How to Install WordPress

Installing WordPress is “easy”—at least once you know how! But seriously, WordPress’s popularity owes much to its relative ease of installation compared to other CMSs.

This page gives you an overview of the steps required to complete the famous “5 minute install,” but expect the installation to take longer than five minutes if this is your first time doing it. As you go through the process, you’ll hopefully learn a bit more about the “guts” of WordPress.

The details vary based on your host, but this overview will help you keep get a handle on the general process.

Installing WordPress on Your Web Host

Step 1. Download WordPress

You’ll need a copy of the WordPress software files, available free on WordPress.org. This is the only place you should download WordPress!

Step 2. Upload Files

You need to get the WordPress files onto your web host now. You can usually do this in one of two ways:

  1. Unzip the WordPress package on your computer and upload all the files your web host using an FTP program (“File Transfer Protocol”).
  2. Upload the zipped file to your web host using a provided “File Manager” utility and then unzip it on your server. This is generally a little faster as the upload takes less time.

Step 3. Create Your Database and Database User

Make a MySQL database and a MySQL user (with a username and password) with permissions for that database. Again, your web host probably has a MySQL database wizard  to help you with this step.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll need four pieces of information to connect the WordPress software to your new database:

  1. Database name
  2. Database hostname (often “localhost”, though it varies)
  3. Database User
  4. Database User password

Step 4. Fill in the Details

Here’s where things get exciting! Go to your domain (e.g. example.org) and you should be taken to a screen to install WordPress. You’ll enter the database information you saved in the previous step.

Assuming you’ve got the details right, another couple screens will let you select your site’s language, name, tagline, first user, and whether search engines should index your site to begin with.

Security Alert!

Two fields you enter on the install screen improve the security of your site!

  1. Database Prefix. The default is “wp_”. Change this to any two letters (“os_”, “sn_”, “jw_”, etc.).
  2. Username. The default username is “admin”. Again, use anything else! I recommend you follow your organization’s email address scheme, either using the entire email address or the username from it. So if your organization uses lastf@example.org (that would be last name, first initial), then use either “lastf” or “lastf@example.org” for your usernames. These are easy to remember and follow the important security practice of one account per person.

One-Click Installers

Many web host offer “one-click” installers for WordPress. These do most of the above steps for you, but not all of them do a great job. If you use a one-click installer—which is probably fine—make sure to clean up your site once it’s done:

  1. If the primary user account has the username “admin,” immediately create a new, personalized administrator-level account and delete the admin account. (See above for reasons and tips.)
  2. Go to Appearance  > Plugins in the admin menu. Default WordPress has only two plugins installed “Akismet” and “Hello Dolly.” If there are any plugins other than these, read their descriptions and immediately delete any you don’t want. Many hosts bundle their own plugins or ones they’re paid to include with their one-click-installed WordPress.

Further Reading

Watch It!

Here’s a great video from WP101 about how to install WordPress. It’s one of dozens of WordPress tutorial videos they offer, including this free one!