When you want to detach yourself from your current web hosting provider and host your own website, you need to know how to create your own server at home for web hosting.
That can be a daunting task, often limited to experienced website developers and programmers, but it is possible to host a website from home. Although it might be slower and more expensive, we hope this guide gives you a good head-start.
Today, I’ll walk you through the steps needed to learn how to host your own website from home on a Windows computer:
- Step 1: Install a Windows Apache, PHP, or MySQL web stack
- Step 2: Add content and pages to your server
- Step 3: Establish a MySQL database
- Step 4: Allow visitors to access your site
- Step 5: Add a domain name to your site
You can also host your own website using a Linux server using a similar process, although you'll need to be comfortable with completing these steps on the Linux command line.
Step 1: Install a Windows Apache, PHP, or MySQL web stack
While you could build an Apache server on your Windows machine from scratch, the easier way to get started is to download and install a pre-made software package that includes Windows Apache, PHP, and MySQL all wrapped together.
This is known as a web stack and is often abbreviated as WAMP.
There are a number of free options available for this web stack, including WAMPServer, Bitnami WAMP Stack, and others. Installation for any of these server programs requires simply downloading the software to your computer and running the installation wizard. If you are prompted for an SMTP server name, enter ‘localhost’.
Step 2: Add Content and Pages to Your Server
After you’ve finished installing your Apache server, open your web browser and navigate to ‘http://localhost’. Then click on the link to the ‘/www’ folder.
This is where your server program will store any files and other content that visitors to your site will need to download from your server when they visit, as well as the HTML pages that make up your site. You can also create folders, as needed, to organize your site.
Alternatively, if you already have a website built using a platform such as WordPress or Drupal, you can download all of the files from your existing site’s server and upload them to your new Apache server in the ‘/www’ folder.
Step 3: Establish a MySQL Database
If you are developing your website on WordPress or another content management system that stores content in a MySQL database, you’ll need to configure a new database on your home server. To do this, click on ‘phpMyAdmin’ in your server’s main menu. When you are prompted for a login, enter ‘root’ as the username and keep the password area empty.
In the 'PHP Administration' menu, you can make a new MySQL database or alter existing databases.
If you are migrating an existing WordPress site from a paid hosting provider, you can simply download a copy of your existing MySQL database and upload it to your server. In addition, if you install a fresh copy of WordPress on your server - it will create a MySQL database automatically.
Step 4: Allow Visitors to Access Your Site
At this point, your server can only be accessed from your computer and not from any visitors connecting over the Internet. For your website to be public to anyone with the server address, you need to edit the configuration file for your server.
Navigate to your server’s main menu at ‘http://localhost’, click the link for ‘Apache’, and open the file named ‘httpd.conf’. Replace the lines:
Order Deny,Allow Deny from all
Order Allow,Deny Allow from all
When finished, restart your Apache server by returning to the main server menu and selecting ‘Restart all Services’. You can make sure that the server is accessible by trying to connect to it from another computer. If you are having issues connecting, ensure that you don’t have a firewall on your computer that is blocking visitors.
Step 5: Add a Domain Name to Your Site
Now, let's see how to add a domain to your site so that visitors can access your website without your server’s exact numeric address. For this, you need to edit the ‘hosts’ file on your computer.
First, check the IP of your server from the main menu of your Apache server. This will look something like '126.96.36.199', as an example.
Open your computer’s ‘hosts’ file at ‘C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts and add the following line to the end of the file: ‘188.8.131.52 yourdomain.com’. Remember to replace the IP address with the IP address for your server.
Next, open the ‘httpd.conf’ file again in your Apache server. You will need to remove the ‘#’ sign at the start of the line after the line that says, ‘Virtual hosts’:
# Virtual hosts Include conf/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf
Finally, create a blank text file and paste in the following code:
ServerAdmin [email protected] DocumentRoot "c:\wamp\www" ServerName mysite.local ErrorLog "logs/yourdomain.com.log" CustomLog "logs/yourdomain.com-access.log" common
When finished, save it to the ‘/bin/apache/apache-version/conf/extra’ folder within your server. Note that ‘version’ will be the version number of your Apache server. Click ‘Restart All Services’ in the main menu of your server to make your site accessible to all visitors by the domain that you have.
Should You Host Your Own Website?
Before diving into how to host a website using nothing but your own computer, it’s worth taking a step back to double-check whether this is the right choice for your site. For the vast majority of people without dedicated servers and high-speed Internet connections, hosting your own server is more trouble than it is often worth.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that every time a visitor accesses your website, you’ll need to upload content to the Internet for them to be able to download it. Chances are high that your upload speeds with a standard Internet Service Provider are much slower than your download speeds, which will slow down the rate at which you can serve content to visitors.
Second, when you host by yourself you are responsible for all of the costs of hosting, which can be much higher than simply paying for a web hosting service. For example, you’ll need to cover the electricity costs of running a server around the clock, as well as costs for maintaining and updating your server.
That said, hosting your own website can be a rewarding experience. The process of setting up your own server and connecting your site to the Internet through it can teach you a lot about how the Internet functions at its most basic level.
In addition, knowing how to host a website can come in handy if you find yourself with downtime when switching between paid hosting providers.
You’re not limited to using a Windows server to set up an Apache server and to host your own website from home. There are Apache, MySQL, PHP web stacks available for Linux and Mac computers, which function similarly to the web stacks described for Windows. Some examples include Turnkey Linux LAMP Stack and Bitnami LAMP stack.
The steps to install the web server, add content to it, establish a MySQL database, and make your site accessible to the public are all the same across platforms. However, if you are using a Linux server, most configuration steps will be performed on a command line, so you need to be comfortable with coding in Linux to go this route.
How to Host Your Own Website: Final Thoughts
Learning how to create your own web server at home for web hosting can be a rewarding and educational experience. However, most website creators will want to stick with a professional hosting provider because of the speed and cost-savings their services provide.
Did this guide teach you how to host a website from home? Let me know in the comments below!