Setting Up a Windows PHP Development Environment
Setting Up a Windows PHP Development Environment

Setting Up a Local PHP Development Environment on Windows

Setting up a local development environment for PHP on a Windows machine, especially when you’re using web-server packages like XAMPP or WAMP, can be a bit challenging. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of creating a robust PHP development environment on Windows. We’ll cover the following topics:

  1. Choosing the Right Components

    To set up a local PHP development environment on Windows, it’s essential to select the right components. Here are the key components we recommend:

    • NGINX: A high-availability web server with integrated load-balancing features.
    • PHP 7.2: A server-sided scripting language interpreter.
    • MariaDB: A database server.
    • Tools: For Windows 10 and above, an integrated development environment (IDE) like Visual Studio Code is ideal. It’s free, open-source, and offers excellent support for PHP, along with a vibrant community providing useful extensions.
  2. Installing Visual Studio Code

    Before diving into PHP development, you should install Visual Studio Code, a powerful and versatile code editor. It’s not only free but also offers great out-of-the-box support for PHP, with a wide range of community-supported extensions for the language.

    You can download Visual Studio Code here.

  3. Configuring Visual Studio Code Extensions

    To enhance your PHP development experience in Visual Studio Code, you’ll need to install some essential extensions for syntax highlighting, linting, and debugging. We recommend the following extensions:

    • felixfbecker.php-debug: Enables breakpoint debugging with the XDebug PHP extension.
    • felixfbecker.php-intellisense: Provides syntax and symbol parsing support for efficient code navigation.
    • ikappas.phpcs: Helps with PHP code style checking.
    • junstyle.php-cs-fixer: Provides PHP code formatting support.
    • linyang95.php-symbols: Debugging symbols used by the PHP interpreter.

    You can easily find and install these extensions directly from Visual Studio Code.

  4. Configuring XDebug

    XDebug is a crucial tool for debugging PHP code in Visual Studio Code. To configure it correctly, follow these steps:

    • Create a basic PHP script with the following code:
      echo phpinfo();
    • Access this script via your web server to ensure it executes correctly.
    • Copy the entire page contents and paste it into this tool. The tool will recommend the appropriate version of XDebug for your PHP installation.
    • Download the recommended XDebug DLL file and place it in the appropriate directory.
    • Modify your php.ini configuration file to include the XDebug extension. Here’s an example of how to do it:
      extension=exif; Must be after mbstring as it depends on it
      ;extension=oci8_12c ; Use with Oracle Database 12c Instant Client
  5. Configuring Visual Studio Code for XDebug

    To enable debugging in Visual Studio Code, you should configure your launch.json file. The following configuration provides three debugging profiles:

    "version": "0.2.0",
    "configurations": [
    "name": "PHP: XDebug (Listen)",
    "type": "php",
    "request": "launch",
    "port": 9001
    "name": "PHP: XDebug (File)",
    "type": "php",
    "request": "launch",
    "program": "${file}",
    "cwd": "${fileDirname}",
    "port": 9001
  6. Setting Environment Variables

    Some PHP extensions rely on the PHP command-line interface for tasks like linting and code inspection. These extensions typically use the PHP client available in the system’s PATH environment variable.

  7. Configuring XDebug

    For XDebug, ensure that the following parameters are included at the end of your PHP configuration file (*.ini):


With these steps, you’ll have a well-configured PHP development environment on your Windows machine, allowing you to code, debug, and test your PHP applications effectively. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or just getting started with PHP, having a robust local development environment is crucial for a productive workflow.

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