How to Install WordPress the Right Way: 4 Methods Explained

WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS), used by more than 40 percent of all known websites. If you’re interested in its user-friendly interface, open-source philosophy, and extensive customization options, you might be considering installing and using WordPress for your new website. 

There are a few different ways to install WordPress. These methods range from choosing a hosting provider that will handle the process for you, to manually installing the software and configuring it yourself. 

In this article, we’ll explain how to install WordPress in four different ways. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions you might have about the installation process. Let’s get started!

Why should you consider installing WordPress?

As we mentioned before, WordPress is the most popular CMS available. There are a few reasons for its popularity. Some of these include:

  • User-friendliness: WordPress is pretty easy to learn and use. You’ll manage everything from a centralized dashboard, and you can use the intuitive block editor to build all of your pages. Moreover, you won’t need to touch a single line of code (unless you want to). 
  • Customization options: WordPress is built using open-source software. That means you’re free to customize your site as you see fit. Plus, you’ll have access to plenty of free and paid plugins and themes to further extend your website and adjust its appearance. 
  • Support: WordPress has an active community of users who provide support in official forums and tutorials (like this one!), along with developer-specific assistance for themes and plugins. Additionally, many hosting providers offer WordPress expertise and help for your individual needs. 
  • Affordability: The WordPress core software is completely free, meaning you’ll only need to spend money on hosting, a domain, and any premium plugins or themes you’d like for your site. 

WordPress is such a diverse CMS that you can use it for all kinds of websites, from simple blogs to enterprise business sites. It also makes it easy to monetize your content, including creating an ecommerce store, membership website, online courses, and more.

What are the requirements to install WordPress?

Firstly, you’ll need a server to install and run WordPress. In most cases, it makes sense to partner with a hosting provider that will supply server space and other resources to put your site online. Alternatively, you could opt for hosted WordPress (WordPress.com), which we’ll explore later in this post. 

You will also need a domain name for your WordPress website. Typically, your hosting provider (or WordPress.com) can help you purchase a domain

Before installing WordPress, you’ll need to make sure that your server (or hosting provider’s server) supports the software. Otherwise, the CMS may not run as it should.

These are the official requirements for running WordPress:

  • PHP 7.4 or higher. PHP is the programming language that WordPress is built on. It also requires frequent updates and security patches to run smoothly, which is why you should consider opting for the latest version of PHP
  • MySQL 5.7 or higher (alternatively, you can use MariaDB 10.3 or higher). This database management system processes all the data contained within your WordPress installation. 
  • Support for HTTPS. This secure data transfer protocol ensures data protection between browsers and your WordPress website. 

You’ll also want to ensure your chosen server provides the following resources, at a minimum:

  • 1 GB disk space
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 1.0 GHz CPU

In most cases, an Apache or Nginx server will be your best bet for running WordPress. Still, you can theoretically use any server software as long as it supports both PHP and MySQL. 

How to install WordPress

There are a few different ways to install WordPress. The best choice will depend on your experience level and chosen hosting solution. Let’s start by exploring the manual installation approach. 

Method 1: Install WordPress manually

The WordPress manual install method is the most time-intensive one. The upside is that you can control everything during the process. 

Keep in mind that you’ll need a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client to follow this part of the tutorial. If you don’t yet have one installed on your computer, FileZilla is a straightforward (and free!) option you might consider using. 

Before you get started, you’ll also need to know your web server’s FTP credentials. If you can’t find these details within your hosting dashboard, it’s worth reaching out directly to your hosting provider or consulting its official documentation. 

Step 1: Download and extract the WordPress package

The first step in this WordPress manual install tutorial is downloading the WordPress package. This is a collection of the core files that make up a WordPress installation.

To begin, head to the WordPress download page, and click on the Download button beneath the Download and install it yourself heading. By default, WordPress will provide the latest version of its core software here:

downloading WordPress from the WordPress.org website

This should start downloading WordPress as a .zip file onto your computer. Once that’s done, extract the files before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Create a database and a user

If you’ve signed up for a WordPress hosting provider, you may already have a database associated with your website. So, start by opening your hosting control panel to see if a database is available. If you’re not sure how to access your control panel, you can reach out to your web host for instructions.

Once you’ve logged into your control panel, scroll down to Databases and click on MySQL Databases.

MySQL Databases option in cpanel

Now type a name for your database into the box provided and hit Create Database.

You also need to make a user account for your WordPress database. Scroll down to Add New User and enter a username and password. You can also use the password generator to create secure credentials.

creating a new database user

Hit Create User when you’re ready. This will create a new user profile for your database, but the user won’t automatically have access to the database and associated permissions. You’ll need to set this up manually.

To do this, navigate to Add User To Database and select both the new database you created and the user profile from the dropdown menus.

adding a user to your database

Once you’ve made your selections, click on the Add button. You’ll now be prompted to choose privileges for this user role. Enable all of them and hit Make Changes to apply your settings. 

You should now be able to see the MySQL database name and password. Make a note of these details because you’ll need them later in the tutorial. 

Step 3: Edit the wp-config.php file

The wp-config.php file contains all the essential configuration settings for your WordPress website. These include your database name, username, password, and host.

By default, there is a wp-config-sample.php file in the WordPress package you downloaded earlier, but it doesn’t contain the specific database details for your site. So, we recommend renaming it to “wp-config.php” and updating its content. 

Open the file in a text editor and update the following values with the details from your new WordPress database:

  • DB_NAME: The database name. 
  • DB_USER: The database username.
  • DB_PASSWORD: The database password. 
  • DB_HOST: The database hostname (this is typically “localhost”).

It’s also worth adding new secret keys and salts to this file. These encryption tools make it harder for hackers to decode your login information and potentially break into your site. You can generate them using the WordPress Security Key Generator. Simply replace any existing values within your wp-config.php file. 

Make sure to save all changes when you’re done. Note that if you don’t follow this step, WordPress will attempt to create its own wp-config.php file during installation. But you’ll still need to supply your database details, so it could be worth doing this from the outset. 

Step 4: Upload the files to your website directory or subdirectory

Now, it’s time to add the WordPress package files to your website. You’ll be using the FTP client for this part of the tutorial, so make sure you’ve opened it and connected to your database using your FTP credentials.

You have two options here:

  • Upload the files to your directory. This will install WordPress on your main domain (e.g., http://www.examplesite.com). In this case, you will need to add the files to your root directory, which is usually called /public_html/
  • Upload the files to a subdirectory. This option will install WordPress in a subfolder (e.g., http://www.examplesite.com/blog/). In this scenario, add the files to your subdirectory folder. 

Simply add the files to your chosen folder and wait for the process to finish. Then it’s time to move on to the final step!

Step 5: Run the WordPress install script

Finally, you’ll need to run the WordPress install script to finish the entire process. If you uploaded the files to your root directory in the previous step, type this address into your browser, replacing the example with your domain name: “http://examplesite.com/wp-admin/install.php”. 

Alternatively, if the files are in a subdirectory, substitute your domain name and folder within this address: “http://examplesite.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php”. 

If you didn’t update the wp.config.php file in step three, you should now see a welcome screen asking you for your database details. Click on Let’s go, and enter the information into the following form:

entering WordPress database details

Select Submit, and you should see a welcome screen where you can add your WordPress website’s title, username, password, and email address. You’ll use these details to log in to your admin dashboard.

setting up WordPress login details

You can also discourage search engines from indexing your site. People may not be able to find your content online if you choose this option.

Finally, click on Install WordPress and wait for the process to finish. You should see the admin login form to access your website if you’ve completed the installation correctly. 

Method 2: Install WordPress in cPanel

Many hosting providers use cPanel for their hosting dashboards. This tool can manage your website’s database, site files, associated email accounts, and more. Additionally, some hosting providers include WordPress installers within their cPanels. 

Softaculous is auto-installer software that you can use to launch different applications, including WordPress, cPanel, and DirectAdmin. It has a user-friendly and straightforward interface that walks you through the installation process in just a few steps.

You can find the Softaculous installer in cPanel by navigating to Software or Auto Installers. The name of this section may be slightly different, depending on your hosting provider. Then, select WordPress Manager by Softaculous.

WordPress Manager option in cpanel

Now select Install from the top menu.

Install option for WordPress

Under Software Setup, you’ll need to enter your website’s URL, subdirectory (if applicable), and the version of WordPress you’d like to install.

setting WordPress configuration details

Under Site Settings, enter your website’s name and description. You can also enable WordPress multisite or disable WordPress Cron. Then, add your admin username, password, and email address under Admin Account.

creating admin user details

Now, choose the language for your WordPress website and select any plugins you’d like to install automatically.

choosing installed plugins and WordPress language

Finally, under Advanced Options, you can change the name of your database, select a backup location, and enable or disable auto upgrade.

advanced WordPress installation options

When you’re happy with your selections, click on Install at the bottom of the page. Softaculous will now take a few minutes to set up your WordPress installation. You should see a success message when it’s done, along with links to log in to your new WordPress site!

Method 3: Build your site on WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the hosted version of WordPress. Essentially, with this option, you’ll have access to a very similar dashboard and interface as WordPress.org, but you won’t need to find third-party hosting. A lot of the “heavy lifting” is taken care of for you, automatically. There are several plans you can choose from, which include various features.

Step 1: Choose a domain name

The first step is to choose a domain name. To begin, navigate to the WordPress.com homepage and click on Get Started.

Get Started button on WordPress.com

You’ll now be prompted to create a new WordPress.com account or log in with an existing one.

creating a WordPress.com account

You’ll need to enter the email address, username, and password you’d like to associate with this account. Then, hit Create your account

WordPress.com will now ask you to choose a domain name for your new website. Start by typing some keywords into the box, and you should see a variety of paid and free options.

selecting a domain name

Since you receive a free domain name for a year with any paid plan, you might see Free for the first year next to some options. Remember that you’ll have to start paying an annual fee once the first year has expired, though. 

You should also see a completely free option with a WordPress.com URL extension. Keep in mind that if you opt for a free plan, this extension will be your only choice. 

When choosing a domain name, it’s worth spending some time making the decision. After all, it will tell visitors about your site’s content and influence your branding. It’s recommended to choose a domain name that is short, descriptive, memorable, and easy to spell so that users can find your content more easily. 

Step 2: Choose a WordPress.com plan

You’ll now be asked to choose a WordPress.com plan.

choosing a WordPress.com plan

WordPress.com enables you to create a free website or opt for one of the paid plans. With a paid subscription, you’ll get access to features like a free domain for one year, support for plugins, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools, ecommerce features, and more.

Hit Select under the plan you’d like to use, or click on start with a free site at the top of the page. WordPress.com will then take a couple of seconds to process your request. 

Step 3: Add information about your site

Now, you can enter some goals for your website, like selling products online, publishing content, or promoting your business. Checking boxes next to any applicable goals will help WordPress.com personalize the setup process for your site.

questions about website goals

Hit Continue to go to the next screen. Then, choose a category for your WordPress site by typing in the box or opening the dropdown menu.

list of website topics and industries

Next up, it’s time to name your website and give it a tagline. The text you enter here will appear at the top of your site as a header. Keep in mind that you can change it later.

deciding on a blog title and tagline

Click on Continue when you’re finished. You should now see a screen directing you to write your first blog post, watch videos about blogging, and choose a design for your website.

next step options in WordPress

You may want to explore one of these choices. Otherwise, hit Skip to dashboard to go to your WordPress.com dashboard. Now it’s just a matter of learning the interface, creating content, and designing your dream website!

Method 4: Choose a host with WordPress pre-installed

This method is by far the easiest one. If you choose a hosting provider with WordPress pre-installed, you can have your new site up and running in just minutes.

For instance, the WordPress installation process is very straightforward with Bluehost. Once you’ve signed up for a hosting plan and chosen your domain name, click on My Sites → Add site → Create New Site.

option to create a new site with Bluehost

You’ll be prompted to enter a name and tagline for your WordPress website,

adding a site name and tagline

When you’re ready, hit Next. Now, choose your domain from the dropdown menu and enter your subdirectory (if relevant). You can also opt to auto-install a few handy plugins like WP Forms or Monster Insights.

choosing a domain name and plugins to install

Finally, click on Next. Bluehost will now install WordPress and show you a success message when the process is complete.

You can access your new WordPress installation by heading to My Sites → Manage site. Now, simply click on Log into WordPress, and you’ll be taken to the login form.

option to log in to WordPress with Bluehost

It’s that easy! The process may differ slightly if you’re using one of the other recommended WordPress hosts, but should still be very straightforward. 

Common WordPress installation problems

Occasionally, things can go wrong during the WordPress installation process. Here are some problems you might encounter and how to fix them!

You can see a directory listing instead of your website

If you can see a directory listing instead of your WordPress website, you’ll need to add a directive to your web server. This will tell it to view index.php and, consequently, display your site.

You can do this with Apache servers by creating a file named .htaccess and then adding the following directive:

DirectoryIndex index.php

Make sure to save your changes and reupload this file via FTP. You can also add the directive to your web server’s configuration file.

There are “Headers already sent” errors

If you incorrectly edited the wp-config.php file when installing WordPress, you might see “Headers already sent” errors. These messages indicate you made some syntax errors within the file.

In this case, open up the wp-config.php file with your text editor and check for the following mistakes:

  • Text or whitespace before the opening <?php
  • Text or whitespace after the closing ?>
  • Byte order marks (BOM)

Additionally, both <?php and ?> should be alone on their respective first and final lines, with no other content. Make sure to save any changes within the file, re-upload it to WordPress, and refresh the browser to see if the issue has been fixed. 

The page contains a lot of “<?php ?>” tags

When you complete the WordPress installation process, you should see the login form for the dashboard. But, in some cases, you might see a page that looks like gibberish with multiple <?php ?> tags. 

This indicates that PHP is not running correctly on your server. In a nutshell, it’s not executing before sending the HTML file to the browser.

In this scenario, your server may not be capable of running PHP. Alternatively, it may be incorrectly installed or misconfigured. You’ll need to reach out to your hosting provider and ask for assistance. 

You can see an “Error connecting to database” message

If you keep seeing an “Error connecting to database” message, your database credentials don’t match those needed to log in. If you’ve verified that the username is correct, it could be worth changing your MySQL database password.

Open up phpMyAdmin in your hosting dashboard. Then, open your database, and navigate to SQL.

SQL option in phpMyAdmin

Now, type in the following command as a SQL query:

SET PASSWORD FOR 'wordpressusername'@'hostname' = OLD_PASSWORD('password');

Make sure to switch out the generic names with the ones that correspond to your database. Then click on Go in the bottom-right corner of the user interface. 

Alternatively, you can change your password manually if you prefer not to use a command. In cPanel, open MySQL Databases and scroll down to Current Users.

list of current users

Select Change Password and enter or generate a new value. Make sure to copy the new password because you’ll need to update the value in your wp-config.php file.

Then, open wp-config.php and replace the value under DB_PASSWORD with the new password. Remember to save and re-upload it via FTP, and check to see if you can now access the WordPress admin area. 

There is a “Your PHP installation appears to be missing the MySQL extension which is required by WordPress” message 

If you can see “Your PHP installation appears to be missing the MySQL extension which is required by WordPress,” there is a problem with the MySQL plugin. 

In this case, you’ll need to verify that MySQL is installed and configured correctly on your web server. In most cases, it’s worth reaching out to your hosting provider for technical support. We also created a guide on how to fix this PHP missing MYSQL extension error

You see a 403 error

At the end of the WordPress installation process, you might see a message similar to this one:

You are not authorized to view this page. You might not have permission to view this directory or page using the credentials you supplied. If you believe you should be able to view this directory or page, please try to contact the website by using any e-mail address or phone number that may be listed on the examplewebsite.com home page. You can click Search to look for information on the Internet. HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden

The 403 error is most common with Apache servers. It can indicate that you don’t have sufficient permissions to execute this request on your server. Alternatively, Apache may be unable to access WordPress files.

In this scenario, it’s best to contact your host. Unless you have root access to your server, you may not be able to fix this problem on your own.

Frequently asked questions

As we’ve seen in this tutorial, installing WordPress is relatively easy. If you have any questions left about the process, we’ll answer them here!

Is WordPress free to download and install?

Yes, WordPress is completely free to download and install! Still, you will need to pay for a hosting provider and domain name to put your website online. 

Alternatively, you can create a WordPress.com site. With this platform, you can launch and maintain a basic website completely free. There are also plenty of paid plans available when you’re ready to upgrade for more advanced features. 

Is PHP required for WordPress?

WordPress is written using the PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) programming language. Therefore, you cannot install and run the CMS without PHP. Fortunately, many servers and hosting providers are compatible with PHP, enabling you to set up a WordPress installation in no time.

Can I install WordPress on an existing database?

Yes, you can install WordPress using an existing database. You’ll just need to import a database backup in place of your ‘new database’ during the installation process. You will also need access to the old database’s credentials.

Can I install WordPress locally on my computer?

Yes, you can install WordPress locally on your computer. This setup will store all the website’s files on your device instead of an online database.

With a local installation, you’ll have a development environment entirely powered by your computer. You won’t need access to the internet or hosting provider, enabling you to develop and perfect your site on a localhost before moving it to a live server.

There are multiple local server environments available for WordPress development. Some popular options include WAMP and MAMP

Can I install WordPress on an Ubuntu server?

You can install WordPress on an Ubuntu server (and many other operating systems). Fortunately, the process is also pretty straightforward, with automated scripts to speed things up.

Additionally, some hosting providers provide one-click WordPress installs for Ubuntu systems. For more information, check out the complete guide to installing WordPress on Ubuntu.

What should I do after installing WordPress?

Once you’ve installed WordPress, it’s time to build your website! You’ll first need to log in to your site’s admin dashboard. Then, spend time familiarizing yourself with the interface and learning where all the different settings are located.

After that, you can start personalizing your site’s design and functionality. Your website will be set up with a default WordPress theme, but you’re free to change this. The WordPress Theme Repository is a great place to browse free themes for all kinds of websites, from online stores to personal blogs.

WordPress theme respository

You might also want to install a few WordPress plugins. These add-ons can bring new features to your site, including performance enhancements, extra security, design tools, and more. You can check out a list of must-have WordPress plugins to find the best tools for your website. 

Once you have a handle on how to use WordPress, you can start creating and editing your site’s pages. Consider adding a homepage, contact form or page, blog, About page, and online store if you’re planning to sell products online. Then, it’s just a matter of writing content, adding images, and sharing your website with the world!

Start using WordPress today

WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS), and for good reason. It lets you create and manage a personalized blog or website from a user-friendly dashboard. What’s more, it’s relatively easy to install WordPress.

You can install WordPress manually using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Alternatively, your hosting dashboard may provide a one-click install option or access to installation tools like Softaculous. Finally, WordPress.com is an option that simplifies the installation and website management process. 

Once your WordPress website is up and running, you’ll want to ensure it’s functioning at its full potential. With the Jetpack suite of tools, you can boost your site’s performance, protect it against security threats, back up your content, and more. 

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Rob Pugh profile
Rob Pugh

Rob is the Marketing Lead for Jetpack. He has worked in marketing and product development for more than 15 years, primarily at Jetpack, Mailchimp, and UPS. Since receiving a Master of Science in Marketing Degree from Johns Hopkins University, he’s focused on delivering products that delight people and solve real problems.

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