Installing From Online Manual
Installing an SMF forum is very simple! Installing SMF can be done in five quick and simple steps.
Download the Install Archive
The latest SMF release can be found on the SMF downloads. The latest stable release will be always be available at
Extract the SMF Archive and Upload the Files to Your Website
The SMF install archive contains files that need to be copied to the correct place on your website before the installer can be executed. Wherever these files are located on the server, that is where your forum will be located. Extracting before uploading is usually the simplest method. If your host provides the necessary tools, you can try uploading before extracting.
You will need to use either FTP (in binary mode) or the tools in your hosting account's control panel (for more information on the control panel supplied by your hosting service, please see the documentation provided by your hosting service).
SMF can be uploaded to the site root, or to a directory on the site, such as www.yourdomain.com/forum.
Extracting Before Uploading
This is the way most people do it. It is easy, but can take longer.
- Extract the archive, usually by right-clicking the archive and selecting the "Extract All" option. When the install archive is extracted, a new folder should be created with all the files and directories in the correct places.
- Set your FTP client for binary transfer, select all the files and folders and copy them to the directory where you want to locate your forum.
Uploading Before Extracting
Some control panels, such as cPanel, give the ability to extract an archive right on the server. This can be a quicker than waiting for all the extracted files to copy via FTP. First, upload the file via your account's control panel. Second, select the extract option to extract the archive to the desired location -- the directory where you want your forum to be located.
Set File and Directory Permissions
File and directory permissions control who can see your files and use your directories. They can control whether you will be able to install mods to your forum. On Linux and other Unix-like servers the chmod command is used to designate permissions. On most servers, a setting of 755 for directories and 644 for files will work. If this does not work on your hosting service, you may need 777 or 775 for directories, and 666 or 664 for files. Some hosts do not allow using 777 for directories or 666 for files -- using such high values will cause Internal Server Errors, 500 erors, or other errors. If the permission on your files or directories does not make them writable, the SMF installer will report the problem -- if it can detect it.
Note: If a Windows server is being used rather than a Linux server, then you will need to contact your host to change the file/directory permissions.
Setting File Permissions with the Installer
In many cases, the SMF installer can handle this for you. If you want to give this a try, skip this step for now, and wait until you come to the appropriate point in the installer. The installer might need to ask you for FTP login details to get the job done, so be sure to make a note of them. If you run into any problems setting file permissions with the installer, you can use the instructions below for setting file permissions with FTP to handle it yourself.
Setting File Permissions with FTP
Using a control panel or FTP client, file permissions can be changed quickly and easily. Usually, FTP programs will allow permissions to be changed by right-clicking files/directories and selecting "Properties", "Attributes" or "Permissions". The desired numerical value can be entered, or if provided, check boxes can be changed.
Create a Database and a Database User
Before running the installer, a database and a database user will need to be created. A database will store all of the information a forum requires, such as members, posts, and topics. A database user will allow the forum to access the stored information. Remember this information about the database and database user. You will need it when it comes time to run the installer.
Creating a database using PHPMyAdmin
Most shared hosting services disable this option. If the option to create databases through PHPMyAdmin is available through the hosting service you use, the database can be created from the PHPMyAdmin home page.
Creating a database using a control panel
Shared hosting services usually disable the ability to create a database through PHPMyAdmin. If the hosting service provides a control panel interface, then this can be used to create a database. Selecting the "MySQL Databases" or "Database Wizard" options should take you to a page prompting you to creating a MySQL database. With different hosts, these options may have different names.
SMF 2.0 has the ability to support other database types, including PostgreSQL and SQLite. SMF 1.1 supports only MySQL database types.
Creating a database user
A database user can be created through the control panel provided by your hosting service. Selecting the "MySQL Databases" or "Database Wizard" options should take you to a page, prompting you to create a MySQL database user. With different hosts, these options may have different names.
The database user requires the following permissions: SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, ALTER, and INDEX. Additional permissions may be granted, if desired.
Run the installer
The final step in installing SMF is running the installer. The information from the previous steps will be used in the installation process.
The SMF install screen looks different for SMF 2.0 and SMF 1.1, however, both still require the same information. Navigating to the directory where SMF is located, should redirect you to the install.php file, and prompt the installer to run. For example: www.yourdomain.com/forum/install.php
Basic forum settings
- Forum Name
- The name for the forum being installed should go here. By default this is set to “My Community”. This can be changed later via the server settings section of the administration center if needed.
- Forum URL
- The URL the forum can be found at, without the trailing slash. The SMF installer will most likely have this correct, so it is safe to leave this field alone.
- Gzip Output
- If Gzip output tests pass, this can be used to save bandwidth and make pages load faster.
- Database Sessions
- Sessions can be stored in the database, or in files. Database sessions are more reliable, secure, and may work better on sites with multiple servers.
- UTF-8 Character Set
- UTF-8 character sets are useful for international forums, or forums that use languages other than English.
- Allow Stat Collection
- This option allows Simple Machines to collect statistics from your forum, anonymously, so the software can grow to meet the needs of its user base.
Database server settings
- Database type
- The database schema can be selected here from a list of database schemas supported by the server being used. Newer schemas (for SMF 2.0) such as PostgreSQL and SQLite may be listed here if available. MySQL and PostgreSQL are recommended.
- Server name
- The location of the database is specified here. 99% of the time this will be localhost.
- The username used for the database user should be placed here. If help is required for this, the hosting service provider should be contacted.
- The password for the database user is entered here.
- Database name
- The name used for the database should be placed here. If help is required for this, the hosting service provider should be contacted.
- Database prefix
- The prefix for all tables associated with this install is specified here. Prefixing tables with unique prefixes enables more than one application, or SMF install, to use the same database safely.
Creating an administrator account
The SMF installer will ask for information to create the forum's administrator account. This information includes username, password, and e-mail address, just like a regular account. Once created, this account can be used to visit the Administration Center to manage and configure the forum.
Finishing the installation process
Once all steps of the installation process have been completed, check the box to remove the install files from the server. If this does not work, they will need to be deleted via FTP. All installer files should be removed from the server once the installation process is complete, as they are a major security risk if left on a server unattended. Once SMF is installed they are no longer needed.