How To Install Simple Machines Forum (SMF)

Simple Machines is a full featured forum which you can use to create your own interactive community. Visitors can register to post in your forum and leave messages. Supports email, instant messaging and private messages as well. You can also add smilies to your forum posts, and more!

Installation Note: Versions 1.1.3 and higher of SMF may not install on Active Web Hosting Servers. However, those who are using 1.1.2 may still upgrade to 1.1.3 and it should work fine. If you wish to install the latest version of SMF fresh, you may need to download and install 1.1.2 and upgrade from there.


  1. A CGI Account
  2. A MySQL Database
  3. Latest stable release of Simple Machines (Version 1.0.5 was used for this tutorial.)

This tutorial might not have been written during the release of the most current version of this script, but may work with newer versions. It is the domain owner's responsibility to be sure that any script that is run on their CGI server is secure and stable. This means making sure that the script and all it's associated files are of the most recent stable and secure version available.


Remember that only your main account can access CGI scripts on your server. Any hosting or extra FTP accounts that access these scripts may cause your account to be deactivated. To reactivate your account, you'll have to contact support.

For this script to work correctly, please place it's files in a directory created in your CGI server's root directory. Do not place this script in your cgi-bin directory, if you have one.


  1. Extract the files from the archive into a directory on your hard drive. You may need a program such as WinZip to do this.

  2. Log into your CGI server and create a new directory. For the purpose of this tutorial, we will assume the directory name is forum. Upload all the files and directories from the archive you extracted to this new directory.

  3. Make sure that all directories except 'Sources' permissions are set to 777. Set the following file permissions to 666: /Packages/installed.list

    Note: Please do not allow the installation program to set the write permissions for you. If you do not do this step in your FTP Program, the installer will want to do this using your FTP username and password. If you do this, you may not be able to remove the directories and files it sets later. Change the permissions from your own FTP program, then go back to the installer and click the link at the lower right to Check the files again.

  4. Point your web browser to (Replacing with your actual domain name and forum with the name of the directory you uploaded the Simple Machines Forum files to.)

  5. Type in the name of the forum, and the forum's URL will be something like (Again, replacing with your actual domain name and forum with the name of the directory you uploaded the Simple Machines Forum files to.)

  6. You can leave the next two boxes, Compress output to save bandwidth. and Use the database for sessions instead of using files. checked as the server supports both options.

  7. Fill in the following:

    MySQL server name: localhost
    MySQL username: yourdomaincom (ie. Your actual domain name without the dot.)
    MySQL password: (Your MySQL Database Password.)
    MySQL database name: (This is the same as your MySQL username.)
    MySQL table prefix: smf_

    Click the Proceed button on the lower right of the page.

  8. Fill in a username and password for your administrator account. Also fill in a valid email address where emails to the administrator will be sent, if necessary. Lastly, re-enter your MySQL Database password in the box at the bottom. Click the Finish button at the lower right of the page when done.

  9. Log back into your CGI server and delete the install.php file. This is a necessary security measure.


  1. Point your browser to (Use your actual domain name and name of your Simple Machines installation directory.) Log in using your administrator username and password you created earlier, if you are not already logged in when you visit the site.

  2. Click on the Admin button in the row of buttons on the left just above the actual forum. This is where you'll also find the profile and log out buttons.

  3. On the left side you will find your administration menu. In the Forum Configuration area, click on the Edit Features and Options link.

  4. You will find a list of options you can change to suit your needs. If a box is checked, it means the option is working. Unchecked boxes mean the option is disabled. To re-enable the option and make it work again, just click on the box. If you need more information on an option, click on the blue square help icon to the left of the option. When done, click on the Save button at the very bottom of the page. Here are some recommended options to set:

    Basic Forum Features:

    Allow users to edit their displayed name? Uncheck
    (This means that people can't keep changing their username. Might provide additional security.)

    Embed flash into posts: Unchecked for best security.

    Enable basic HTML in posts: Unchecked for best security.

    Disable administration security: Unchecked. Never enable this 'feature'!

    Method of registration employed for new members: Choose Member Activation from the drop down list.

    Require reactivation after email change: Checked for best security.


    Note: You may have to click on the arrow to the left of this area to expand it's options.

    Attachments mode: Choose Disable attachments from the drop down box. This is for two reasons. One is that Active Web Hosting runs in safe mode, and thus attachments from users may not work. Secondly, we do not encourage people to allow users or visitors to upload and save files on your CGI server. We also do not allow media files such as .wav, .mp3, .exe, .zip, and other non-web related files. Please see File Types Allowed On The CGI Server for more information.


    Note: You may have to click on the arrow to the left of this area to expand it's options.

    Allow members to upload their own avatars: Unchecked. This is for the same reasons given above for Attachments.

How To Use:

Simple Machines Forum (SMF) has many useful features. All the features are accessible from the administration page on the left side of the page. As you can see, there are a great deal of options. You'll want to consult the Simple Machines Help for more information on each option. To start with, you probably want to go to the Forum Management area and click on the Manage Boards link to set up the different areas of your forum. Then Edit Forum News for any news briefs you want to appear at the top of the page.


I get a database error when I try to run the script.

Be sure that you have set up the configuration properly. For more information, please see I get a database error when I try to run a script that accesses the MySQL database.


If you have any problems or questions about this script, please see the Simple Machines Support Community>.

Active Web Hosting may not be able to provide support for this program or it's installation.

Alternative Software:

Below you'll find a list of alternative software that you may also want to try. Click on the program name to go to the author's site. Click on the Tutorial link to view our installation tutorial.