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You can host your own website at home, and I'll tell you exactly how! But it might
not save you much money, and it definitely won't save you time. So give it
serious thought before you proceed... unless your goal is simply to learn about
the technology and have fun!
The best reason to host your website at home is to learn how it all works. For
more information about the pros and cons, see should I host my own website?
Warning: running a server of any kind at home is a security risk. Security
problems are sometimes found in server software, and these can be exploited to
gain access to or damage your files. Your computer must be kept absolutely up
to date with Windows Update or the equivalent for your operating system if you
intend to run a web server on it. If you choose to run Apache instead of Internet
Information Server, you'll need to keep your version of Apache absolutely up to
date too. This doesn't eliminate the risk -- it only minimizes it. You run a server
at home entirely at your own risk. If you do choose to run a server at home, I
recommend finding an old PC on the curb and setting it up as your home server,
reducing the danger to your own computer.
Procedures for other operating systems are similar, and most of these steps
actually involve your router, so this article should still be helpful to non-Windows
Here are the steps to follow to set up a website hosted entirely on your own
Windows PC. First I'll present the general steps, then I'll break down the details
1. Make sure you have cable modem, DSL or another high-speed connection. A
dialup telephone modem is NOT good enough.
2. Get a DNS hostname for your home Internet connection.
3. Get a static local IP address for your computer within your home network.
4. Configure your router to correctly forward connections on port 80 (the HTTP
port) to your web server. Even if you think you don't have a router, you probably
do— many popular cable and DSL modems include wifi or wired Ethernet jacks
for multiple computers, which means they contain a built-in router. If your ISP
blocks port 80, choose an alternative port number and forward that (or get a
better ISP that welcomes websites at home, like Speakeasy.Net).
5. Configure Windows Firewall to allow your web server to communicate on port
6. Get Apache, a free, high-quality web server program. If you have Windows XP
Professional, you also have the option of Microsoft Internet Information Server
(IIS), which comes standard with Windows XP Professional. But that option only
allows you to host one site. I recommend Apache.
7. Test your web server from your own computer.
8. Replace the default home page with your own web page. Now the site is your
9. Test your web server from a computer that is NOT on your home network to
make sure you followed all of the steps correctly.
"I followed all the steps and I get my router's login page instead of my
You are trying to access your website by name from behind your router (from one
of your own PCs). With some consumer-grade routers, this does not work
because the router automatically assumes any web connection to itself from
inside your network is an attempt to log into the router's configuration interface.
It's a pain, but this fail-safe mechanism does prevent you from locking yourself
out of your router's web interface. So test from outside your own home
network or have a friend do that for you. If you can access your home-hosted
website from someone else's computer, then you don't have a problem. If you
want to access your site from a computer behind your router, you'll have to
access it at its static local IP address instead of by name.
And that's it! Now I'll present detailed information about each step.
Step One: Broadband
Get cable modem (from the cable company) or DSL (from the phone company
and various other companies). If you can't do that, you'll have to host your
website in some other way. Your computer must have a fast connection to
grapple with video and audio files anyway. You don't necessarily have to go with
your phone company's DSL offering. Check out broadbandreports.com for
independent reviews of cable modem and DSL companies. Upload speed, not
download speed, is the most important feature for hosting websites at
"How fast will my home-based website be?"
The main limitation will be your upload speed (uplink speed). Most DSL or cable
modem connections have an upload speed between 128kbps (128,000 bits per
second) and 384kbps (384,000 bits per second).
So how long does it take to load your home page? Add up the size of your home
page (in bytes), the sizes of all of the images on that page, and the size of any
Flash movies (.swf files) or CSS style sheets (.css files) referenced by that page.
Now multiply by 8 and you'll know how many bits make up your home page.
Divide that by your upload speed and you'll have a rough idea how long it takes
to load your home page under ideal conditions. There will also be latency delays
slowing things down, and multiple users will of course slow things down and
make it take longer. There is no fixed limit on the number of users who can
access your home-based website at the same time - things just slow down.
For more information, see my article how fast is my website?
Step Two: Dynamic or Static DNS
Other people can't talk to your website if they don't know the address... and if you
have a typical cable modem or DSL connection, your address changes often.
You can solve this problem by using a dynamic DNS service. Even if your IP
address doesn't change, you still need someone to host a DNS server for you,
unless you are willing to put up with giving users a URL that begins with a string
of numbers. This is a common requirement both for hosting websites at home
and for hosting torrents, so I've written a separate article explaining how to get a
hostname for your computer at home.
Step Three: A Static Local IP Address
If you have a router... and you do, if you have WiFi (wireless access) or more
than one computer... then your computer receives a new local address on your
home network, or Intranet, every time it is powered on. But to forward web
browser connections to your computer, you need an unchanging address to
forward those connections to. This is also a shared requirement both for hosting
websites at home and for hosting torrents, so I've written a separate article
explaining how to give your computer a static local IP address.
Step Four: Forwarding Port 80
If you don't have a router (and you know by now, if you have been following
these steps...) then you can skip this step and move on to the next. If you have
WiFi, or more than one computer, you definitely have a router and must not skip
Now that you have chosen a static local IP for your computer, you're ready to
configure the router to forward web traffic to your computer.
Again, this step is needed both for web hosting at home and for BitTorrent
hosting. So, once again, there is a separate article explaining how to forward
ports from the Internet to your computer via your router. Just follow the steps in
that article to forward port 80.
Step Five: Allowing Web Traffic Through The Firewall
More firewall issues? Didn't we already do this? Only in part. Yes, your router
serves as a firewall, but your computer also has a built-in firewall. You'll need to
configure that firewall to allow traffic through on port 80 to reach your web server
software. This step is also common to both web hosting and torrent hosting... so
check out my article explaining how to allow traffic on specific ports through your
Step Six: Get Apache Or Internet Information Server
Mac and Linux users: you already have Apache! MacOS X users should read
Kevin Hemenway's great article on onlamp.com. Linux users: install the Apache
packages and look in /var/www/html or a similar location for your website folder.
Apache is the most popular web server in the world, with nearly 70% of all
websites running Apache as of January 2006, according to the netcraft web
server survey. Why is it so popular? Because it's free, open-source, high-quality
software. And you can run it on your Windows box at home!
If you have Windows XP Professional, you can also run Microsoft Internet
Information Server. It comes free in the box... but only with XP Professional (and
high-end server versions of Windows). If you have XP Home, or an older version
of Windows, go with Apache - and consider upgrading to at least XP Home for
better network performance.
I'll cover Apache first. Then I'll look at Internet Information Server, which is also
excellent and is available if you have Windows XP Professional or a high-end
server version of Windows. It will only host one site per computer on XP
Windows 98 and Me users can use Microsoft's "Personal Web Server." However,
this software went away with the release of XP Home, and it's not a popular
choice. Since you can run Apache for free - the world's most popular web server,
for businesses and individuals alike - I don't recommend suffering with PWS.
Apache Quick-Start Guide
Although Apache was born in the Unix/Linux world, it runs great on Windows too.
In general, the newer your Windows, the easier it is to install Apache. Those with
older versions of Windows, even Windows 95, can still run Apache but will have
to jump through a few extra hoops. For complete information, check out the
Apache Foundation's Microsoft Windows Apache installation tutorial. Since that
article is a little old, you'll just have to bear in mind that instructions for Windows
NT or 2000 also apply to Windows XP.
The following quick-start guide applies to Windows XP, but users of older
versions of Windows can run Apache too... if they follow the extra steps spelled
out in the Apache Foundation's Using Apache with Microsoft Windows tutorial to
prepare their older computers to handle modern software installation and
Upgrading to Windows XP Service Pack 2
Microsoft has fixed problems in Windows XP that create issues for Apache. Use
Windows Update to upgrade your Windows XP system to service pack 2. You
have probably already done this. If not, you need to do it in any case to fix many
important security problems that have nothing to do with Apache!
Not sure if you have service pack 2? Do this: click on "Start," right-click on "My
Computer," select "Properties" and look at the information presented under
"System." You should see "Service Pack 2." If not, visit Microsoft's Windows
Update site, using Interet Explorer, not Firefox... just this once! The Windows
Update site uses special Active X controls to update your computer. Normally I
don't encourage the use of Active X, but for upgrading Microsoft's own operating
system from Microsoft's own website using Microsoft's own browser, it's OK!
Visit the Apache HTTP Server Project home page. In the column at left, locate
"Download!" and click on "from a mirror." The download page will appear. Scroll
down until you locate the link to download the "Win32 Binary (MSI Installer)"
distribution of Apache, not the "Win32 Source." That's raw source code for
programmers - probably not what you want!
Click on the link for the "Win32 Binary (MSI Installer)" and wait for your browser
to save the file to disk.
Once the download is complete, you're ready to install the software. Double-click
on the file you just downloaded on your desktop (for Firefox) or in your
downloads folder (for Internet Explorer) to launch the installation program. The
"Installation Wizard" window will appear.
First you'll see the "Welcome to the Installation Wizard" page. Click "Next" to
Next, you'll see the Apache license agreement. The Apache license allows you to
share the software freely, including the source code. Select "I accept the terms in
the license agreement" and click "Next."
The "Read This First" page appears. Currently this page doesn't offer much
specific information for Windows users of Apache. Click "Next."
The "Server Information" page should now appear. Be sure to enter the correct
1. For "Network Domain," if you registered a hostname such as myname.is-a-
geek.com with DynDNS, enter is-a-geek.com.
2. For "Server Name," enter your full hostname, such as myname.is-a-geek.com.
3. For "Administrator's Email Address," enter a real email address for you that
actually works. Users will see this when things go wrong. Bear in mind that
spammers might discover this address, so use an address that is already publicly
known if possible.
4. For "Install Apache HTTP Server 2.0 programs and shortcuts for..." select "for
All Users, on Port 80, as a Service." This ensures that the software is always
running, no matter who is sitting down at your computer. And a website that is
not always running is not very useful! So pick this option and click "Next."
The "Setup Type" page appears next. Select "Typical" and click "Next" to move
You'll see the "Destination Folder" page. By default, Apache installs in the folder
C:\Program Files\Apache Group, creating a sub-folder called C:\Program
Files\Apache Group\htdocs to keep your web pages in. These are good choices,
so click "Next." Don't click "Change..." unless you know exactly what you're
Finally, the "Ready to Install the Program" page appears. Click "Install" to kick off
the installation process. The Apache server software will be copied into place
and the Apache service will start up in the background. Along the way, a few
Windows Command Prompt windows will flash up briefly. This is normal and you
should let these windows do their thing and go away on their own!
If you do receive error messages, the most frequent cause is that Internet
Information Server or another web server is already installed and "listening" on
port 80, the standard HTTP port. Disable the other web server software and
The "Installation Wizard Completed" page should appear. Congratulations, you
have a web server! Click on "Finish" to complete the process.
Internet Information Server Quick-Start Guide
You need either Apache or Internet Information Server (IIS). You do not want
Microsoft's Internet Information Server is a solid choice, and it is included free
with Windows XP Professional. If you don't have XP Professional, or one of the
server-oriented versions of Windows like Windows Server 2003, then IIS is not
an option for you.
Installing Internet Information Server
1. Make sure you have Windows XP Professional! Click "Start," then right-click
"My Computer." Choose "Properties" from the menu that appears. The "General"
tab will appear. Under "System:" you should see "Microsoft Windows XP
Professional." If you see Windows XP Home, Windows ME, Windows 98 or
Windows 95, you will not be able to use IIS. Follow the Apache Quick-Start
2. We're ready to install the IIS software. Select "Start," then "Control Panel,"
then "Add/Remove Programs." Select "Add/Remove Windows Components" from
the left-hand column.
A list of available Windows features appears. Check the box for "Internet
Information Services (IIS)" and click "Next." If prompted, insert your Windows XP
That's all it takes! Installing IIS is very simple because it is a standard component
of Windows XP Professional.
Step Seven: Test Your Website From Your Own Computer
Is the website working? Let's find out! The first test is to access your site from
your own computer. On the same computer that is running the web server
software, access the URL http://localhost/. You should see an example
home page provided with your Apache or IIS web server software. If not, review
the appropriate quick start guide above and figure out which step you skipped! If
you received errors during installation, you need to resolve them before your
website will work.
Step Eight: Make Your Own Home Page
You have a web server, but right now the "content" on the site is just the default
home page that came with the server software. Time to fix that!
All you have to do is move your own web pages to the appropriate folder. If you
followed the Apache quick-start guide, your web pages belong in this folder:
C:\Program Files\Apache Group\htdocs
If you followed the IIS quick-start guide, your web pages belong here:
First, remove the files that are already in those folders. It's not smart to leave
"default" files lying around. What if a security problem was found with one of
these common files? Then your website would be vulnerable.
Next, copy your own web pages and images into the folder. The "home page" of
your site should be called index.html (not index.htm). Both Apache and IIS are
smart enough to know that when a user visits http://yourname.is-a-geek.com/,
they should act as if the user asked for http://yourname.is-a-
geek.com/index.html and do the right thing.
For more information about making web pages and graphics, see how do I set up
Step Nine: Test Your Website From The Outside World
We did a lot of work here to give our computer a hostname on the Internet and
forward web traffic through the router and firewall. Did we do it right? Only one
way to be sure! Access your website from a computer that is not on your home
Internet connection, or have a friend try it. For example, if you registered the
name myname.is-a-geek.com with DynDNS, your website's address is
http://myname.is-a-geek.com/. Try that address from a computer outside your
home and see what happens!
If it works... great! If not, you probably made a mistake in dynamic DNS, port
forwarding, firewall configuration or local static IP configuration.
"I followed all the steps and I get my router's login page instead of my
You are probably trying to access your website by name from behind your router
(from one of your own PCs). With many routers, this does not work because the
router automatically assumes any web connection to itself from inside your
network is an attempt to log into the router's configuration interface. Test from
outside your own network or have a friend do that for you. If you can access
your home-hosted website from someone else's computer, you don't have a
problem. If you want to access your site from a computer behind your router,
you'll have to access it at its static local IP address instead of by name.
Another possible cause of this problem: you may have turned on your router's
"remote router access" feature by mistake. People turn this on by accident
because they think it has something to do with hosting a website at home. It
doesn't. Turn it off, it is dangerous! You don't want other people accessing
your router and changing configuration settings.
Congratulations! You have your own website on the Internet, hosted entirely in
your own home. Just remember: your computer must remain on, and
connected to the Internet, all the time. Without a web server, there's no
website. That's why, if you choose to host at home, I recommend picking up an
older computer off the curb, dusting it off, popping in at least 128MB of RAM and
firing it up as a web server. Your own PC doesn't wear out, and if security
problems are found in the web server, they are more likely to be confined to the
less important computer.
See also how do I set up a DMZ for safer home web hosting?
first, you must choose and register a domain name.
For more information, see how do I register a domain name?
Next, you must choose a web hosting company to host your site for you. Hosting
prices vary from $5/month on up depending on the nature of your site and the
amount of traffic you expect; extremely popular sites can expect to pay for a
more expensive plan, or to pay extra bandwidth charges.
Web Hosting Talk offers well-established forums in which to discuss the quality of
various web hosting providers.
Third, you will need to create your website's content. In most cases you will
already own one or more programs that can be used to save web pages in the
World Wide Web's HTML format. For instance, both the 100% free OpenOffice
suite and Microsoft Office offer a "Save As..." HTML capability in their word
processor software. Creating a web page with these tools is much like writing any
other document, with the addition of the ability to make links to other pages and
But how exactly do you make a link from one page to another? In OpenOffice,
this is very easy to do:
1. Select the text or image in your document that should become a link.
2. Pull down the "Insert" menu and choose "Hyperlink."
3. In the "Target" field, enter the URL of the page you want to link to. If you are
linking to another page in the same folder on your own website, you can just
enter the filename, such as aboutus.html. That's all. This isn't hard— just keep it
simple and don't second-guess yourself into getting it wrong! You don't want to
enter a complete filename with drive letters and slashes here. Just the name of
another page that you plan to put in the same folder one you move your pages to
4. Click "Apply." This is important.
5. Click "Close."
If you are writing HTML by hand, see the article how do I link to another page or
file? for a complete explanation of how to make links.
"Can't I host my own website at home?" Yes... but it's inconvenient, unreliable,
and insecure. Real hosting can be very cheap, as cheap as $5 a month, so think
twice before hosting at home. See should I host my own website at home? and
how do I host my own website at home?
You can name the rest of your web pages anything you like, but be sure to name
your "home" page index.html. Web servers understand that index.html is the
file to give when the user doesn't specify a particular page. So when a user types
in or clicks on a link to www.example.com, the page they get is index.html. If you
don't provide an index page, users will see a directory listing or an error
message— not professional.
You will also need to create graphics for your site, of course. Your graphics must
be in GIF, JPEG or PNG format to be used effectively on the web; please do not
put BMP files on the web as they are very, very slow to download and do not
work with every browser. All Linux users, and Windows users who are willing to
take the time to master a somewhat confusing interface, will want to use GIMP,
which is free and very powerful. Windows users should consider the very
affordable and user-friendly Ultimate Paint; many features are available without
restriction even without the $39.95 registration. Macintosh users and high-end
graphics mavens swear by Photoshop.
Fourth, you will need to upload the pages and images you have created to your
new web space. Your hosting company will provide instructions for this. Often
your hosting provider's instructions call for moving files via FTP or Secure FTP
(SFTP). Windows users can do that with FileZilla, a free, open-source,
noncommercial FTP and SFTP "client" program. MacOS X and Linux users have
command-line FTP built-in, but MacOS X users will probably prefer the user-
friendly Transmit program.
Once you've uploaded your files, your site is up!
Webmasters who wish to understand the web more directly and gain more
control will be interested in learning about HTML (Hypertext Markup Language),
the format in which web pages are created. Although I have recommended user-
friendly tools above, it is not difficult at all to learn to write your own HTML
elements, and you will gain a deeper mastery of the Web that way. For more
information, see what are HTML and XHTML?
Professionals and others with a significant budget should also look at
Macromedia Dreamweaver, currently the most reputable high-end tool for
creating web pages.