Where is the data stored in Zen Cart?

If you are completely new to databases, please review the basics of Zen Cart.

Where do I find the database files?

A database is not stored in any files that are directly accessible to you as a storeowner. Instead, you access it via phpMyAdmin or similar tools, and query (request) data from the database according to what you wish to read from it. In the case of taking a backup. you’re exporting the entire database content into one great big file that can be used for offline storage, or restoring if needed. That’s the only way you will ever see the database as “a file”.

How are databases connected to Zen Cart?

When installing Zen Cart, you tell Zen Cart which database to store its data in. Those details are stored in the configure.php files (usually by zc_install when you’re installing the site for the first time).

How many databases does Zen Cart use?

Generally speaking, a Zen Cart store only uses one database at a time.

THIS MEANS YOU SHOULD NEVER RESTORE or IMPORT a different database into your live store’s database unless you’re absolutely certain that you wish to WIPE OUT the existing data!!!


Some (ie: most “good”) hosting accounts allow multiple databases without additional fees. Some do not. In the case of servers where only one database is allowed but multiple Zen Cart stores are setup in the same hosting account for different domains/sites, Zen Cart supports the use of “table prefixes” to differentiate between stores sharing that database. It identifies the tables which it uses within that database by the DB_PREFIX setting in your configure.php file.

So, you could have store1_ as a prefix to all the table-names for that store, and zen_ as a prefix to the tables for another store, and so on. That’s why the table-prefixes exist.

Some hosting companies have auto-installers that quickly dump a ZC site onto someone’s account. Instead of setting up multiple databases, those usually engage the DB_PREFIX as zen_ by default so they can keep the tables for the store separate from the tables they auto-install for a blog or a forum or a gallery or whatever.  While this makes managing the database more difficult for the storeowner, it makes the hosting company’s auto-installer easier for them because it means they get to cheap-out on the resources you use.

How many tables are in the Zen Cart database?

As of version 1.5.7, there are 94 tables in the Zen Cart database. You can see a list of them by looking at the file includes/database_tables.php.

What is the schema for Zen Cart?

Recent releases have a schema file stored in the documentation. Go to the Zen Cart Schema page to find the version which corresponds to your Zen Cart version. If you’re not sure what version you are running, take a look at the FAQ how to find your Zen Cart version.

Still have questions? No problem! Just head over to the Zen Cart support forum and ask there in the appropriate subforum. In your post, please include your Zen Cart and PHP versions, and a link to your site.

Is there an error or omission on this page? Please post to General Questions on the support forum. Or, if you'd like to open a pull request, just review the guidelines and get started. You can even PR right here.
Last modified September 6, 2020 by Chris Brown (79c4997).