Do not try to install WordPress on your own computer!
Several clients have called me in a panic, saying “Susan, I’ve downloaded WordPress and tried to install it on my computer and it’s just not working!”
It doesn’t take long to clear up the understandable confusion. WordPress is not a software package that you install on your own computer. It’s a software package that you install on your server—on your web host itself.
Many hosts offer one-click WordPress installation. (Tip: always pick a web host that offers live telephone support. Email or online chat are sometimes no substitute for a quick clarifying phone call.) If your host does not offer one-click installation, or if you’d like to try your hand at installing WordPress yourself, you’re in luck.
If you don’t have one-click installation, you’ll need four things:
1. A web hosting package based on Linux (“LIN-icks”). Absolutely not Windows, which will make your site malfunction. The package must include MySQL (pronounced “My S-Q-L” or “my-SEE-kwul”) and PHP (no special pronunciation; just a simple acronym). Almost every hosting package qualifies, but if you’re in doubt, double-check. Godaddy, Bluehost and many others offer very low-cost WordPress hosting.
2. If you’re installing it yourself, you’ll need to download a copy of WordPress from WordPress.org.
3. An FTP program for uploading files directly to your server.
4. A copy of the “Famous 5-Minute Installation” instructions here.
Once you’ve got these four items, you can follow the 5-minute install (really works). Here’s the gist of what you’ll be doing.
First, you’ll use your web host’s pre-existing tools to create a MySQL database, a user for the database, and a password for the user. Different hosts use different tools to do this, and all of them are easy. All you need to do is create the database, and write down its name, the username and password—WordPress will do the rest. (Tip: call for support if this step is taking you longer than 15 minutes—no point in wasting time.)
Second, now that you have your database created and ready, you’ll unzip your downloaded WordPress package and use a text-editing program to edit one file—the “wp-config.php” file. (It’s actually called “wp-config-sample.php” and you’ll be asked to rename it by taking out “-sample”.) This is a one-page file with clear instructions for filling it out right there on the page. This file tells WordPress where to find the database you just set up, so that WordPress can create your site.
Third, you’ll use your FTP program to upload all these WordPress files to your web hosting main directory. (If the word “FTP” sends you screaming for the hills, stop right there and find a one-click host or someone like me who will do all the dirty work for you. But if you’re still here, keep reading.)
Once the files are uploaded, use your browser to navigate to the setup file, as directed by the installation instructions, and follow the simple directions on the screen.
If your browser gets an error message, it’s most likely a communication error between WordPress and your database. This means, the instructions that you gave WordPress for finding your database aren’t quite correct. Recheck your wp-config.php file and make sure that the name, username and password of the database are right. If you’re still getting an error, don’t panic—just call for help (this is why we like phone support). Again, no point in wasting your time.
If the installation process is too intimidating, as it is to many non-technical users, be sure your web host offers an easy installation option (or of course, hire someone).
But if everything worked perfectly, as it usually does, you’re feeling a huge thrill right now. This is your new WordPress site… and you installed it!
In any case, bon appetit!