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How to Build a Windows Server at Home for Web Hosting

Alessio has an experience as a Google Product Expert and as a bug hunter, having reported security vulnerabilities to Google and Apple.

How to Build a Windows Server at Home for Web Hosting

How to Build a Windows Server at Home for Web Hosting

The Benefits of Configuring a Web Server on Your PC

Building a web server is something you can do even at home and without a Windows Server license. This article will explain how to do it.

You can be a developer of web applications who wants to run a testing environment on a personal PC. You can design websites and build web apps directly on your hosting service, but doing it on your PC before going online has some advantages:

  • You can work without an internet connection;
  • You can test the best server configuration you need;
  • You work at the maximum speed while on a local server.

Not only developers can find it worthwhile to have a local web server on their PC. You may want to set up a private intranet for storing music, calendars, household budgets, souvenir photos, and other stuff to share with the family.

No Need for Windows Server or Linux to Set Up a Web Hosting Environment on Your PC

Some people think they need to install Linux to configure a web server on their PC. The alternative is to buy a Windows Server license, which is definitely more expensive than the consumer editions of the Microsoft operating system. The first solution is complicated for someone not used to Linux, while the latter is definitely out of budget for many. The good news is that you can turn any computer running a consumer edition of Windows into a fully-functional web server.

The Consumer Editions of Windows Carry Basic Server Features

Every copy of Windows already licensed with your PC has built-in server features. They are not suitable for a professional web hosting company but enough for running some web applications locally with little effort. This article will detail the steps required to turn on the Windows Server features so you can start work with IIS (the web server) and the ASP.NET programming language. It will also detail how to set an Apache web server with MySQL and PHP on the same Windows system.

How to Enable IIS Web Server on a Consumer Edition of Windows

These are the passages required to enable the IIS web server included in your Windows license:

Open “Turn Windows Features On or Off”

Open “Turn Windows Features On or Off”

1. Use the Windows Search Bar and Look for the “Turn Windows Features On or Off” Tool

IIS is disabled by default. It needs to be enabled from the Turn Windows Features On or Off tool that can be accessed from the Control Panel or the Windows Search bar.

Enable IIS services

Enable IIS services

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2. Enable IIS

Check Internet Information Services to enable built-in web server features in your Windows system.

The IIS Manager icon

The IIS Manager icon

3. Open IIS Manager

Look for the IIS Manager on the Windows Search bar and open it: this tool will allow you to manage your new web server.

The main interface of the IIS Manager

The main interface of the IIS Manager

4. Configure IIS for Your Needs

The Manager will show all the features to start using your freshly-installed web server. Through Manager, you can easily add new websites and tune any setting. A good thing about IIS is that Manager has a very intuitive interface: managing every aspect of your web server will be easy. Still, you may need to configure IIS with PHP and MySQL to run popular CMSs like WordPress. Installing PHP with IIS is an easy task. To proceed, you may follow some additional steps explained in an official Microsoft resource. After setting up PHP, you may configure a MySQL database so that you are ready to install WordPress or other popular platforms on your local web server. You may download MySQL Community Server and follow another Microsoft resource to configure the database service. After this, your new web server is ready to run all the popular web applications usually installed on LAMP systems (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP).

Poll

How to Configure a WAMP Server on Windows

The installer for WAMP provided by Bitnami

The installer for WAMP provided by Bitnami

Enabling IIS is simple, as every Windows operating system already features this simple and intuitive web server. IIS is a good choice for web developers working with Microsoft server technologies, including ASP.NET language and Microsoft SQL Server database. It is still possible to install PHP and a MySQL database on IIS, even if they are two technologies natively born to work in a LAMP environment. Linux and an Apache or NGINX web server are usually the best choices that perfectly work with PHP and MySQL. Even if you run Windows, you may want to install Apache on your PC to integrate PHP and MySQL with the web server traditionally chosen to work with them. This kind of configuration is called WAMP.

To configure a WAMP server, you can install all the required components (MySQL and PHP) separately, but this is a time-consuming task you can easily avoid. In fact, there are several WAMP stacks already configured and ready to be installed, so you can enjoy a perfectly configured web server in a short time. One of the most popular WAMP stacks is provided by Bitnami, a library of installers owned by VMware.

A comparison between WISA and LAMP stacks, two of the most popular options for building a web server.

WISA StackLAMP Stack

Operating System

Windows (usually, Windows Server editions)

Linux

Web Server

IIS (Internet Information Services)

Apache

Database

Microsoft SQL Server

MySQL

You Can Configure a Tomcat Web Server on Windows

You can easily install Tomcat on a Windows operating system through an intuitive installer downloadable from the Apache Foundation website.

You can easily install Tomcat on a Windows operating system through an intuitive installer downloadable from the Apache Foundation website.

One should consider alternatives to the popular WISA and LAMP stacks when they build or install web applications that are neither based on ASP.NET and Microsoft SQL Server nor on PHP and MySQL. An example of an alternative environment is provided by Java server-side web programming. The most popular web server for running Java servlets is Apache Tomcat. This solution is usually installed on Linux platforms: a Windows edition can still be easily downloaded from the official Apache Foundation website.

Conclusions

Setting up a simple web server on a home computer does not require expensive licenses of Windows Server or replacing your consumer edition of Windows with a Linux distribution. Of course, a home computer is not suitable for hosting a website meant to reach an undefined audience. It can be good as a testing environment or to manage an intranet meant to be accessed by some friends or people inside your house.

© 2022 Alessio Ganci

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