Manual or auto WP install?

The best approach to installing WP is a surprisingly testy topic. Manual or auto WP install? WP purists espouse the manual method using the Famous 5-Minute Installation. Dunderheads like myself much prefer the automatic install script provided by web hosts.

Manual or auto WP install

I’ve done the 5-minute install several times, and it works great. Never have I done it in 5 minutes though, so the name is a bit misleading. First time, proceeding nervously and with excess caution, took about an hour. Once I had gone through it a couple of times, it took me about 10 minutes. I’m sure if I practiced enough I could get it down to 5 minutes, but if I’m having to install WP often enough to get that much practice something is horribly wrong.

Once I discovered the Softaculous auto-installer, provided in cPanel by every web host I’ve used in recent years, I never went back to manual. Softaculous makes WP installation quick and easy-breezy, and offers bonuses like auto-updating and auto-backups. It also makes deleting my entire WP site easy-breezy, in case I really horribly mess up my site and have to reinstall from backup (yes, it has happened several times).

The Softaculous WP install does have a few potential gotchas though, and is worth a bit of discussion. In cPanel, I click around until I find the Softaculous WP install icon.

Softaculous WP install icon

I click on the attractive blue circle W, and off I go.  On the Overview screen, I click Install Now to get the Software Setup screen. Here’s where the potential gotchas start. The first choice is Protocol. If I have already setup SSL, I choose ‘https://’, otherwise I choose ‘http://’ (I can always change it if I install SSL later). I could also choose ‘https://www.’, but I have never understood the point of the ‘www’ – just more letters to type.

Next, I choose the installation directory. The default choice is ‘wp’, but I typically want to install in the root, so I delete ‘wp’ leave this blank.

Next come the Site Settings. I type in my preferred Site Name and Site Description, but I don’t need to ponder over these as they are easy-breezy to change later. I never select ‘Enable Multisite (WPMU)’ because it scares me.

Next is setup for my Admin Account, and first up is the Biggest Gotcha Of All – Admin Username by default is inexplicably set to ‘admin’! *** CHANGE IT ***.  Hackers love that WP installs with this default admin username, and bots pound constantly on WP login pages using ‘admin’ and guessing at the password. My admin username need not be complex like my password, it just needs to be non-obvious and most especially NOT ‘admin’.

Never use 'admin' username or 'password' password.

Never, ever do this

Next is Admin Password. This I need to choose carefully. It needs to be something that I can remember (or else I need a secure way to remind myself) and impossible for someone else to guess. Google can find lots of advice on how to choose a secure password.

Next I can choose a Language (English for me) and Plugins (nope, easy to install later). Even though I choose no plugins, WP will inexplicably install Hello Dolly, which I always delete, and Akismet, which I might delete or keep depending on the nature of the planned site.

And finally, Advanced Options, rolled up by default. I always expand it as these are my favorite features of the Softaculous auto-install. First are the Database Name and Table Prefix. These can be short and simple but should be non-obvious – i.e. not ‘wp’ and ‘wp_’ (though I wouldn’t worry too much about this).

Next, I select to Auto Upgrade core, themes, and plugins. I also enable auto-upgrade in my custom plugin, so Softaculous provides welcome redundancy to the critical task of keeping my site up-to-date.

Next, backups. For me, monthly automatic backups, keeping the most recent three, seems about right. I do my own backups and keep a copy off my site, so again Softaculous provides much-appreciated, last-resort redundancy to this critical contingency measure. I can never be too rich, too charming, or have too many backups.

Next I have the choice to email myself installation details, and that’s it. I click Install, and if all goes as planned I am rewarded with: “Congratulations, the software was installed successfully”. Yea me.

WPPOV supports freedom from Net Neutrality and the GDPR. The Internet of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.