Does PHP Have a Web Server?


Angela Bailey

When it comes to web development, PHP is one of the most popular programming languages. It allows developers to build dynamic websites and applications with ease. However, many beginners often wonder if PHP has its own web server.

PHP and Web Servers

PHP itself does not come with a built-in web server like some other programming languages such as Python or Node.js. Instead, it relies on external web servers to run PHP scripts and serve web pages to users.

There are several popular web servers that can be used with PHP, including Apache, Nginx, and Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS). These web servers are responsible for handling HTTP requests, interpreting PHP code, and generating HTML content that can be displayed in a user’s browser.

Apache: The Most Common Choice

Among the various options available, Apache is the most commonly used web server for running PHP applications. It is an open-source software that is widely supported and well-documented. Apache works seamlessly with PHP through a module called mod_php.

To use Apache with PHP, you need to install both Apache and PHP on your system. Once installed, you need to configure Apache to recognize and handle PHP files. This involves adding a few lines of code to the Apache configuration file.

Configuring Apache for PHP

To configure Apache for PHP, you need to locate the configuration file which can typically be found in /etc/apache2/apache2.conf. Open this file using a text editor and look for the following lines:

<IfModule mod_dir.c>
    DirectoryIndex index.html

You need to add index.php after index.html, like this:

<IfModule mod_dir.html index.php

This tells Apache to prioritize index.php over index.html when serving web pages. Save the file and restart Apache for the changes to take effect.

Nginx: A Lightweight Alternative

Nginx is another popular web server that is known for its performance and scalability. Similar to Apache, Nginx can be used to run PHP applications by configuring it to work with PHP-FPM (FastCGI Process Manager).

PHP-FPM is a FastCGI implementation for PHP that allows Nginx to communicate with PHP and execute PHP scripts. It provides a more efficient way of running PHP compared to mod_php used by Apache.

Configuring Nginx for PHP-FPM

To configure Nginx for PHP-FPM, you need to locate the Nginx configuration file which can typically be found in /etc/nginx/nginx. Open this file using a text editor and look for the following lines:

location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

You need to add the following lines inside the location / {} block:

location ~ \.php$ {
    include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
    fastcgi_pass unix:/run/php/php7.4-fpm.sock;

This tells Nginx to pass any request ending with .php to the configured PHP-FPM socket. Save the file and restart Nginx for the changes to take effect.

IIS: Windows Web Server Support

If you are using Windows as your development environment, you may prefer using Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) as your web server. IIS has built-in support for running PHP applications through the FastCGI module.

To configure IIS for PHP, you need to install PHP and the FastCGI module for IIS. Once installed, you can configure IIS to handle PHP files by adding a FastCGI handler mapping.

Configuring IIS for PHP

To configure IIS for PHP, open the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager and navigate to the website or virtual directory where your PHP application resides. Double-click on the "Handler Mappings" icon and then click "Add Module Mapping" on the right-hand side.

In the "Request path" field, enter *.php. In the "Module" field, select FastCgiModule.

In the "Executable" field, browse to the location of your PHP CGI executable (usually C:\PHP\php-cgi.exe). Finally, click "OK" to save the configuration.


While PHP itself does not come with a built-in web server, it can be easily integrated with popular web servers like Apache, Nginx, and IIS. These web servers provide the necessary infrastructure to run PHP scripts and serve dynamic content to users.

Whether you choose Apache, Nginx, or IIS depends on your specific needs and preferences. All three options have their own advantages and are widely used in production environments. Now that you understand how PHP works with web servers, you can confidently start building powerful applications using this versatile programming language.