Local Dev Environments For Newbies Part 2: AMP on Windows 7

Previously, we discussed the benefits of installing a local AMP stack (Apache, MySQL & PHP) for the purposes of development and testing, and walked through installing a stack in the Mac environment.  In this post, we will turn our attention to Windows.  (If you have not read Local Dev Environments for Newbies Part 1, and you are new to the AMP stack, you might want to go read the Introduction and Tips sections before continuing with this tutorial.)

Much like with the Mac stack, there are Windows stack installers that will do all of this for you.  For example, if you are looking to develop for Drupal, there’s an install package called Acquia that comes with a stack installer.   There’s also WAMPserver and XAMPP.  If you opt to go this route, you should do some research and decide which option is the best for you.  This article contains reviews of many of the main players, though it is a year old.

However, we are going to walk through each component manually so that we can see how it all works together.

So, let’s get going with Recipe 2 – Install the AMP Stack on Windows 7.


Notepad and Wordpad come with most Windows systems, but you may want to install a more robust code editor to edit configuration files and eventually, your code.  I prefer Notepad++, which is open source and provides much of the basic functionality needed in a code editor.  The examples here will reference Notepad++ but feel free to use whichever code editor works for you.

For our purposes, we are not going to allow traffic from outside the machine to access our test server.  If you need this functionality, you will need to open a port in your firewall on port 80.  Be very careful with this option.

As a prerequisite to installing Apache, we need to install the Visual C++ 2010 SP1 Redistributable Package x86.  As a pre-requisite to installing PHP, we need to install the Visual C++ 2008  SP1 Redistributable Package x86.

I create a directory called opt\local in my C drive to house all of the stack pieces.  I do this because it’s easier to find things on the command line when I need to and I like keeping development environment applications separate from Program Files.  I also create a directory called sites to house my web files.

wamp-opt copy

The last two prerequisites are more like common gotchas.  The first is that while you are manipulating configuration and initialization files throughout this process, you may find the Windows default view settings are getting in your way.  If this is the case, you can change it by going to Organize > Folder and search options > View tab.


This will bring up a dialog which allows you to set preferences for the folder you are currently viewing.  You can select the option to “show hidden files” and uncheck the “hide file extensions” option, both of which make developing easier.

The other thing to know is that in our example, we will work with a Windows 7 installation – a 64-bit operating system.  However, when we get to PHP, you’ll notice that their website does not provide a 64-bit installer.  I have seen errors in the past when a 32-bit PHP installer and a 64-bit Apache version were both used, so we will install the 32-bit versions for both components.

Ok, I think we’re all set.  Let’s install Apache.


We want to download the .zip file for latest version.  For Windows binaries, I use apachelounge, which builds windows installer files.  For this example we’ll download httpd-2.4.4-win32.zip to the Desktop of our Windows machine.


Next, we want to extract files into chosen location for Apache directory, eg c:\opt\local\Apache24.  You can accomplish this a variety of ways but if you have WinZip, you can follow these steps:

  1. Copy the .zip folder to c:\opt\local
  2. Right-click and select “Extract all files”.
  3. Open the extracted folder, right-click on the Apache24 folder and select Cut.
  4. Go back up one directory and right-click to Paste the Apache24 folder, so that it now resides inside c:\opt\local.

No matter what unzip program you use, this is the configuration we are shooting for:wamp-apachedir

This extraction “installs” Apache; there is no installer to run, but we will need to configure a few things.

We want to open httpd.conf: this file contains all of the configuration settings for our web server.  If you followed the directions above, you can find the file in C:\opt\local\Apache24\conf\httpd.conf – we want to open it with our code editor and make the following changes:

1.  Find this line (in my copy, it’s line 37):

ServerRoot “c:/Apache24”

Change it to match the directory where you installed Apache.  In my case, it reads:

ServerRoot “c:/opt/local/Apache24”

You might notice that our slashes slant in the opposite direction from the usual Windows sytax.  In Windows, backslash ( \ ) delineates different directories, but in Unix, it’s forward slash ( / ).  Apache reads the configuration file in the Unix manner, even though we are working in Windows.  If you get a “directory not found” error at any point, check your slashes.

2.  At Line 58, we are going to change the listen command to just listen to our machine.  Change

Listen 80


Listen localhost:80

3.  There are 100 lines around 72-172 that all start with LoadModule.  Some of these are comments (they begin with a “#”).  Later on, you may need to uncomment some of these for a certain web program to work, like SSL.  For now, though, we’ll leave these as is.

4.  Next, we want to change our Document Root and the directory directive to the directory which has the web files.  These lines (beginning on line 237 in my copy) read:

DocumentRoot “c:/Apache24/htdocs”

Later, we’ll want to change this to our “sites” folder we created earlier.  For now, we’re just going to change this to the Apache installation directory for testing.  So, it should read:

DocumentRoot “c:/opt/local/Apache24/htdocs”

Save the httpd.conf file.  (In two of our test cases, after saving the file, closing and re-opening, the file appeared unchanged.  If you are having issues, try doing Save As and save the file to your desktop, then drag it into c:\opt\local\Apache24).

Next, we want to test our Apache configuration.  To do this, we open the command line.  In Windows, you can do this by going to the Start Menu, and typing


in the Search box.  Then, press Enter.  Once you’re in the command prompt, type in

cd \opt\local\Apache24\bin

(Note that the first part of this path is the install directory I used above.  If you chose a different directory to install Apache, use that instead.)  Next, we start the web server with a “-t” flag to test it.  Type in:

httpd –t

If you get a Syntax OK, you’re golden.


Otherwise, try to resolve any errors based on the error message. If the error message does not make any sense after checking your code for typos, go back and make sure that your changes to httpd.conf did actually save.

Once you get Syntax OK, type in:


This will start the web server.  You should not get a message regarding the firewall if you changed the listen command to localhost:80.  But, if you do, decide what traffic you want to allow to your machine.  I would click “Cancel” instead of “Allow Access”, because I don’t want to allow outside access.

Now the server is running.  You’ll notice that you no longer have a C:\> prompt in the Command window.  To test our server, we open a browser and type in http://localhost  – you should get a website with text that reads “It works!”


Instead of starting up the server this way every time, we want to install it as a Windows service.  So, let’s go back to our command prompt and press Ctrl+C to stop web server.  You should now have a prompt again.

To install Apache as a service, type:

httpd.exe –k install

You will most likely get an error that looks like this:


We need to run our command prompt as an administrator.  So, let’s close the cmd.exe window and go back to our Start menu.  Go to Start > All Programs > Accessories and right-click on Command Prompt.  Select “Run As Administrator”.

(Note: If for some reason you do not have the ability to right-click, there’s a “How-To Geek” post with a great tip.  Go to the Start menu and in the Run box, type in cmd.exe as we did before, but instead of hitting Enter, hit Ctrl+Shift+Enter.  This does the same thing as the right-click step above.)

Click on Yes at the prompt that comes up, allowing the program to make changes.  You’ll notice that instead of starting in our user directory, we are starting in Windows\system32 So, let’s go back to our bin directory with:

cd \opt\local\Apache24\bin

Now, we can run our

httpd.exe –k install

command again, and it should succeed.  To start the service, we want to open our Services Dialog, located in the Control Panel (Start Menu > Control Panel) in the Administrative Tools section.  If you display your Control Panel by category (the default), you click on System & Security, then Administrative Tools.  If you display your control panel by small icon, Administrative Tools should be listed.

Double click on Services.


Find Apache2.4 in the list and select it.  Verify that the Startup Type is set to Automatic if you want the Service to start automatically (if you would prefer that the Service only start at certain times, change this to Manual, but remember that you have to come back in here to start it).  With Apache2.4 selected, click on Start Service in the left hand column.


Go back to the browser and hit Refresh to verify that everything is still working.  It should still say “It Works!”  And with that affirmation, let’s move to PHP.


(Before installing PHP, make sure you have installed the Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable Package from the prerequisite section.)

For our purposes, we want to use the Thread Safe .zip from the PHP Downloads page.    Because we are running PHP under Apache, but not as a CGI, we use the thread safe version.  (For more on thread safe vs. non-thread safe, see this Wikipedia entry or this stackoverflow post)

PHP Download

Once you’ve downloaded the .zip file, extract it to your \opt\local directory.  Then, rename the folder to simply “php”.  As with Apache24, extracting the files does the “install”, we just need to configure everything to run properly.  Go to the directory where you installed PHP, (in my case, c:\opt\local\php) and find php.ini-development.

Make a copy of the file and rename the copy php.ini (this is one of those places where you may want to set the Folder and search options if you’re having problems).

PHP ini file

Open the file in Notepad++ (or your code editor of choice).  Note that here, comments are preceded by a “;” (without quotes) and the directories are delineated using the standard Windows format, with a “\”.  Most of the document is commented out, and includes a large section on recommended settings for production and development, so if you’re not sure of the changes to make you can check in the file (in addition to the PHP documentation).  For this tutorial, we want to make the following changes:

1.  On line 708, uncomment (remove semi-colon) include_path under “Windows” and make sure it matches the directory where you installed PHP (if the line numbers have changed, just search for Paths and Directories).

2.  On line 730, uncomment the Windows directive for extension_dir and change extension_dir to match c:\opt\local\php\ext

3.  Beginning on Line 868, in the Windows Extensions section, uncomment (remove the semi-colon) from the following lines (they are not right next to each other, they’re in a longer list, but we want these three uncommented):


Save php.ini file.

You may want to double-check that the .dll files we enabled above are actually in the c:\opt\local\php\ext folder before trying to run php, because you will see an error if they are not there.

Next, we want to add the php directory to our path environment variables.  This section is a little tricky; be *extremely* careful when you are making changes to system settings like this.

First, we navigate to the Environment variables by opening the Control Panel and going to System & Security > System > Advanced System Settings > Environment Variables.

In the bottom scroll box, scroll until you find “Path”, click on it, then click on Edit.


Append the following to the end of the Variable Value list (the semi-colon ends the previous item, then we add our installation path).



Click OK and continue to do so until you are out of the dialog.

Lastly, we need to add some lines to the httpd.conf so that Apache will play nice with PHP.  The httpd.conf file may still be open in your text editor.  If not, go back to c:\opt\local\Apache24\conf and open it.  At the bottom of this file, we need to add the following:

LoadModule php5_module "c:/opt/local/php/php5apache2_4.dll"
AddHandler application/x-httpd-php .php
PHPIniDir "c:/opt/local/php"

This tells Apache where to find php and loads the module needed to work with PHP.  (Note:  php5apache2_4.dll must be installed in the directory you specified above in the LoadModule statement.  It should have been extracted with the other files, but to download the file if it is not there, you can go to the apachelounge additional downloads page.)

While we’re in this file, we also want to tell Apache to look for an index.php file.  We’ll need this for testing, but also for some content management systems.  To do this, we change the DirectoryIndex directive on line 271.  It should look like

<IfModule dir_module>
  DirectoryIndex index.html

We want to change the DirectoryIndex line so it reads

DirectoryIndex index.php index.html

Save httpd.conf.

Before we restart Apache to pick up these changes, we’re going to do one last thing.  To test our php, we want to create a file called index.php with the following text inside:

<?php phpinfo(); ?>

Save it to c:\opt\local\Apache24\htdocs


Restart Apache by going back to the Services dialog.  (If you closed it, it’s Control Panel > System & Security > Administrative Tools > Services).  Click on Apache2.4 and then click on Restart.


If you get an error, you can always go back to the command line, navigate to c:\opt\local\Apache24\bin and run httpd.exe –t again.  This will check your syntax, which is most likely to the be problem.  (This page is also helpful in troubleshooting PHP 5.4 and Apache if you are having issues.)

Open a browser window and type in http://localhost – instead of “It Works!” you should see a list configuration settings for PHP.  (In one of our test cases, the tester needed to close Internet Explorer re-open it for this part to work.)


Now, we move to the database.


To install MySQL, we can follow the directions at the MySQL site.  For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to use the most recent version as of this writing, which is 5.6.11.  To download the files we need, we go to the Community Server download page.

MySQL Downloads

Again, we can absolutely use the installer here, which is the first option.  The MySQL installers will prompt you through the setup, and this video does a great job of walking through the process.

But, the since the goal of this tutorial is to see all the parts, I’m going to run through the setup manually.  First, we download the .zip archive.  Choose the .zip file which matches your operating system; I will choose 64-bit (there’s no agreement issue here).  Extract the files to c:\opt\local\mysql.  We do this in the same way we did the Apache24 files above.

Since we’re installing to our opt\local drive, we need to tell MySQL to look there for the program files and the data.  We do this by setting up an option file.  We can modify a file provided for us called my-default.ini.  Change the name to my.ini and open it with your code editor.


In the MySQL config files, we use the Unix directory “/” again, and the comments are again preceded by a “#”.  So, to set our locations, we want to remove the # from the beginning of the basedir and datadir lines, and change to our installation directory as shown below.


Then save my.ini.

As with Apache, we’re going to start MySQL for the first time from the command line, to make sure everything is working ok.  If you still have it open, navigate back there.  If not, remember to select the Run As Administrator option.

From your command prompt, type in

cd \opt\local\mysql\bin
mysqld --console

You should see a bunch of statements scroll by as the first database is created.  You may also get a firewall popup.  I hit Cancel here, so as not to allow access from outside my computer to the MySQL databases.

Ctrl+C to stop the server.  Now, let’s install MySQL as a service.  To do that, we type the command:

mysqld --install


Next, we want to start the MySQL service, so we need to go back to Services.  You may have to Refresh the list in order to see the MySQL service.  You can do this by going to Action > Refresh in the menu.


Then, we start the service my clicking on MySQL and clicking Start Service on the left hand side.



One thing about installing MySQL in this manner is that the initial root user for the database will not have a password.  To see this, go back to your command line.  Type in

mysql -u root

This will open the command line MySQL client and allow you to run queries.  The -u flag sets the user, in this case, root.  Notice you are not prompted for a password.  Type in:

select user, host, password from mysql.user;

This command should show all the created user accounts, the hosts from which they can log in, and their passwords.  The semi-colon at the end is crucial – it signifies the end of a SQL command.


Notice in the output that the password column is blank.  MySQL provides documentation on how to fix this on the Securing the Initial Accounts documentation page, but we’ll also step through it here.  We want to use the SET PASSWORD command to set the password for all of the root accounts.

Substituting the password you want for newpwd (keep the single quotes in the command), type in

SET PASSWORD FOR 'root'@'localhost' = PASSWORD('newpwd');
SET PASSWORD FOR 'root'@'' = PASSWORD('newpwd');
SET PASSWORD FOR 'root'@'::1' = PASSWORD('newpwd');

You should get a confirmation after every command.  Now, if you run the select user command from above, you’ll see that there are values in the password field, equivalent to encrypted versions of what you specified.

A note about security: I am not a security expert and for a development stack we are usually less concerned with security.  But it is generally not a good idea to type in plain text passwords in the command line, because if the commands are being logged you’ve just saved your password in a plain text file that someone can access.  In this case, we have not turned on any logging, and the SET PASSWORD should not store the password in plain text.  But, this is something to keep in mind.

As before with Mac OS X, we could stop here.  But then you would have to administer the MySQL databases using the command line.  So we’ll install phpMyAdmin to make it a little easier and test to see how our web server works with our sites folder.


Download the phpmyadmin.zip file from the phpmyadmin page to the sites folder we created all the way at the beginning.  Note that this does *not* go into the opt folder.

Extract the files to a folder called phpmyadmin using the same methods we’ve used previously.


Since we now want to use our sites folder instead of the default htdocs folder, we will need to change the DocumentRoot and Directory directives on lines 237 and 238 of our Apache config file.  So, open httpd.conf again.

We want to change the DocumentRoot to sites, and we’re going to set up the phpMyAdmin directory.

Change Document Root and Directory

Save the httpd.conf file.  Go back to Services and Restart the Apache2.4 service.

We will complete the configuration through the browser.  First, open the browser and try to navigate to http://localhost again.  You should get a 403 error.


Instead, navigate to http://localhost/phpmyadmin/setup


Click on the New Server button to set up a connection to our MySQL databases.  Double check that under the Basic Settings tab, the Server Name is set to localhost, and then click on Authentication.  Verify that the type is “cookie”.

At the bottom of the page, click on Save.  Now, change the address in the browser to http://localhost/phpmyadmin and log in with the root user, using the password you set above.

And that’s it.  Your Windows AMP stack should be ready to go.

In the next post, we’ll talk about how to install a content management system like WordPress or Drupal on top of the base stack.  Questions, comments or other recipes you would like to see?  Let us know in the comments.