Installing and Configuring Drupal 6.1

This article was published by, , as a feature tutorial.

Websites come in all shapes and sizes, but most of them share important functionality. For instance, site owners want to be able to:

Site visitors typically should be able to:

But if so many websites need to support an extensive amount of common capabilities, it would be terribly wasteful for business owners and their Web developers to create all of this functionality from scratch. In other words, why reinvent the Web wheel?

In response to this need, Web programmers and software organizations have developed content management systems (CMSs), which are like website frameworks, without the site content. To put it another way, a CMS can be thought of as an empty website, with everything in place for the site's administrators and perhaps visitors to fill in with content, such as blog postings. The framework usually includes a database for storing content, user sign-up and authentication capabilities, a Web feed, etc. The primary benefit of using a CMS is that the framework does not have to be created by the site administrators. This allows the administrators to focus on adding desired content and customizing its appearance, without worrying about the underlying technology.


One of the most popular CMSs is Drupal, partly because it offers all of the aforesaid features, and partly because developers familiar with PHP (the language used by Drupal) can modify the functioning and appearance of almost every aspect of Drupal. The latest series of Drupal, version 6.x, provides improvements and brand-new features in a variety of areas: installation, administration, human language support, theme management, security, performance, and more.

In this tutorial, I will discuss how to install and configure a brand-new Drupal website from scratch. I will also touch upon the basics of adding content to a Drupal installation.

System Requirements

To run Drupal, you will need several components: 1) a Web server, 2) a database server, and 3) a Web scripting language (PHP). It is advisable that all of these needed components be installed before installing Drupal itself:

In this tutorial, I will be utilizing the most recent versions (as of this writing): Apache 2.2.8, MySQL 5.0, and PHP 5.2.5. If you are setting up your development environment on a Windows server, then further information is available at, with detailed instructions on how to install and configure Apache, MySQL, and PHP.

Downloading Drupal

Your first step in installing Drupal is to download the latest version, which is currently Drupal 6.1. Click on the "Download Drupal 6.1" link, and save the archive file (drupal-6.1.tar.gz) somewhere on your computer. If you have a broadband connection, the download process should take just a few seconds; the installation file is just slightly bigger than 1 megabyte.

Drupal 6.1 download page
Figure 1. Drupal 6.1 download page

Earlier stable releases of Drupal, such as versions 5.7 and 6.0, are available, but not recommended.

Installing Drupal

Open the installation file that you saved, which should start up whatever file archive application is associated with Gzip files.

Extract the contents of the archive file into a new directory somewhere within your Web server's root directory. You can name it simply "Drupal". The contents consist of more than 400 files in more than 50 directories. This may seem like a lot, to anyone new to CMSs, but is actually a fraction of what is required by other leading CMSs. Drupal is also efficient in disk space usage compared to its rivals, using well under four megabytes.

Create a database for Drupal on your MySQL server. You can use any MySQL database management tool, such as phpMyAdmin. Alternatively, use MySQL's built-in monitor program, at the command line:

mysql --password --user=root

After you login, you will see a welcome banner and a command prompt:

Welcome to the MySQL monitor. Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 4
Server version: 5.0.51a-community-nt MySQL Community Edition (GPL)
Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the buffer.

Enter the commands to create a database (in this example, named "drupal_db") and also create a database user ("drupal_user"), with a password and all privileges in the database:

GRANT ALL ON drupal_db.* TO drupal_user@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

(Of course, the weak password used in this example is for illustrative purposes only, and should never be used for any non-development Drupal installation.)

Within your Web browser of choice, go to your new Drupal home page, index.php. For instance, if you placed the Drupal installation directory within your Apache root directory, then you would go to http://localhost/Drupal/index.php, or, if you have set your Apache server to search for index.php files as default files, then http://localhost/Drupal/ would be sufficient. The index.php file detects that Drupal has yet to be installed, and automatically forwards you to the installation page, at http://localhost/Drupal/install.php?profile=default (continuing with our example), shown below.

Choose language
Figure 2. Choose language

Most people will choose to use English, which is what I will do in this tutorial. Then the installation script shows you the database configuration options.

Database configuration
Figure 3. Database configuration

In the figure above, it is clear from the checklist on the left that I have gone from the first step (choosing a language) directly to the third. Drupal presumably verified that a MySQL server is running and is compatible with Drupal 6.1.

Type in the values you had chosen earlier for your database name, username, and password. If you want to change the server name from its default ("localhost"), or set a port number, or assign a table prefix, then click the "Advanced options" link. I will not be changing any of those default values in this tutorial.

Installing files progress
Figure 4. Installing files progress

Assuming that all of the prior steps have been completed successfully, then the installation of the Drupal files will continue until it is finished. The two figures above and below present screens that may be visible momentarily during this process.

Installing files completed
Figure 5. Installing files completed

After the file installation is completely done, you can begin the initial configuration of your new site.

Configuring Drupal

Configure site
Figure 6. Configure site

Your site's Web server name will default to whatever value you specified earlier. The configuration screen notes that the site email address is the one that will be used to send automated administrative messages, e.g. sign-up confirmations to users. Hence, be sure to use an email address based upon your website's domain, to minimize the odds of any of those messages being flagged as spam. For Drupal installations on a local Web server only, this is not applicable.

For your administrator account, enter a name, an email address, and a password. The administrative address is not shown to site visitors. As you type in your new password, its security strength will be displayed dynamically. If you want to create a strong password, include mixed case characters and punctuation symbols. The Drupal time zone will default to that of your server. By default, clean URLs are not enabled, but can be enabled using configuration settings later.

As the administrator, you will be notified of updates to Drupal by default, which can reduce the chances of your site becoming a victim of recently uncovered security problems. But if your Drupal site is behind a firewall, then choosing to have Drupal constantly checking for product updates will cause it to load pages quite slowly. Thus it is advisable to disable automatic update checking, and simply perform manual updates as part of your administrative routine.

Installation complete
Figure 7. Installation complete

In our example, the installation process completed successful, despite the warning message shown in the figure above, which is caused by the local Web server not having an email server. If you are setting up Drupal on a local server only, you can ignore this.

After you click on the link "your new site", at the bottom of the installation text, you will be forwarded back to your new Drupal website's home page, index.php.

Initial home page
Figure 8. Initial home page

As seen in the figure above, Drupal advises you to login as the administrator. You can then make further configuration changes, enable additional functionality via modules, modify the appearance of your site using themes, and start adding some content.

Administering Drupal

In the navigation menu, located on the left-hand side of the page (in the default theme), choose "Administer". This will display the various sections of the administration account.

Administration account
Figure 9. Administration account

In this area, there are six subsections, which allow you to make any desired changes to the appearance and functionality of your Drupal site:

In this tutorial, due to space limitations, I will not cover the details of all six subsections and their 31 subsections, but I will make some common modifications.

Basic Site Customization

The majority of the default site configuration values do not need to be altered. However, you should set a new name for your site, and maybe a site slogan. To do so, go to Administer > Site configuration > Site information, and change the values there. In our example, I changed the name of the site from "localhost" to "Drupal Sample Site", and made other simple changes. When you are done, click the "Save configuration" button at the bottom of the page, as is done for all administrative pages.

In order to confirm that your modifications were properly saved, go to your site's home page, by clicking on the site name, at the top of the page.

The appearance of a Drupal site is determined by the "theme" that is currently set as the default. To see this value, and possibly change it, go to Administer > Site building > Themes. There you will see the six initial themes packaged into Drupal 6.1.

Initial themes
Figure 10. Initial themes

By default, the "Garland" theme is the only one enabled, and is the current one. Let's change the theme to "Bluemarine", by enabling it and setting it as the default. As soon as you save your choice of Bluemarine, your administrative interface should change just as did the home page, because it inherited the home page's theme. You can always override this via Administer > Site configuration > Administration theme.

Let's now add some sample content, known within Drupal as "stories". Go to Create content > Story, and enter a name and some content for your first story. Underneath the large content text field, five expanding menus allow you to change the story's input format, revision information, comment settings, authoring information, and publishing options.

After adding the new content, go to the site's home page again, and you should see all of the customizations made earlier, including the new story, as well as the change to the site's theme. Also, the RSS feed icon will be visible, because now the site has some content that can be syndicated. Notice also that the welcome message seen earlier during installation, has been replaced by your new story.

Home page after customizations
Figure 11. Home page after customizations

More Resources

Drupal has an encouraging amount of technical resources freely available to answer your questions, and assist you in increasing your understanding of how to administer and modify a Drupal site. A great place to begin is the Drupal Support page, which has links to their online documentation, as well as forums, where you can post questions.

As of this writing, there are at least seven books on Drupal, although none of them were written for the 6.x series of Drupal. In the future, there will certainly be more books written and published, as a growing number of Web developers begin to explore the capabilities of this excellent content management system, and how it can save them time and effort in building websites.

Copyright © 2008 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved.
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