Beginner’s Guide: How to install WordPress manually

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There are a couple of ways to install WordPress, and you should do it in a way that works for you. Some hosts have “one-click” installs via applications that install WordPress without you getting your hands dirty. You can also install it manually with an FTP client or Shell access. We’re going to go the manual route with FTP in this tutorial for a couple of reasons:

  • There are simply too many hosts with different variations of automated installation processes.
  • We want to know what’s going on, so we’re going to “get our hands dirty”, if you will. Don’t worry though, we won’t get too terribly dirty — one of the best things about WordPress is how easy it is to work with.

Now hold your horses, we need to make sure you have the few tools and some information required to perform a manual install.

Tools needed for a manual install

  • FTP or Shell access – FTP is the simplest way to go here. File Transfer Protocol allows you to guess what… transfer files. This is how you upload and download files to your host’s server. There are a lot of choices for FTP clients, or the interface that connects you to the server. I personally use FireFTP (Mozilla Firefox app), as it is lightweight, is an in-browser application, and does everything you need for WordPress purposes. Another popular, well documented, Mac / Windows / Linux capable desktop application is the FileZilla client.
  • Text Editor – When working with code, you need a text editor that doesn’t alter what you input, a.k.a, Microsoft Word IS NOT a text editor. Notepad (for Windows) and TextEdit (for Mac) are the default system text editors, but they are super lightweight and don’t come with any frills. I personally love Notepad++ for Windows, because it is powerful enough and also simple enough for my needs with WordPress. I hear TextWrangler is a good alternative to Notepad++ for Mac users. There are also paid versions of TextEditors and many other free ones. View a larger list put together on WordPress.org.

Required information to perform an install

  • FTP login info – You should have established FTP login information with your host already. You need your username and password for FTP access to the server. The address for the FTP site will be like your web address, but instead of http://domain.com, it will be ftp://domain.com. If you have WordPress installed in a subdomain of the primary domain you host with, then you will still login to the primary FTP account and perform the install in a folder within that account.
  • cPanel (hosting control) login info – You need to make sure you know how to access your hosting control panel, or cPanel, with your host so that you can set up the database for WordPress. It is possible that your host already set up a database for you, and you will need your database name and user information handy.

Alright, we’ve got our tools, so let’s get started.

Steps to install WordPress

Download the latest stable release

WordPress is an open source software that is constantly being improved upon by members of the community. The development goes on in the background so that end users only get stable versions on live installs. The most recent, most stable version is always on the WordPress.org download page. You should always be running the most recent release to protect your site and never be afraid of updates!

So head on over there and click the big blue button for the direct download of the zip file.

Create a database and user

You need to create your MySql database and username for the installation. The easiest way to do this is usually through your host’s cPanel, or hosting control center. Login to your account and look for a link called MySql, Databases, or something similar. There should be a guide similar to the pictures below that walk you through naming your database and creating a user.

After you name your database appropriately, you’ll also need to input a database host. Typically localhost is what you use, but not always. Some popular hosts use other names, and you can view them here, but certainly verify with your host the appropriate name.

When you create the user, remember to choose a good long password with upper and lowercase letters and some numbers too. Remember both the database name and user information, because we will need it for the next step.

Edit wp-config.php

In our WordPress download from earlier, there is a file included called wp-config-sample.php. We need to edit that file and rename it to wp-config.php. So open up wp-sample-config.php in your text editor, and let’s alter the following values.

/** The name of the database for WordPress */
define('DB_NAME', 'database_name_here');

/** MySQL database username */
define('DB_USER', 'username_here');

/** MySQL database password */
define('DB_PASSWORD', 'password_here');

/** MySQL hostname */
define('DB_HOST', 'localhost');
  • Replace database_name_here with the database name you defined in the previous step, keeping the single quotes.
  • Replace username_here with your database username you defined in the previous step, also keeping the single quotes.
  • Replace password_here with your database password you defined in the previous step, also keeping the single quotes.
  • localhost can stay the same unless your host uses a different name as described in the previous step.

Next we need to set up our secret keys. There are eight lines in a row that say “put your unique phrase here”. These are security keys that were introduced in WordPress 2.6 and enhanced in WordPress 2.7. Note that this is extremely important, and you should not slack off from using a proper security key!

WordPress has even made this task super easy for you with this secret key generator. Just go to the url and copy the code and replace the existing lines in your config file. This url randomizes the keys so they are unique every time the page is visited. Yes, they are supposed to be crazy long and full of weird stuff.

Once you finish with the edits, be sure to rename or copy this file as wp-config.php. If you don’t do this WordPress won’t think you did anything at all.

If you want to read all of the nitty gritty details of editing wp-config, check out the WordPress Codex page about it.

It’s time to upload our files!

Alright, pull up your FTP client and login. After you login, find the directory you want to load WordPress. If you want WordPress to be on the homepage of your site (which I recommend) it needs to go in the root folder. Depending on your host, the root folder may actually have its own place in your FTP connection. If you don’t put your files in the root, visitors will have to go to http://yourdomain.com/whatever-folder-you-want to see your WordPress site.

When you upload your files, you don’t upload the entire WordPress folder, but rather open the WordPress folder and upload each file and folder into the root or subdirectory depending on where you are installing it.

Run the install script

Let’s visit your new WordPress site! Go to http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php. If you didn’t upload WordPress in the root folder, then you need to insert that folder name, such as http://yourdomain.com/whatever-folder-you-want/wp-admin/install.php.

Now you will be greeted with the WordPress setup page. You need to input your site title, the admin username (I recommend NOT using admin!), a strong password (you can use the same one as you used for the database if it makes it easier), and your email that will be used for notification purposes. You can also choose whether you want your site to be indexed by search engines, which if the site is not for private purposes, you want to leave that checked.

Click “Install WordPress” and you should be done! You can visit your url where you installed it to check and see how it looks. Congratulations! You’ve successfully installed WordPress and it is time to make it awesome!

Did you recieve an error notification? Check out the most common errors and how to fix them.

Now what?

You will now be greeted by the default WordPress theme on your homepage. If you want to get familiar with the backend, go to http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin, login, and look around. As the administrator of your new website, you’ll spend a lot of time here.

With your new website, you may find it advantageous to have a local setup as well, and we can walk you through it. You may also want to enable WordPress Multisite if you run a network. But first, check out our resources to picking your first theme.

24 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide: How to install WordPress manually

  1. Great write up Brian. One thing I’d like to note is that the step for manually editing wp-config.php is definitely necessary for putting in secret keys (and should be done), but not for entering your database details. These can be entered when running the install script.

    It would be a nice touch to allow for the secret key step while running the installation script, especially for those users who run the automatic installations.

    That said, anyone reading this should be doing this manually. It really helps you to get to know the guts of WordPress and there are a lot of other really cool things you can do in the wp-config.php file too!

    p.s. If anyone prefers to learn this through video, I have a free videos series about planning, domain, hosting, and ending with the manual installation process. It’s the link in my signature above.

  2. Good walk-through. I like how you finished it off with a link to the theme finding post. These kind of articles are a good way to broaden the WPCandy audience and bring new users into the fold. I like that.

  3. Nice tutorial. A manual WP install can be daunting for a lot of users, less experienced web designers included. This is a nice alternative to the 5 minute install documentation on wordpress.org.

  4. In-depth tutorial on simple topics, that’s exactly what inexperienced bloggers need. Personally, I have never installed wordpress via applications on my host, because I am used to install scripts and cms manually and I still have to check if my FTP account is functioning alright, so for me there is no difference how I will install a fresh copy of WordPress.

  5. I advise against using automatic script installation libraries like Fantastico. Web hosts and script libraries like to modify the system the way they want you to use it, often modifying and even removing features. Instead, you should get the full version of the software directly from the developers. I think if you’re going to setup a website, you should get a basic understanding of FTP, PHP, and MySQL so setting up WordPress is a great beginner lesson.

    Thanks for mentioning the secret keys. I don’t remember reading about that in the WP documents, so I agree with Adam that WP should do it automatically.

    I love Notepad++! Syntax highlighting, line numbering, spell check, numerous languages supported, etc. All you need to create a website is Notepad, but Notepad++ makes things much easier.

  6. Pingback: When starting up an online business, what publicity methods give the most bang for the buck? - Quora

  7. Thank you a million times for this info. I have several WP sites and wanted to sell a couple of them on Flippa, but lacked the techical knowledge do move them. The sites are old and too big to clone so I asked on a couple of forums but didn’t fully understand the answers :-(

    This is by far the easiest explanation I have come across. I can now proceed with my sales with confidence. I imagine I can use this for an established blog?

    Many thanks again
    Wendy

  8. Thanks for this tutorial! I followed both How to install wordpress, and how to install a wordpress theme! They both worked amazingly for me, and now my site is up and running! I can’t thank you enough Leland -Much Love?

  9. thanks for your info. i just installed WordPress on my server. its seems easy for me to install in Cpanel. but my previous host was in EHCP Control panel. so. i was confused.

  10. This tutorial is super easy with superb information. Wow! I like Notepad++ as well as a text editor and FileZilla for FTP. Thank you for sharing this awesome information.
    Regards,
    Kumar

  11. The first couple WordPress sites I made probably 7-8 years ago I used the auto-installer at a hosting company. It worked fine for awhile. I ended up having some file permissions problems after moving one of the sites to a new host later on.

    I also agree that the secret keys should be configured automatically for those that don’t manually edit the configuration file. I’ll have to check out Notepad++ but I use and would recommend a free program called “Programmer’s Notepad” that’s a huge improvement upon notepad.

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