Setting up a test environment

Using a Local Web Server to create a Development Environment

It’s not good to deploy untested changes directly onto your live store! Doing so can lead to outages and lost sales.

Instead, it’s best to test and debug changes (including new plugins) on a test store.

You have two options for setting up a test environment:

  1. Testing Locally: Creating a test store on your own PC
  2. Testing on your Server: Creating a test store on your server

Testing Locally

Using XAMPP (Windows, Mac, Linux) or MAMP (Windows, Mac), you can create a test environment on your own computer for your Zen Cart.

For the remainder of this document, these tools will be referred to as *AMP for convenience.

1. Make a backup of your files and database

Follow the procedure specified in how do I backup my store?

2. Set your store on your local computer.

  • Put your files at the webroot defined in your *AMP.
  • Load your database and create a database user.

3. Update your configure.php files

You will need to go through this file and set each entry to point to your local environment.

4. Try a simple update to see if things work.

Try updating (for example), includes/languages/YOURTEMPLATE/english.php and, then refresh your browser page and make sure the change appears.

Remember that *AMP allows you to switch between versions of PHP. So you can test your live site while your upgrade is being done, and test your upgrade as well simply by switching PHP versions.

Things to consider:

Testing on your Server

This is not as good as a local test environment, but better than putting untested changes on your live site and potentially breaking your store.

1. Create a new test store on your server

Create a NEW database in cPanel called test_store. Create a database user that has full permissions to access this database.

Use the backup that you just made from your live site to fill the database with data. (See restoring the database.)

Create a new folder on your server called test_store. Copy the files from your live store directory into this folder

NOTE: If the new test store needs to use a different version of PHP, please see Multiple PHP Versions for instructions.

2. Prepare the configure.php files

In your test_store folder, update the includes/configure.php and admin/includes/dist-configure.php files:

  • Set the path names to your test store.
  • Set the database name to test_store.
  • Set DB_SERVER_USERNAME and DB_SERVER_PASSWORD to the new database user and password you created in the first step.

Things to Consider:

  • Be sure your cart uses relative paths when creating links. For example, if you hand-code a link in the define page define_main_page.php to, then when you click this link from your test site, you will go to your live site, which is not what you want. Instead, use the link index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=27.
  • Be careful not to precede any hand-coded links with a slash (don’t use /index.php in other words), or the link won’t work if the test shop is in a subfolder. The same advice goes for image files; use images/my-image.jpg not /images/my-image.jpg or to ensure you’re looking at the image in your test store hierarchy (which might be different from what’s in your live store).

Still have questions? Use the Search box in the upper right, or try the full list of FAQs. If you can't find it there, 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 March 29, 2024 by Scott Wilson (965fcd9).