If you recently upgraded to Microsoft Vista, you can enhance the functionality of Vista by turning it into a server. Among many other possibilities, running Vista as a server will let you host web pages, share your documents with friends and family, and allow you to access your documents from outside your local area network. This tutorial will demonstrate how to turn Windows Vista (any version) into a Web server, and how to enable port forwarding on your router which will allow you to connect to your server from outside your local area network. This tutorial requires Windows Vista, 512MB RAM, and 64.6MB of free space on your hard drive.
You can install Apache Server, MySQL, and PHP in one step using WAMP. WAMP is a freeware package that bundles Apache, MySQL, and PHP into one executable. You can download WAMP from the project homepage. Once you download WAMP, double click the icon and begin the install process.
Click Next to begin: After agreeing to the WAMP license, select the destination location. Leave the default location as "c:'wamp" and click Next: Leave the default Start Menu shortcut as "WampServer" and click Next: Select automatically launch WAMP5 on startup. This will allow Vista to act as a server whenever it is started. Select the check box and click Next: WAMP will summarize your selections. Click Install and WAMP will begin the install process: WAMP will extract and install itself. The process should only take a few seconds, and WAMP will prompt you to choose a folder for your "DocumentRoot." Leave the default folder as "www" and click Ok: WAMP will prompt you to enter the SMTP server to be used by PHP to send emails. Leave the default value as "localhost" and click Next: WAMP will then prompt you to enter the default email address to be used by PHP to send emails. Put your email address in this field and click Next: If you have Firefox installed, WAMP will ask you if you would like to use Firefox as the default browser with WAMP. This is a personal preference, so feel free to choose "Yes" or "No." I will choose "Yes" and then click Next: You will likely be prompted by Vista whether the Windows Firewall should allow or block the features of WAMP. You want to allow all of the features of WAMP, so click Unblock: Congratulations, the installation process is complete, click Finish and Launch WAMP5 now: Open a browser and enter "localhost" as the URL, and you will see a summary of the installation process: There are a few more changes you must make to really leverage the power of WAMP. The first is to open a port on your router and allow it to forward requests to WAMP. This will allow you to connect to your WAMP server from outside your local area network. You will need to learn what your local area network address is before opening a port on the router. In order to do this, open Command Prompt by going to Start >> All Programs >> Accessories >> Command Prompt. Once in Command Prompt, type ipconfig/all. This command will give quite a bit of information, but you are only interested in the IPv4 address: Your address will probably be different than my address. Write this address down and close the Command Prompt. You are at the point where you can open a port on our router and forward requests to WAMP. The firmware for most routers is different, so the directions I give to open a port may be slightly different on your router. Connect to your router through your browser of choice. If you have a Linksys router enter http://192.168.1.1 into the URL bar. If you have a NETGEAR router enter http://192.168.0.1. If you have another brand of router please consult your documentation to find out how to access your firmware through a browser. Once you are in your router's control panel, you will have a location called something similar to "Port Range Forwarding." You will want to create a new entry and call the application WAMP. Enter 80 for Start and End, choose Both for Protocol and enter your IPv4 address (my address is shown above as 192.168.1.116) you obtained form the Command Prompt as the IP Address. Choose Enable and click Save Settings: You need to edit one more file before you will be able to access your documents from outside your local area network. Click the WAMP icon that has been added to the system tray, choose "Config files," and select "httpd.conf": This will open httpd.conf in Notepad. You will need to edit the section called "Controls who can get stuff from this server." Scroll down to this section (it's a little less than half way through the file) and change the line that says "Deny from all" to "Allow from all" and resave the document: Click the WAMP icon in the system tray and restart Apache: Open a browser and navigate to "http://www.whatismyip.com" and find out what your IP address is. Now open a browser and enter "http://yourIPaddress" and you will be forwarded to your WAMP server whether you are inside or outside your local area network. Anything you put into your "c:'wamp'www" directory will be stored on your server. For example, if you copied all your pictures to "c:'wamp'www'pictures," you will be able to navigate to "http://yourIPaddress/pictures" and all of your pictures will be available.
Here is what you've learned how to do:
- Turn Vista into a webserver
- Open a port and forward all requests to your server
Note: it is an unsafe practice to leave your server open to all traffic. If you would like to force users to authenticate before accessing your server please refer to this guide. Alternatively, if you would only like to use Vista as a server on your local area network, do not open a port on your router. All requests from computers within your local area network to "http://localhost" will get forwarded to your server without port forwarding enabled. This tutorial just scratched the surface of the power of Vista with Apache, MySQL, and PHP. If you navigate to "http://localhost/phpmyadmin" you will be able to manage your MySQL databases from within your browser. In addition, any PHP code you write and place in the "c:'wamp'www" will be interpreted by Apache and properly displayed within a browser.