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May 2, 2006

Basic install and optimisation of a vbulletin forum

Link: Basic install and optimisation of a vbulletin forum

by Brian Turner

Basic install and optimisation of a vbulletin forum

When it comes to online messageboards, vBulletin Forum Software offers the most powerful solution out there.

It not only looks professional, it also offers the most comprehensive set of administrator and user controls across the range of software options out there.

It’s also naturally search engine friendly - something no other forum has on a similar scale - and therefore can really draw in visitors and new members from search engine searches.

Vbulletin also has fewer security reports made on it, and it is very rare to ever encounter a vbulletin that has been hacked - as opposed to phpbb forums, which are commonly hacked and defaced.

It’s for reasons like these that those people and companies looking to invest in a serious forum development project will choose vbulletin

It also why I operate almost 20 vbulletin licences, and no longer use any other form of forum software.

The trouble is - vbulletin has so many features that it can look completely overwhelming for the webmaster new to using it.

This guide will therefore try to comprehensively address not only how to set up a vbulletin - but also how to optimise your install, and maximise your vbulletin’s profile online:

  1. vbulletin installation
  2. vbulletin admin settings

NOTE: This tutorial will focus on the vbulletin 3.x series, as its the best release to use.

vbulletin installation

Once you’ve paid for a licence, installing a vbulletin is pretty easy if you’ve ever installed even a basic software script online.

If you have and you know what you’re doing, skip this section, as its basic stuff.

If you feel uncertain about installing vbulletin, read on, and don’t panic - the process is relatively painless, and here’s what you have to do:

1. FTP your files to your domain

You should have a domain for your website - for example, the domain here is “”. If not, make sure you register one.

You should make sure you have already purchased webhosting from a webhosting company to host your website. TIP: Ensure your hosting company is running on Apache/Linux rather than a Windows Server to get the most out of vbulletin.

In which case, all you have to do now is FTP your vbulletin software to the webhosting account associated with your domain.

To do this, use an FTP program - WS FTP is one of the best - by which you can select the folders and files you wish to upload (they are in the vbulletin “Upload” folder) to your webhosting space.

Do note that if you are on a CPanel webhosting account, you will need to load you files *into* the folder named “public_html”.

Once you have uploaded those - and on broadband it should take more than 5 minutes - it means you should have successfully uploaded your software to your website. Well done!

Create a database

This often looks like the scariest thing to do, but really it’s nothing more complicated that clicking a few buttons.

Your webhosting account should come with a hosting control panel - commonly Cpanel - which is dead easy to use.

In which case, log into your Cpanel admin area - usually - and once you’ve entered your username and password, wait for the page to load up.

One of the options should say: MySQL databases. In some CPanel skins this will be selected as an icon near the middle of the page - in others, it may appear towards the bottom right.

Either way, once you’ve located the MySQL Databases link, click it.

The next page can also look scary - you’re about to create a database - but you don’t have to understand this part of the process at all.

One of the options should have the heading “Create a new database” and have an input box below it. Simply enter a short name - ie, vbulletin - then click on it.

There, you just created a database!

But…now we need to create a user account to access the database.

Locate the heading “Create new user”. You should find two input boxes here - one for a username, the other for a password.

Important: You should ensure that any username and password you are about to use are different from your other admin login details, for security purposes.

Tip: Also, keep your username short - after 6-7 characters it may be cut-off, which can be confusing later on.

Doubly Important: Here’s the bit that catches most people out. The values you entered for the database and username are probably not the actual database name and database username. The values you entered are appended to your webhosting account user name.


If your webhosting account username is “forums”, and you entered a database name of “vbulletin” and a username of “admin”, then these are the actual values you’ll need to remember:

database name: forums_vbulletin
username: forums_admin

Now for the last part - you need to associate your database with the user permissions you just created.

To do this, simply look on the MySQL databases page for the drag down boxes for the values you’ve entered, and as shown in the example - make sure they are lined up together - then click on the button “Add user to database”.

There, you have now created a database for your vbulletin!

Note: If for some reason you don’t have an admin panel with your webhosting account, either upgrade to a webhost(hostgator link) who will offer you this functionality (and you’ll be glad you had it) or else contact your webhost and ask them to create your database for you, and to send you the database name, username, and password information.

Edit your vbulletin config file

The next bit is to edit your vbulletin config file.

Again, it’s not a complicated step - you just need to ensure you know what you’re doing, so follow these steps and you’ll find it easy.

1. First, using a FTP program, surf to the folder on your webhosting account for the folder “includes”. Enter that folder, and scroll down to where you see the file “”. Rename this to “config.php”.

2. Now create a new folder on your home PC, where you can download this file easily and keep it by itself. Then use your FTP software to download a copy of your config.php file to this folder.

3. Now in Windows, create a copy of your config file. Now open the original in a text editor such as Wordpad.

4. Near the top of the file, look for the following line:

$config[’Database’][’dbname’] = ‘database’;

Delete the word “database” from the end of that line and type in your own value.

Important: Remember to use your full database name here, as in the example above.

Then look for the following line:

$config[’MasterServer’][’username’] = ‘root’;
$config[’MasterServer’][’password’] = ‘’;

Replace the value “root” with your actual username (remember the earlier example) and enter your password inbetween the ‘’ marks for the password line.

Note: Your password is simply the password you entered - there is no prefix to the password, unlike the database and username.

Save the file, upload it to the forum “includes” folder using your FTP software.

Now you’re all set!

Run the install program

That’s the hardest work done!

Now you need to simply run the vbulletin software to install to the database.

To do this, simply user your browser to go to the URL where you’ve installed vbulletin, and add the value: /install/install.php after it.

So if your forum is installed at the main domain - ie, - then type in

And if you have your forum installed in a subfolder - ie, - then type in

The vbulletin software will prompt you for your vbulletin registration number - simply copy/paste or type this in, then click as required.

Assuming that you’ve entered the database name and username and password values correctly, as shown above, you should find yourself in a process taking just over a dozen steps, where you simply have to click on “Next” everytime one process finishes.

And at the end, all things going well, you’ll be told to delete the file “install.php”. To do this, use your FTP software to surf into the webhosting account, and into the forum folder “install”. Scroll down the list of files there, and delete the file “install.php”.

Return to your browser, click as required, and you should be able to able into your vbulletin admin panel.

Success! You’ve installed vbulletin! Now let’s get ready with the admin settings. :)

vbulletin admin settings

When you’re logged into the vbulletin admin area for the first time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options.

First of all, don’t worry about that - you won’t need to use all of the vbulletin functions, and we can address those issues as and when you need to.

In the meantime, you need to get your basic admin settings done properly.

Look to the top left for the option “Vbulletin Options”. Click on that a small menu appears - click on the new “vbulletin options” link that appear.

A page will reload, with a box containing all the major setting headings. Simply ensure the top option - Show all settings - is highlighted, then click on the button at the bottom for Edit Settings.

A big long page of options now loads up - but thankfully, you don’t need to give many of these much attention.

Unless you want to painstakingly configure your vbulletin on every little point, then these general settings are the only ones you’ll need to concern yourself with to really power-up your vbulletin install so that it works in your best interests:

Recommended settings

Site Name / URL / Contact Details:

Simply ensure you have the forum name you want. Think about keywords here as well. For example, the Platinax Forums are not simply called the Platinax Forums, because to an outsider, it’s a meaningless phrase. So the Platinax Forums are called the Platinax Business Forums, which uses the keyword “business” to help describe what they are actually about.

General Settings:

Use Forum jump menu: Disable it, as it’s not required.
Number of Pages Visible in Page Navigator: Have a value around 10 or 20 here. This makes it easier for search engines to the older pages on your site, without affecting the human user experience. In fact, it probably helps with that, too.

You can then scroll right down a number of areas, until you get to:

User Registration Options

Default Registration Options: Scroll down to this section - then click on “Send Notification Email When a Private Message is Received” to make it active. This helps bring people to your forums when they get a Private Message (PM).

You may also consider selecting “Instant Email Notification” from the “Options” > “Automatic Thread Subscription Mode”, as it forces users back to your forums to change their settings - and maybe join in some more discussion. If you’d rather not annoy too quickly, leave it be, though.

For “Message Editor Interface” select the enhanced WYSIWYG editor, as its much easier for users.

Scroll down some more until you get to:

User Listing & Profile Viewing

Memberlist spamming is a common practice among affiliates of the adult, pharmaceuticals, and gambling industry. Make it not worth their while by selecting a value for “Minimum Posts” higher than zero - preferably slightly higher, such as 5. This means only people who do take part in discussions will be listed on the Memberlist.

Show Last Post on Profile Page: Click on “yes”, as it helps users and search engines get back to the discussion board itself.

Scroll down some more to:

Message Posting and Editing Options

Quick Reply: Select “Yes - Click Not Required”, as it’s easiest for users.

Scroll down a lot more to:

Message Searching Options

Automatic Similar Thread Search: Check as “Yes”. This is helpful to both search engines and human users.

Scroll down to:

Forums Home Page Options

Active Members Options: Deselect these - you want to impress on new visitors to your forums that it’s a growing and active community. These options can betray otherwise.

Scroll down to:

Forum Display Options (forumdisplay)

Enable Forum Description: Enable - potentially useful for users and search engines

Scroll down to:

Threaded / Hybrid Mode Options (showthread)

Enable Threaded / Hybrid Mode: Click on “No” - this feature just fills search engines with gunk duplicate copies of your forums. You want to avoid that if you can.

Who’s Online Options

Enable Spider Display: enable - you’ll probably want a quick idea of which search engines are spidering your forum at any given time.

External Data Provider

Enable RSS Syndication: Select yes - you want to encourage people to use your forum feeds to keep in contact with it.

Enable XML Syndication: Same as above.

Now scroll right down to “Save”.

There - you should now have set up all the most basic vbulletin options that are going to be immediately useful to you!

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