Installing Moodle

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Note: You are currently viewing documentation for Moodle 3.7. Up-to-date documentation for the latest stable version of Moodle may be available here: Installing Moodle.

Firstly don't panic! :-)

This guide explains how to install Moodle for the first time. For some of these steps it goes into a lot of detail to try and cover the majority of possible web server setups, so this page may look long and complicated. Don't panic, once you know how to do it you can install Moodle in minutes!

If you have problems please read this page carefully - most common issues are answered in here. If you still have trouble, you can seek help from the Moodle community via Using Moodle.

Another option is to contact a Moodle Partner providing Moodle hosting who can completely maintain Moodle for you, so that you can ignore all this and get straight into educating!

If you want to run Moodle on your own computer and this page looks a bit daunting, then please see our guides: Installing Apache, MySQL and PHP(AMP) or how to install one of Moodle's complete packages. They provide alternative instructions to install all this on most popular platforms.


Moodle is primarily developed in Linux using Apache, MySQL and PHP (also sometimes known as the LAMP platform), but is also regularly tested with Windows XP/2000/2003 (WAMP), Max OS X and Netware 6 operating systems. Support for PostgreSQL, Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server is also available.

The requirements for Moodle are as follows:

  • Hardware (unless you are using a hosted server).
    • Disk space: 160Mb free (min). You will require more free space to store your teaching materials.
    • Memory: 256Mb (min), 1Gb (recommended). The general rule of thumb is that Moodle can support 50 concurrent users for every 1Gb of RAM, but this will vary depending on your specific hardware and software combination.
  • Software
    • Web server software. Most people use Apache, but Moodle should work fine under any web server that supports PHP, such as IIS on Windows platforms. PHP does impose requirements on versions of web servers, however these are complex and the general advice is to use the newest version possible of your chosen web server.
    • PHP scripting language (version 4.1.0 or later). PHP 5 (version 5.1.0 or later) is supported as of Moodle 1.4. (Please note that there have been issues installing Moodle with PHP-Accelerator). From Moodle version 1.6 or later, the minimum version of PHP will be 4.3.0 (or 5.1.0).
    • A working database server: MySQL or PostgreSQL are completely supported and recommended for use with any version of Moodle. Support for Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle has been added in Moodle 1.7. MySQL is the choice for many people because it is very popular, but there are some arguments in favour of PostgreSQL, especially if you are planning a large deployment. The minimum version of MySql required for Moodle 1.5 is 3.23. Moodle 1.6 or later requires MySQL 4.1.16 (4.1.12 if you use latin languages only). The minimum version of PostgreSQL is 7.4 and it is widely used with 8.0 and 8.1. Note that currently the MySQL setting "strict mode" should be OFF (set to "" or "MYSQL40") in the MySQL configuration file.
  • Additional PHP requirements
    • Safe mode needs to be OFF (check in your php.ini or Apache configuration file).
    • memory_limit to be at least 16M (32M is recommended for Moodle 1.7 or later).
    • The mbstring extension is required for multi-byte string handling.
    • The iconv extension is also recommended for Moodle 1.6 or later.
    • GD library and the FreeType 2 library on Linux/Unix boxes to be able to look at the dynamic graphs that the logs pages make.
    • The mysql extension is required if you are using the MySql database. Note that in some Linux distributions (notably Red Hat) this is an optional installation.
    • The pgsql extension is required if you are using the PostgreSQL database.
    • The zlib extension is required for zip/unzip functionality
    • Other PHP extensions may be required to support optional Moodle functionality, especially external authentication and/or enrolment (e.g. LDAP extension for LDAP authentication and the sockets extension for Chat server)

Note if you are using a hosted account: Most web hosts support all of these requirements by default. You should contact your web host's support desk to check that this is the case before signing-up with them. If you are already signed up with one of the few webhosts that does not support these features ask them why, and consider taking your business elsewhere if they do not change.

How many users?

In addition to the hardware and software requirements, you will also need to think about the capacity of your Moodle installation in terms of the number of users it can handle. There are two numbers to plan for:

  • Browsing users: the maximum number of users able to browse your Moodle site. This is the number of computers in your organisation or on your course (whichever is greater).
  • Concurrent database users: the maximum number of concurrent database users (needed for Moodle activities such as quizzes). This is the number of users who will be using Moodle at the same time. In an educational institution, use your timetable/roster to obtain this figure.

Once you know these figures for your users, you can start work out if your Moodle installation can support this capacity. The exact number of users depends on your hardware/software/network combination. Usually the amount of memory installed (RAM) is the deciding factor but a faster overall processor speed will also help in reducing waiting times for pages to load.

The general rule of thumb is that the approx max concurrent users = RAM (Gb) * 50 and the approx max browsing users = Approx max concurrent users * 5. As an example, a university with 500 total computers and 100 concurrent users at any time will need approx 2Gb of RAM to support the number of concurrent users.

Note if you are using a hosted account: Ask your provider what limits are placed on the number of concurrent database connections and the processor load. This will give a good estimate of the number of users your Moodle install can manage.

Download and copy files into place

There are two ways to get Moodle, either as a compressed package or via CVS.

After downloading, unpack the archive using either

tar -zxvf [filename]


unzip [filename]

as appropriate.

If using CVS, run the CVS Checkout command.

You will now be left with a directory called "moodle", containing a number of files and folders.

You can either place the whole folder in your web server documents directory, in which case the site will be located at, or you can copy all the contents straight into the main web server documents directory, in which case the site will be simply

If you are downloading Moodle to your local computer and then uploading it to your web site, it is usually better to upload the whole archive as one file, and then do the unpacking on the server. Even web hosting interfaces like Cpanel allow you to uncompress archives in the "File Manager".

Structure of moodle directory

You can safely skip this section, but here is a quick summary of the contents of the Moodle folder, to help get you oriented:

config.php - contains basic settings. This file does not come with Moodle - you will create it.
install.php - the script you will run to create config.php
version.php - defines the current version of Moodle code
index.php - the front page of the site
admin/ - code to administrate the whole server
auth/ - plugin modules to authenticate users
blocks/ - plugin modules for the little side blocks on many pages
calendar/ - all the code for managing and displaying calendars
course/ - code to display and manage courses
doc/ - help documentation for Moodle (eg this page)
files/ - code to display and manage uploaded files
lang/ - texts in different languages, one directory per language
lib/ - libraries of core Moodle code
login/ - code to handle login and account creation
mod/ - all the main Moodle course modules are in here
pix/ - generic site graphics
theme/ - theme packs/skins to change the look of the site.
user/ - code to display and manage users

Setting-up your system

To ensure that Moodle will install successfully, you need to check that the web server settings are correct, then create a blank database for Moodle to use and finally create a directory on your hard disk for Moodle to save your materials and other files you upload into your courses.

Check web server settings

Firstly, make sure that your web server is set up to use index.php as a default page (perhaps in addition to index.html, default.htm and so on). In Apache, this is done using a DirectoryIndex parameter in your httpd.conf file. Mine usually looks like this:

DirectoryIndex index.php index.html index.htm

Just make sure index.php is in the list (and preferably towards the start of the list, for efficiency).

Secondly, if you are using Apache 2, then you should turn on the AcceptPathInfo variable, which allows scripts to be passed arguments like http://server/file.php/arg1/arg2. This is essential to allow relative links between your resources, and also provides a performance boost for people using your Moodle web site. You can turn this on by adding these lines to your httpd.conf file.

AcceptPathInfo on

Thirdly, Moodle requires a number of PHP settings to be active for it to work. On most servers these will already be the default settings. However, some PHP servers (and some of the more recent PHP versions) may have things set differently. These are defined in PHP's configuration file (usually called php.ini):

magic_quotes_gpc = 1    (preferred but not necessary)
magic_quotes_runtime = 0    (necessary)
file_uploads = 1
session.auto_start = 0
session.bug_compat_warn = 0

If you don't have access to httpd.conf or php.ini on your server, or you have Moodle on a server with other applications that require different settings, then don't worry, you can often still OVERRIDE the default settings.

To do this, you need to create a file called .htaccess in Moodle's main directory that contains lines like the following. This only works on Apache servers and only when Overrides have been allowed in the main configuration.

DirectoryIndex index.php index.html index.htm
<IfDefine APACHE2>
    AcceptPathInfo on
php_flag magic_quotes_gpc 1
php_flag magic_quotes_runtime 0
php_flag file_uploads 1
php_flag session.auto_start 0
php_flag session.bug_compat_warn 0

You can also do things like define the maximum size for uploaded files:

LimitRequestBody 0
php_value upload_max_filesize 2M
php_value post_max_size 2M

The easiest thing to do is just copy the sample file from lib/htaccess and edit it to suit your needs. It contains further instructions. For example, in a Unix shell:

cp lib/htaccess .htaccess

Creating an empty database

You need to create an empty database (eg "moodle") in your database system along with a special user (eg "moodleuser") that has access to that database (and that database only). You could use the "root" user if you wanted to for a test server, but this is not recommended for a production system: if hackers manage to discover the password then your whole database system would be at risk, rather than just one database.

Warning: Bear in mind that currently (as of 1.5.x) Moodle doesn't work with MySQL 5.x's new strict mode (STRICT_TRANS_TABLES and/or STRICT_ALL_TABLES) setting. So if you are using MySQL 5.x, edit MySQL's configuration file (called "my.ini" in Windows and "my.cnf" on Unix/Linux) and comment out that option or set it to sql-mode="" (single quotes). You have to restart MySQL after changing this setting.

If you do not have access to your server, use PHPMyAdmin (or another MySQL client) and enter the command SET @@global.sql_mode="" (single quotes); (note the semi-colon).

Using a hosted server

If you are using a webhost, they will probably have a control panel web interface for you to create your database.

The Cpanel system is one of the most popular of these. To create a database in Cpanel,

  1. Click on the "MySQL Databases" icon.
  2. Type "moodle" in the database field and click "Add Database".
  3. Type a username and password (not one you use elsewhere) in the respective fields and click "Add User".
  4. Now use the "Add User to Database" button to give this new user account "ALL" rights to the new database.
  5. Note that the username and database names may be prefixed by your Cpanel account name. When entering this information into the Moodle installer - use the full names.

Using the command line

If you have access to Unix or Windows command lines then you can do the same sort of thing by typing commands. You should do this using the MySQL Client program

Here are some example MySQL client command lines (the red part is for Moodle 1.6 and later, leave it out for Moodle 1.5.x or earlier):

  # mysql -u root -p
          TO moodleuser@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'yourpassword'; 
  > quit 
  # mysqladmin -u root -p reload

If you are using MySQL 4.0.2 or later, you need to specify CREATE TEMPORARY TABLES as well in the GRANT statement:

          DROP,INDEX,ALTER ON moodle.* 
          TO moodleuser@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'yourpassword'; 

And some example command lines for PostgreSQL:

  # su - postgres
  > psql -c "create user moodleuser createdb;" template1
  > psql -c "create database moodle with encoding 'unicode';" -U moodleuser template1
  > psql -c "alter user moodleuser nocreatedb;" template1
  > psql -c "alter user moodleuser with encrypted password 'yourpassword';" template1
  > su - root
  # /etc/init.d/postgresql reload

If the Postgres create database command above (>psql -c "create database moodle...") gives an error message you may want to try:

psql -c "create database moodle with template=template1 encoding = 'unicode' owner =  moodleuser 
location = '/var/mydata';"

Creating the data directory (moodledata)

Moodle will also need some space on your server's hard disk to store uploaded files, such as course documents and user pictures.

The Moodle installer tries hard to create this directory for you but if it fails then you will have to create a directory for this purpose manually.

For security, it's best that this directory is NOT accessible directly via the web. The easiest way to do this is to simply locate it OUTSIDE the web directory, but if you must have it in the web directory (and you are using Apache) then protect it by creating a file in the data directory called .htaccess, containing this line:

deny from all

To make sure that Moodle can save uploaded files in this directory, check that the web server software has permission to read, write and execute in this directory. On Unix machines, this means setting the owner of the directory to be something like "nobody" or "apache", and then giving that user read, write and execute permissions. To do this you could use:

chown -R nobody:nobody moodledata

Remember by default, mysql won't accept moodle data directories created under ROOT, but otherwise can be located where you wish. You can later move or change the location of this directory, but if you do, be sure to edit the setting in the config.php file that sets this; e.g. if moodledata is under a directory called data, then it would look like this:

$CFG->dataroot  = '/data/moodledata';

On Cpanel systems you can use the "File Manager" to find the folder, click on it, then choose "Change Permissions". On many shared hosting servers, you will probably need to restrict all file access to your "group" (to prevent other webhost customers from looking at or changing your files), but provide full read/write access to everyone else (which will allow the web server to access your files).

Speak to your server administrator if you are having trouble setting this up securely. In particular it will not be possible to create a usable data directory on sites that use a PHP feature known as "Safe Mode."

Run the installer script to create config.php

To run the installer script (install.php), just try to access your Moodle main URL using a web browser, or access http://yourserver/install.php directly.

(The Installer will try to set a session cookie. If you get a popup warning in your browser make sure you accept that cookie!)

Moodle will detect that configuration is necessary and will lead you through some screens to help you create a new configuration file called config.php. At the end of the process Moodle will try and write the file into the right location, otherwise you can press a button to download it from the installer and then upload config.php into the main Moodle directory on the server.

Along the way the installer will test your server environment and give you suggestions about how to fix any problems. For most common issues these suggestions should be sufficient, but if you get stuck, check in the Installation Forum for more help.

Go to the admin page to continue configuration

Once the basic config.php has been correctly created in the previous step, trying to access the front page of your site will take you the "admin" page for the rest of the configuration.

The first time you access this admin page, you will be presented with a GPL "shrinkwrap" agreement with which you must agree before you can continue with the setup.

Now Moodle will start setting up your database and creating tables to store data. Firstly, the main database tables are created. You should see a number of SQL statements followed by status messages (in green or red) that look like this:

CREATE TABLE course ( id int(10) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment, category int(10) unsigned NOT NULL default '0', password varchar(50) NOT NULL default '', fullname varchar(254) NOT NULL default '', shortname varchar(15) NOT NULL default '', summary text NOT NULL, format tinyint(4) NOT NULL default '1', teacher varchar(100) NOT NULL default 'Teacher', startdate int(10) unsigned NOT NULL default '0', enddate int(10) unsigned NOT NULL default '0', timemodified int(10) unsigned NOT NULL default '0', PRIMARY KEY (id)) TYPE=MyISAM


...and so on, followed by: Main databases set up successfully.

If you don't see these, then there must have been some problem with the database or the configuration settings you defined in config.php. Check that PHP isn't in a restricted "Safe Mode" (commercial web hosts sometimes have safe mode turned on). You can check PHP variables by creating a little file containing <?php phpinfo() ?> and looking at it through a browser. Check all these and try this page again.

Scroll down the very bottom of the page and press the "Continue" link.

You should now see a form where you can define more configuration variables for your installation, such as the default language, SMTP hosts and so on. Don't worry too much about getting everything right just now - you can always come back and edit these later on using the admin interface. The defaults are designed to be useful and secure for most sites. Scroll down to the bottom and click "Save changes".

If (and only if) you find yourself getting stuck on this page, unable to continue, then your server probably has what I call the "buggy referrer" problem. This is easy to fix: just turn off the "secureforms" setting, then try to continue again.

Next you will see more pages that print lots of status messages as they set up all the tables required by the various Moodle module. As before, they should all be green.

Scroll down the very bottom of the page and press the "Continue" link.

The next page is a form where you can define parameters for your Moodle site and the front page, such as the name, format, description and so on. Fill this out (you can always come back and change these later) and then press "Save changes".

Finally, you will then be asked to create a top-level administration user for future access to the admin pages. Fill out the details with your own name, email etc and then click "Save changes". Not all the fields are required, but if you miss any important fields you'll be re-prompted for them.

Make sure you remember the username and password you chose for the administration user account, as they will be necessary to access the administration page in future.

(If for any reason your install is interrupted, or there is a system error of some kind that prevents you from logging in using the admin account, you can usually log in using the default username of "admin", with password "admin".)

Once successful, you will be returned to the home page of your new site! Note the administration links that appear down the left hand side of the page (these items also appear on a separate Admin page) - these items are only visible to you because you are logged in as the admin user. All your further administration of Moodle can now be done using this menu, such as:

  • creating and deleting courses
  • creating and editing user accounts
  • administering teacher accounts
  • changing site-wide settings like themes etc

But you are not done installing yet! There is one very important thing still to do (see the next section on cron).

Set up cron

Please refer to the Cron instructions.

Set up backups

Please refer to the Backup instructions.

Create a new course

Now that Moodle is running properly, you can try creating a new course to play with.

Select "Create a new course" from the Admin page (or the admin links on the home page).

Fill out the form, paying special attention to the course format. You don't have to worry about the details too much at this stage, as everything can be changed later by the teacher. Note that the yellow help icons are everywhere to provide contextual help on any aspect.

Press "Save changes", and you will be taken to a new form where you can assign teachers to the course. You can only add existing user accounts from this form - if you want to create a new teacher account then either ask the teacher to create one for themselves (see the login page), or create one for them using the "Add a new user" on the Admin page.

Once done, the course is ready to customise, and is accessible via the "Courses" link on the home page.

See also