Installing Contao

First of all, download the latest Contao archive and extract it on your local computer. Move the files into the htdocs folder of your local installation (e.g. XAMPP) or upload them to your server with an FTP program (we recommend using WinSCP). Make sure to upload the hidden .htaccess.default file and replace its name with .htaccess. Depending on your server configuration, the public folder is most likely called htdocs, httpdocs, html or public_html.

If you have SSH access to your server, you can download and extract the archive directly on the command line, e.g. with curl. Depending on the version you want to install, adjust the URLs as described.

Latest version of Contao (4.x):

curl -L | tar -xzp

LTS version of Contao (3.5):

curl -L | tar -xzp

A specific version (e.g. 3.5.2):

curl -L | tar -xzp

The Contao install tool

To open the Contao install tool, simply add /contao/install.php to the URL of your Contao installation. Note that the install tool is protected against brute force attacks and will be locked if a wrong password has been entered three times in a row. To remove the lock, open file system/config/localconfig.php in a text editor, find the following line and set it to 0.

$GLOBALS['TL_CONFIG']['installCount'] = 0; // This will remove the automatic lock

Connecting to the database

Log into your server administration panel (e.g. "Plesk" or "cPanel") and create a new database for Contao. Then enter the login credentials in the Contao install tool. Note that the Contao default character set UTF-8 is written as UTF8 in MySQL!

Updating the database tables

Once you are connected to the database, Contao automatically checks its tables and displays a list of recommended changes in case they are not up to date. Make sure to read those recommendations carefully, because Contao only knows its own tables and will try to remove those of other applications eventually sharing the database. Confirm the changes and click the "Update database" button.

Importing a template

A template is a predetermined website with an exemplary page structure and different style-sheets to format the Contao core modules and content elements.

Since version 3.2.11, the sample web-page is no longer included in the download package. Depending on the version used, the new Contao Official Demo or the old Music Academy can be installed as an extension. Information on compatibility is available in the extension repository.

How to install the demo:

  1. Create a new Contao installation with admin account
  2. Log in as admin to the back end
  3. Install the matching extension using the extension repository
  4. Log out of the back end
  5. Open the install tool again

To import a template, select the entry from the drop-down menu and click the "Import template" button.


When importing a template, existing data will be replaced!

Creating an admin user

If you did not import a template, you have to create an admin user to log into the Contao back end. After you have created the account, the installation process is completed. The link in the lower right corner will take you to the administration area. If you have imported the example website, you can login as user "k.jones" with the password "kevinjones".

Installing the Contao Demo

See How to install the demo in the section Importing a template above.

Using search engine friendly URLs

If you are running an Apache server and are allowed to use mod_rewrite, you can make Contao generate search engine friendly URLs that look like static HTML documents. A set of default rewrite rules is stored in the .htaccess.default file in the Contao directory. Rename this file to .htaccess so the Apache server can handle it and then log into the back end and navigate to the system settings. Select "Rewrite URLs" in the "Front end configuration" section and save your changes. Now Contao generates static URLs like home.html instead of index.php?id=12.

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