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How to Open IIS Express in Windows

Microsoft's own web server, Internet Information Services (IIS) comes in two flavours, the full fat IIS as deployed on web facing servers, and the lighter weight IIS Express, used locally for developers testing website code. This article provides a tutorial on running IIS Express in Windows. It starts with the IIS Express installation, before showing how to open IIS Express in Windows.

How to Install IIS Express

The full fat IIS comes as an Windows component that can be turned on in most versions of Windows. However, for IIS Express there is an installer download. Alternatively, IIS Express is installed as part of Microsoft's Visual Studio, or can be installed via Microsoft's Web Platform Installer (WebPI). In this article WebPI is used to install IIS Express.

First Install WebPI

What is WebPI? Microsoft's Web Platform Installer is the easiest way to get common web technologies onto a Windows PC. Go to the WebPI home page. At the bottom of the WebPI install page, under Download WebPI are options for 64-bit Windows (x64), and 32-bit Windows (x86). Choose the download version correct for your Windows.

(To check which version of Windows you have run the System Information app. Type system in the search box and run System Information. Look at the System Type entry to see if it is a x64 or x32 system.)

To run the WebPI installation you will need to be logged in as a Computer Admin, so the administrator password will be required. Once installed type Web Platform in the Windows search box. Run WebPI under a machine administrator account. For a standard user use the context menu (normally right-click) and select Run as administrator, entering the correct admin password. WebPI may update itself and then you can look at all the packages available or search for a package to install. One of those packages will be IIS Express.

Selecting WebPI

Install IIS Express

WebPI will be running under an administrator account, this allows IIS Express to be installed correctly under Program Files. There are lots of web technology packages to browse through in WebPI. Find IIS Express, alternative simply search for it:

Find IIS Express

Once IIS Express is installed it is found under Program Files.

IIS Express under Program Files

Install the Command File to Open IIS Express in Windows

A command file (.cmd) is available in PHP for Windows from WebPI. This is going to be used to open IIS Express. Install PHP for your version of Windows using WebPI.

PHP Windows install

Testing IIS Express in Windows with a Website

Once IIS Express and PHP is installed on the Windows machine, test that IIS works. Create a simple website which will be used to check that IIS is working. Here a directory, a.k.a. folder, called website is created to contain the web pages:

Directory for website

Next create simple HTML web page within the website, e.g., using Notepad, save it as index.html:

<!DOCTYPE html>
        <title>Basic Web Page</title>
Hello World!

Opening IIS Express in Windows

To run IIS Express in Windows open a command box, using cmd.exe. In the Windows search box type cmd to find the Command Prompt. Run the command box as an administrator as it needs access to configuration files.

Run cmd in Windows

Change to the website directory (here using cd \website).

CD in Windows

In the command box type runphp.

runphp.cmd in Windows

The command file will configure IIS Express to use the website directory as a website. The website can now be opened in the browser using the localhost and port configured by IIS Express, default is localhost:8080 (see the bindingInformation in the apphost.config file created in the website folder).

Open IIS Express in Windows

As long as IIS Express is running then it will serve up any webpages that are in the website directory, great for testing web pages locally before deploying to a web server. To end IIS Expres type Q in the command box.

See Also

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