If you live in the world of Windows, you know setting up a web server can not only be a real challenge, but it’s also a challenge on the budget. For those who need a web server on a tight budget, and must use a Windows-based server, there is another option – Apache. As you may know, Apache is one of the most widely used web servers since it’s robust, easy to administer, and cross platform. It is because of the cross-platform nature of Apache, that allows even Windows users to enjoy an open source, free-of-charge, web server on their proprietary platform.
But, unless you plan on serving up flat-text web pages, a basic Apache server isn’t enough. What you really need is the equivalent to a LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) server. That is where WAMP (Windows Apache MySQL PHP) comes in. WAMP is very simple to install and can have you serving up robust web sites quickly. Let’s take a look at how you can get WAMP up and running in no time.
I am very happy to say that installing WAMP is just as easy as installing LAMP. Download the file that matches your architecture from the WAMP download site and double-click the downloaded file to initiate the installation. The installation pretty much speaks for itself. Just walk through the wizard and, when it’s complete, you’ll have a working WAMP server. But you’re not completely out of the woods just yet.
Starting and controlling your WAMP server
To initially start your WAMP server click Start > All Programs > WampServer > Start WampServer. Depending upon how your UAC is configured, you might have to OK this action. Once the server has started, you will notice a new icon in your system tray (see Figure A).
To make sure your WAMP server is running, and successfully serving up pages, open up your browser and point it to http://localhost. You should then see the WAMP landing page (see Figure B). Out of the box that page will only be available locally. In order to access that server from outside the server you must put the server online. To do that click the WAMP icon in the system tray and then click Put Online.
One of the issues you will face is having to add databases for those data-base driven web sites. Now the WAMP server does include a full-blown MySQL server, so if you know the command-line syntax you are good to go. This WAMP install also includes phpMyAdmin, which is a solid tool. But for the rest of the world I prefer to recommend a tool with more power and a more user-friendly interface. The tool that I highly recommend you add to this mix (one that will allow you to create and manage your databases on your WAMP server) is the MySQL Workbench. Download and install this tool (installation is a no-brainer.) When it comes to the MySQL admin user password, this will have been configured during the WAMP installation.
After this tool is installed, you can start it by clicking Start > All Programs > MySQL > MySQL Workbench. When the tool starts you will have to configure a connection. You do this by clicking the New Connection link (see Figure C) in the main window.
One of the first tasks you will want to do is create a database (schema). To do that click the Create a New Schema button in the SQL Editor window (see Figure D.)
Now that you have your WAMP server up and running, you need to know where to place everything. If you are unfamiliar with the term “document root” that is the Apache term for the root directory where you web served documents exist. In other words, the directory served up when you go to http://ADDRESS_TO_SERVER/. The WAMP server I directed you to uses the C:\wamp\www directory for the document root.
The quickest way to configure Apache is to click on the WAMP icon in the system tray and then click Apache > httpd.conf. This will open up the httpd.conf file in Notepad where you can configure nearly every aspect of your Apache server. Of course the configuration of Apache goes beyond the scope of this article, but it’s always good to know where to start.
The sky’s the limit
You now have a working, powerful, web server up on your Windows machine. This server will be capable of serving up sites based on Drupal, WordPress, Joomla!, Xoops, and more. All of this without having to spend a penny on software! Now that’s how we speak DIY!