Installing Zen Cart

Before installing Zen Cart on your server, ensure that you have the required server environment. As prerequisites, you need a web server that can support PHP and run MySQL database server. The following sections describe the prerequisites for installing Zen Cart in more detail.

The minimum recommended server requirements for Zen cart installation is:

  • PHP 4.3.2 or higher (PHP 4.4.x for optimal performance),
  • Apache 1.3.x and higher; and
  • MySQL 3.2.x or higher.

Although Register Globals may be on or off, it is recommended to keep safe_mode off. For many shipping and payment modules, CURL has to be installed/compiled with PHP.

Support for HTTPS may be required depending on the payment methods being accepted. The use of SSL during account creation and check out is also recommended.

At present, Zen Cart does not officially support PHP5. However, many shops are successfully running on servers, using PHP5. In August 2007, it was announced on Zen Cart’s website that Zen Cart version 1.4 and higher will require PHP 5.2 as the minimum.

Web Server

You can use Zen Cart on Apache, Microsoft IIS and other web servers that can support PHP. If you are using Zen Cart for development or testing purposes, you may have local web servers such as Apache or IIS installed. For live shops, you must have a web server running for live websites. You may have a dedicated web host server or a shared web server for hosting. There are a lot of web hosting companies offering budget web hosting on Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP hosting. On windows server, PHP or MySQL may not be available in a standard hosting package.

For your local computer, you may install web server, PHP and MySQL server separately, or install one of the following bundled packages :

  • WAMP: WAMP is a package of Apache-MySQL-PHP for Windows computers. You can download it from and install it as a windows application. You can get Apache, MySQL and PHP running within a few minutes. You will also have phpMyAdmin pre-installed to administer MySQL databases.
  • EasyPHP: EasyPHP, a package of Apache-MySQL-PHP, is simple to install and use. You can download it free of charge at
  • XAMPP: XAMPP is an easy-to-install Apache distribution containing MySQL, PHP and Perl. XAMPP is very easy to install and use just download, extract and start. You can download a version for Linux, Windows, Mac, or Solaris. It is available at

Installing any of these packages will ease your administration task for web server and MySQL database. However, you are free to install and configure Apache, MySQL, and PHP separately.

If you are playing around with Zen Cart, I recommend using a development server. You will also need a development environment for customizing themes and testing third party contributions. In Linux, you can set it up by installing Apache, MySQL, and PHP packages. For Windows machines, you need to use one of the above-mentioned Apache-MySQL-PHP packages. In Appendix A, we will show how to set up a development environment by installing and configuring WAMP on a Windows machine.


If you plan to use Zen Cart, I am sure that you know about PHP. PHP is the hot scripting language for the web. You can get the latest version of PHP from You can download and install PHP package with your web server. For IIS, PHP can be configured as CGI or ISAPI; you can use either modes. For Linux, Apache-PHP-MySQL is installed by default. If you use WAMP, EasyPHP, or XAMPP web server package, you don’t have to install and configure PHP separately.


At present, Zen Cart supports only MySQL. MySQL version 4.1.x is recommended. However, Zen Cart can run on MySQL 5 server, but advanced features of MySQL 5 cannot be used in Zen Cart tables.

The data structure of Zen Cart is given in the mysql_zencart.sql file located in the zc_install/sql directory. Database tables will automatically be built during installation. However, you have to create the database and the user for login to that database before hand.

If you have installed WAMP or XAMPP, you will get MySQL server installed automatically. You can also use phpMyAdmin for managing databases in MySQL server. If you are using Linux hosting and cPanel, you can also use cPanel’s database management tool and phpMyAdmin to create, delete, and manage databases and users.

Step-by-Step Installation

Once all prerequisites have been met, you can proceed to the installation of Zen Cart. The following sections describe the installation process for Zen Cart systematically, by using Fantastico and by uploading files to the server.

Through Fantastico

Fantastico is an excellent tool for installing a number of PHP applications on a server. Most of the Linux hosting services will give you access to your account through cPanel. Along with cPanel, you may also get Fantastico support. One of the benefits of installing a PHP application using Fantastico is that you don’t need to bother about creating databases and uploading Zen Cart files separately.

Step-by-step guidelines for installing Zen Cart using Fantastico are given below:

  1. Login to cPanel and click on the Fantastico icon.
  2. A list of available PHP applications will be displayed. Go to the E-commerce section and click on Zen Cart link.
  3. A short description of Zen Cart, current installations, and a link for new installation will be displayed. You will be informed about the space required for the new installation too. Click on the New Installation link to install Zen Cart.
  4. Steps 1 to 3 for Zen Cart installation will be shown. Then , you have to provide the following information:
  • Install on domain’: Select the domain on which Zen Cart will be installed. If you have a sub-domain of, say,, you can select it, or you can install on domain.
  • Install on directory’: Enter the name of the directory on which Zen Cart will be installed. The directory should not already-exist; Fantastico will create a new one. If you want to install Zen Cart in the shop directory under your domain’s root directory, just type shop in this field. Keep it blank to install it in that domain’s root directory.
  • Administrator-username’: Enter the name of administrative account. This will be used to login to Zen cart administration panel.
  • Password’: Enter a password in this field. This will be needed to access the administrative panel.
  • Site name’: Give your shop an attractive name, which will be displayed in the browser title bar.
  • Admin email’: Enter the email address of the administrative user. All emails regarding administration will be sent to this address. If you forget the administrator account’s password, a new password will be sent to this email address.
  • Once these fields are filled in, click on the Install Zen Cart button.

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