP manually will help you learn more about the system and configuration options.

Use a Linux Virtual Machine

Microsoft Hyper-V (provided in Windows 10 Professional) and VirtualBox are free hypervisors which emulate a PC so you can install another operating system.

You can install any version of Linux, then follow its Apache and PHP installation instructions. Alternatively, distros such as Ubuntu Server provide them as standard (although they’re rarely the latest editions).

Use Windows Subsystem for Linux 2

WSL2 is also a virtual machine, but it’s tightly integrated into Windows so activities such as file sharing and localhost resolution is seamless. You can install several Linux distros, so refer to the appropriate Apache and PHP instructions.

Use Docker

Docker creates a wrapper (known as a container) around pre-configured application dependencies such as Apache, PHP, MySQL, MongoDB, and most other web software. Containers look like full Linux Virtual Machines but are considerably more lightweight.

Once you’ve installed Docker Desktop on Windows 10, it’s easy to download, configure, and run Apache and PHP.

Docker is currently considered the best option for setting up a PHP development environment. Read our complete guide to setting up a PHP development environment with Docker.

Install Apache (optional)

If you’re still reading, the following sections describe how to install Apache and PHP directly on Windows.

PHP provides a built-in web server which can be launched by navigating to a folder and running the PHP executable with an -S parameter to set the localhost port. for example:

cd \myproject
php -S localhost:8000

PHP pages can then be viewed in a browser at http://localhost:8000.

This may be adequate for quick tests, but your live server will use Apache or similar web server software. Emulating that environment as closely as possible will prevent development errors.

To install Apache, download the latest Win64 ZIP file from https://www.apachelounge.com/download/ and extract its Apache24 folder to the root of your C: drive. You’ll also need to install the Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2015–2019 (vc_redist_x64); a link is provided on the same page.

Open a cmd command prompt (not PowerShell) and start Apache with:

cd C:\Apache24\bin
httpd

You may need to accept a firewall exception before the server starts to run. Open http://localhost in a browser and an “It works!” message should appear. Note:

  • If you need to change any settings, Apache’s configuration file is located at C:\Apache24\conf\httpd.conf.
  • The web server root folder is located at C:\Apache24\htdocs. Initially, it contains a single index.html file with the “It works!” message.

Also not that, if Apache won’t start, it’s likely another application is hogging port 80. (Skype is the prime candidate and the Windows 10 app won’t let you disable it!) If this occurs, edit C:\Apache24\conf\httpd.conf and change the line Listen 80 to Listen 8080 or any other free port. Restart Apache and, from that point onward, you can load web files at http://localhost:8080

The server can be stopped with Ctrl + C. The ReadMe file in the ZIP also provides instructions for installing Apache as a Windows service.

How to Install PHP

Install PHP by following the steps below. Note that there are several ways to configure Apache and PHP, but this is possibly the quickest method.

Step 1: Download the PHP files

You’ll need the PHP Windows installer. There are a number of versions of PHP available. Make sure you get the latest PHP 8 x64 Thread Safe ZIP package from https://www.php.net/downloads.php.

Step 2: Extract the files

Create a new php folder in the root of your C:\ drive and extract the contents of the ZIP into it.

PHP can be installed anywhere on your system, but you’ll need to change the paths referenced below if C:\php isn’t used.

Step 3: Configure php.ini

PHP’s configuration file is named php.ini. This doesn’t exist initially, so copy C:\php\php.ini-development to C:\php\php.ini. This default configuration provides a development setup which reports all PHP errors and warnings.

There are several lines you may need to change in a text editor (use search to find the current value). In most cases, you’ll need to remove a leading semicolon (;) to uncomment a setting.

First, enable any required extensions. This will depend on the libraries you want to use, but the following extensions should be suitable for most applications:

extension=curl
extension=gd
extension=mbstring
extension=pdo_mysql

If you want to send emails using PHP’s mail() function, enter the details of an SMTP server in the [mail function] section (your ISP’s server should be suitable):

[mail function]
; For Win32 only.
; http://php.net/smtp
SMTP = mail.myisp.com
; http://php.net/smtp-port
smtp_port = 25

; For Win32 only.
; http://php.net/sendmail-from
sendmail_from = my@emailaddress.com

Step 4: Add C:\php to the path environment variable

To ensure Windows can find the PHP executable, you need to change the PATH environment variable. Click the Windows Start button and type “environment”, then click Edit the system environment variables. Select the Advanced tab, and click the Environment Variables button.

Scroll down the System variables list and click Path followed by the Edit button. Click New and add C:\php:

PHP path environment variable

Note that older editions of Windows have a single text box where each path is separated by a semi-colon (;).

Click OK until you’re out. You shouldn’t need to reboot, but you may need to close and restart any cmd terminals you have open.

Step 5: Configure PHP as an Apache module

Ensure Apache isn’t running and open its C:\Apache24\conf\httpd.conf configuration file in a text editor. Add the following lines to the bottom of the file to set PHP as an Apache module (change the file locations if necessary):

# PHP8 module
PHPIniDir "C:/php"
LoadModule php_module "C:/php/php8apache2_4.dll"
AddType application/x-httpd-php .php

Optionally, change the DirectoryIndex setting to load index.php instead of index.html when it can be found. The initial setting is:

<IfModule dir_module>
    DirectoryIndex index.html
</IfModule>

Change it to:

<IfModule dir_module>
    DirectoryIndex index.php index.html
</IfModule>

Save httpd.conf and test the updates from a cmd command line:

cd C:\Apache24\bin
httpd -t

Syntax OK should appear … unless you have errors in your configuration.

If all went well, restart Apache with httpd.

Step 6: Test a PHP file

Create a new file named index.php in Apache’s web page root folder at C:\Apache24\htdocs and add the following PHP code:

<?php
phpinfo();
?>

Open a web browser and enter your server address: http://localhost/. A “PHP version” page will appear showing the various PHP and Apache configuration settings.

You can now create PHP sites and applications in any sub-folder of C:\Apache24\htdocs. If you need to work on multiple projects, consider defining Apache Virtual Hosts so you can run separate codebases on different localhost domains or ports.

Further information:

If you’re more comfortable with Linux, you might prefer to set up your PHP environment under Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. Check out our WSL2 guide and in-depth Windows Terminal tutorial for more.

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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