phpBB Forum Software

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This page explains how to set up the phpBB3 forum software on your website. phpBB3 is one of the most popular forums, and is also free and easy to install.

These instructions are based on phpBB 3.0.4, although other versions beginning with "3.0" are similar.

On this page:

Getting phpBB

First of all, download the most recent phpBB 3 full package ".zip" version from http://www.phpbb.com/downloads/ onto your own computer, then unzip the files. You'll find a folder called "phpBB3" on your computer.

Publish that "phpBB3" folder (and all the files within it) to your website using FTP.

Creating a MySQL database

phpBB3 uses a MySQL database to store the forum data. We recommend creating a new database specifically for phpBB3, rather than using an existing one. To create the database on our servers, follow our instructions explaining how to create a MySQL database.

There's no specific format you need to follow when naming the database. The rest of these instructions will assume that your database is called "examplephpbb3" — if you use a different name, just use that name instead of "examplephpbb3" when following the instructions below.

Starting the installer

phpBB3 uses a simple Web page to configure and install the program. The page is shown when you first view phpBB3 on your website; if you uploaded the "phpBB3" folder to the top level of your website, the page is located at an address like "http://www.example.com/phpBB/". Your installation page should now look like this:

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Select the Install tab so that the following page is displayed:

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Click Proceed to next step. A page displaying configuration values will be shown:

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Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Start Install.

Database settings

Enter the following details for the database:

  • Database type: MySQL with MySQLi Extension
  • Database server hostname or DSN: (leave blank)
  • Database server port: (leave blank)
  • Database Name: examplephpbb3 (or the name you chose for your database, if different)
  • Database Username: examplephpbb3 (or the name you chose for your database, if different)
  • Database Password: (the password you chose when creating the MySQL database)
  • Prefix for tables in database: (do not change)
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Click Proceed to next step. The test connection should complete successfully:

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Click Proceed to next step.

Administrator settings

Enter the administrator details for your forum

  • Administrator username: (the phpBB3 username you wish to use; many people use "admin", but it can be anything)
  • Administrator password: (the phpBB3 password you wish to use)
  • Contact email address: (enter your own email address)
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Click Proceed to next step and phpBB3 will check your entries.

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Click Proceed to next step.

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Click Proceed to next step again.

Advanced settings and completing the installation

The following screen should appear. You shouldn't need to change any of the settings:

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Click Proceed to next step.

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Click Proceed to next step to finish the installation.

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You're finished! You should be able to click the "Login" button and login.

Deleting the "install" directory

Before visitors can use the forum, phpBB will require you to delete the directory named "install" (which is found inside the "phpBB3" directory) from the server. This ensures that strangers can't run the installation process a second time and change your password.

Use your FTP program to connect to to the server and open the "phpBB3" directory so you can see the "install" directory. Then delete the "install" directory and everything it contains, being careful not to delete anything else.

Managing large phpBB forums

If you have a large phpBB forum (more than 5,000 posts or so), you may find that you need to take some steps to improve the performance of phpBB.

The main thing to do is enable FastCGI for PHP scripts on your site.

You should also make sure that your MySQL database uses "InnoDB tables" instead of "MyISAM tables". If you don't do this, your database will be "locked" each day while a database backup is made. This isn't a problem for small sites where the backup only takes a few seconds, but if the backup takes minutes because your site has many thousands of posts, none of your users will be able to post messages, login, etc., while the backup is running. Using InnoDB tables solves this problem; see our MySQL backup page for more information.

There are other things you can do to speed up phpBB, too. A search for "phpBB performance" will show other ideas.