How to setup online store for free?



Front-end developer i freelancer, fan Star Wars i Terence'a McKenny

If you want to quickly start your online business without incurring any inital costs nor becoming involved in a subscription service (apart from the neccessary hosting fee), the solution based on Open Source software will be the best. We will show in brief how to go throught the process of installation and initial setup of an online store based on PrestaShop.

Why PrestaShop?

PrestaShop is a free, efficient, modern, fast and easy to use shopping engine that gives the ability to write your own modules quite easily.

PrestaShop gives you:

  • Simple editing and adding goods, pictures and descriptions
  • Unlimited number of categories and subcategories
  • Support for many languages
  • Friendly URLS
  • Editable CMS pages
  • Lots of free or unexpensive plug-ins broadening its capabilities
  • Ease of writing your own modules and plug-ins
  • Good template system that enables you to fully customize the look & feel of your store

Step 1: Downloading PrestaShop

Begin by downloading the PrestaShop engine itself. Please go directly to or click this link: PrestaShop

Step 2: Server hosting and domain name

The store needs to operate on its own space on the server and you also need to get a domain name. It is the only expense that you will have to bear. Choose the best supplier you can get, preferably the one who will provide you a server with no transfer limits and a domain name of your choice included in the package.

Step 3: Sending PrestaShop to your server

  1. Create a new folder on your disk and name it "prestashop-installation". Extract here the entire contents of the ZIP file you have just downloaded.
  2. Connect with your FTP server to send to the unzipped files. You'll need to use an FTP program and your access data from the purchased server (FTP login and password).
  3. If you have never used FTP before and you do not have a favorite program yet, download a free program called WinSCP: - you will love it.
  4. In the appropriate boxes, type in the FTP user name, password and the host name. Then, change the "File protocol" to FTP (unless the server uses SFTP) and click "login". After a while you should be logged to your server.
  5. In the left panel you can see the contents of your hard drive: locate the folder you've just created ("prestashop-install") and open it. Mark *all* files and subfolders inside .
  6. Now go to the right panel. Here is a list of all files and folders present on your server. Locate the public directory and upload your files there.
  7. If you found the correct directory and the files have finished uploading - it's time to install the database.

Step 4: Installing the MYSQL database

You can skip this step if your hosting provider has already configured a MYSQL database for you. In this case you should already have: database user name, password and the host name of the database server. If you did not receive such data you'll have to configure the database on your own.

Log in to your server's control panel and find the palce where you can create databases for your site. Choose MYSQL if you have a choice of more than one type of database.  After you set up your database you should know your: user name , password and host name. 

You can indentify the MYSQL icon by its blue flying Dolphin

Step 5: PrestaShop Autoinstaller

If all files are already on the server, type in your web address in the browser. You will be automatically redirected to the first page of the installation process. Check the box "I agree with the above conditions" and click "Next". The next screen will be very important: it will show you whether the server configuration meets all the requirements for the installation.

What usually happens at this point is a problem with the "write permission of files and folders". If any of the points is marked with a red cross you'll have to log in to FTP again, find the marked directory or file, and set the appropriate rights. From under WinSCP, right click selected file or directory and choose "Properties". Mark all boxes with the letters W and click OK. Now go back to your browser window and click "Refresh these settings" - if your previously marked files are now green, it means that you have succeeded. You can go ahead - click  "Next"

You should see a similiar screen now:

It's time to use your MYSQL database data . Complete the first box from the top highlighted in pink here. To increase the security of your system, change the "prefix table" to something different, like "vvx_".

Mail Settings - here you can tell PrestaShop how to manage sending out e-mails to you and to your clients. The SMTP option is a very nice thing and you almost certainly have received it when ordering your Web server, but its configuration would take us some more time so let's leave it as it is. You can change your SMTP settings later in your store administration panel (called backoffice). As for now, enter your real e-mail address in the box below, click the green button next to it and check if you got the test message in your inbox. If everything is ok - click Next.

We're almost done! There is one small step left before we can see our new PrestaShop store. Here's what you should now on your screen:

Enter the name of your store, specify the type of activity and pay special attention to the fields marked with a pink box in the picture above: e-mail address and password you will enter here will be used to login to the administration. Select "I want to receive notifications by e-mail" and click "Next". We are at home.

Follow these steps to complete the installation:

  1. Log in to your FTP
  2. Find a folder named "install" and delete it
  3. Rename the folder "admin" to any other name, eg: "ilove70s". This is the part of the address that you will use to log into the control panel of your store. Try to make it as difficult to guess as possible. Assuming that you have used the above name, the login address will be:

First impression

Let's admit it: you open the address of your store and...well. The view is not very impressing. Do not worry though. It is just just the looks of  the standard PrestaShop's template. You can change it to whatever you want. At the earliest opportunity we will try to describe how to do it yourself. In the meantime you can begin to explore the general principles of your PrestaShop. You'll need that experience soon.