Chapter 2: Getting Started with Magento

Last modified by David at Varien on Wed, May 7, 2008 20:35
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Magento is developed to take full advantage of the newest technologies available, allowing your site the maximum flexibility without sacrificing speed. In this chapter we will look at the system requirements of Magento, how to download and install Magento on your server, and go through an introduction to the administration panel and key concepts when using the administration panel.

System Requirements

Magento supports more than the following requirements, but only the following are fully tested and will allow for a seamless installation.

  • Linux or another UNIX-compatible operating system
  • Apache Web Server (1.x or 2.x)
  • PHP 5.2.0 or newer, with the following extensions/addons:
    • PDO/MySQL
    • mcrypt
    • simplexml
    • DOM
  • MySQL 4.1.20 or newer
  • A Sendmail-compatible Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) - Magento will connect directly to an SMTP server if you don’t have an MTA
  • We also recommend the use of APC as a bytecode cache for performance improvements. You can find it in the PECL archives here: Other bytecode cache systems are not supported at this time.

If you are unsure if your hosting company supports these specifications, please check with them. You can also view these specifications at: Once you have a hosting environment set up with support for these requirements you are able to download and install Magento to your server.

Downloading Magento

Magento is free to download. simply go to and you will be able to download the software. Magento is available for download in two different versions. The installer version includes only the necessary files needed to begin the installation process and will be all that is necessary for most cases. If you are planning on installing multiple versions of Magento the full version will be more useful, as you will then only need to download the full version once, and will then be able to download the installer version for each new version. To keep it simple, if you are confused about which version to download, use the installer version.

Both versions are available in multiple formats to suit different needs. If you are unsure of which version to download use the .zip format.

Note: If you are a developer and are familiar with SVN you can also checkout the newest version of Magento using SVN. To view the most up to date command please visit

If you have successfully downloaded Magento you are now ready to install the software on your web server.

Installing and Configuring Magento

Installation Process

The first step to installation will be decompressing the files to your computer. Once this is accomplished you will need to use FTP to upload the files to your server.

Note: If you have SSH access and are comfortable with the command line you can also install using SSH. Before you start, please make sure you substitute the version number to the latest version should it be higher then what is used in the reference below. You will then run these commands:

  1. tar -zxvf magento-0.8.16100.tar.gz
  2. cd magento
  3. chmod o+w var var/.htaccess app/etc
  4. chmod -R o+w media

Once the files are uploaded to the server you are ready to create your database. Create a MySQL database and user/password for Magento. This step varies by hosting provider and is out of the scope of this document. Consult your provider’s support/documentation for instructions on how to do this. Make sure to note the database name, as well as user and password, as they will be needed during the installation.

You will then need to ensure that the file magento/var/.htaccess, the directories magento/app/etc, magento/var, and any of the directories under magento/media are writable by the web server. Depending on your installation there may not be any directories under magento/media. If so this part can be skipped, but make sure to change permissions on the .htaccess file and the other two directories.

To do so, navigate to the directory with your FTP client. Then locate the function “Change Permissions” or “Change Mode” in your FTP client and select it. Once you find the function, you must set the permissions so the web server can write to this file. There are two typical ways of representing file permissions in Linux:

  1. As a number (eg, 755)
  2. As a series of permissions categorized into user, group, and other.

If your FTP client uses the first representation, set the permissions on each directory to be 777, or 0777. If your FTP client uses the second representation, set the permissions as shown in the image below.

Once you have the permissions set you should use your web browser to navigate to the Magento installation wizard. If you’ve uploaded the Magento files to, then the wizard will be located here: If you have uploaded the Magento files to a different location, the location of the installation wizard will depend on the directory you have uploaded the files to.

Once you open the installation wizard you should view a Welcome page where you will need to read and agree to the terms and conditions of the license Magento is provided under.

Once you have agreed to the license you will be able to enter in your locale settings for the site. Most options will be intelligently guessed for you, but you’re free to change any settings.

The first settings you will enter will be the Locale, which will be the language used for the site, the Time Zone and the Default Currency.

Note: If you are planning on creating multiple websites and/or stores you will be able to define further locales and currencies for those after the installation process.

Types of Installation

Select Continue and you will see the different options for the installation. If you are not a developer you will want to select the Proceed With Automatic Download button, which will begin the process of downloading the rest of the files for Magento.

Note: If you have installed Magento through SVN, please select the Continue SVN Installation button.

Configuration during Installation

Once you select your option you will see the files downloaded. The time required to download the files will depend on your connection speed. Once the files have downloaded a success message will be displayed. Select OK and you will be taken to the next step of the installation where you will set the default configuration settings for your store.

The first settings you will need to enter will be your Database Connection settings. Your host will likely be your domain name, the database name, user name and user password will be the values you created when creating the database.

Troubleshooting Installation

If you have difficulty with installation you can receive help at the site in the forums.

Introduction to the Administrative Panel

Once you have completed the installation you will be taken to the frontend of your site. To access the administration panel you will add /admin to the end of the base url you specified during the installation. E.G. if you specified as the base url, just go to . Once you are at the login section you will need to sign in using the user name and password you created during the installation process. Select the Login button and you are now in the administration panel.

The following sections detail some of the most important features which you will want to address in the initial configuration of your admin. Other features, such as adding products, payment methods, and shipping settings, will be addressed in following chapters.

Creating Multiple Websites and Stores

If you are interested in creating a multiple Website, Store, and/or Store View setup you can do so by navigating to System > Manage Stores.


To create a new Website, click Create Website in the upper right corner.

Websites will each need to have a unique Code. This code can be a text name, but cannot have spaces or special characters within it.

If your Website name is New Website, a good rule of thumb would be to use “new” or “newwebsite” as your website code.

You can designate the Sort order of the Website as it will appear relative to your other Website(s) throughout the admin.

If you have not indicated which Website will be displayed when the index.php path is requested by the browser, your custoemrs will automatically be directed to the default Website, which you select by checking the Set as default checkbox.


To create a new Store, click Create Store in the upper right corner.

Select the Website to which this Store will be associated.

Select the Root Category which will be associated to this store. In your categories setup, you can create multiple Root Categories, each associated to different Stores. The sub-categories and products associated to those categories will only display in the Store to which the Root Category is associated. If you do not want to create different Root Categories to display in different Stores, you can select the same Root Category for all Stores. Categories are discussed in more detail in the next chapter.

Store View

As explained in Chapter 1, Store Views are best used to display a Store in multiple languages.

To create a new Store View, click Create Store View in the upper right corner.

Select the Store to which this Store View will be associated. The Code and Sort order fields work like those for Websites.

For a Store View to be visible on the front-end, it must be Enabled. You can remove it from the front-end without deleting it by selecting Disabled.

You can set unique Locales for each Store View. Simply navigate to System > Configuration, and select the General tab from the left column. In the Current Configuration Scope drop-down above, select the desired Store View. Uncheck the Use website checkbox next the Locale settings, and select the Locale you prefer. This Locale will only apply to this Store View.


Magento’s Permissions module is both flexible and intuitive. You can create predefined Roles, which have specific access to various parts of the admin. Then, you can create users and select which Role each user will possess. You can associate Users to Roles in both the Users page and the Roles page.

Creating Roles

To create a Role, navigate to System > Permissions > Roles and click Add New Role.

Role Info

Enter the Role Name.

Role Resources

Choose the Resources, or admin features, to which Users associated to this Role will have access. If you select all from the Resource Access drop-down, this Role will have access to all resources. If you select Custom, a resource tree will populate, and you will have to select the checkbox for each resource to which this Role will have access.

Click Save Role.

Role Users

Once a Role has been saved, this tab will appear. It will display all Users that are associated to this Role. To see a list of all Users, click Reset Filter. Click the checkbox of all Users you want to associate to this Role, and Click Save Role again.

Assigning Users

To create a User, navigate to System > Permissions > Users and click Add New User.

User Info

Enter all the information for this User. The User Name and Password will be used by this User to log into the Magento admin panel. For a User to be able to access the admin panel, the User must be Active. You can prevent a User from accessing the admin panel without deleting their User account by changing this to Inactive.

User Role

Select the Role to which this User will be associated. This page will produce a list of all existing Roles, and you will only be allowed to choose one.

Click Save User.

Cache Management

Cache management can be accessed by navigating to System > Cache management. It can be enabled to improve the performance of Magento. When developing on Magento it is best to disable the cache management. You can enable caching on the entire site, or enable cache management on certain elements of the site by using the various checkboxes in this page.