Server Requirements for running Zen Cart

What kind of server do I need?

Zen Cart specifications - Server Requirements

(Last updated: July 23, 2020)

Minimum server requirements:

  • Zen Cart operates on a standard “LAMP” stack: PHP, Apache, MySQL on most operating systems (Linux/macOS/Windows)
  • See the detailed version-compatibility details in the sections below.
  • Keep in mind that for security compliance, you should always use a PCI Compliant version of each of these required software components, including using a Zen Cart version that’s compatible with those software component versions, too!


PHP Version

The following table shows the PHP versions compatible with each version of Zen Cart.

Note: future versions of Zen Cart including v1.5.8 will require PHP 7.3+.

  • Zen Cart v1.5.7 is designed for PHP 5.6 through PHP 7.4
  • Zen Cart v1.5.6 is designed for PHP 5.5 through PHP 7.3
  • Zen Cart v1.5.5 is designed for PHP 5.5 up to PHP 7.1
  • Zen Cart v1.5.4 is designed for PHP 5.5 and PHP 5.6
  • Zen Cart v1.5.3 is compatible with PHP 5.3.7 thru PHP 5.6
  • Zen Cart v1.5.2 is compatible with PHP 5.3.7 thru PHP 5.6 (or PHP 5.2.14 with weakened security)
  • Zen Cart v1.5.1 is compatible with PHP 5.2.14 thru PHP 5.3.x.
  • Zen Cart v1.5.0 is compatible with PHP 5.2.14 thru PHP 5.3.x.
  • Zen Cart v1.3.9 series is compatible with PHP 5.2.10 thru PHP 5.3.x.
  • Zen Cart v1.3.7-v1.3.8a are compatible with PHP 4.3.2 thru PHP 5.2.x, but not PHP 5.3.
  • Zen Cart v1.2.x through v1.3.6 are compatible with PHP 4.3.2 - 4.4.x. They are NOT compatible with PHP 5.

PHP compatibility requirements of Plugins may vary. Consult each plugin’s documentation and support discussion-thread for details.

Using the latest version of Zen Cart is always recommended for maximum compatibility.

Which PHP version should I use?

It is best to use the most recent PHP version that your Zen Cart version supports.

FYI: Consult PHP’s Version Support Policy to understand whether your PHP version is still supported. Remember: old versions are not PCI compliant, and are not deemed “secure” if they are out of the maintenance period.

NOTE: PHP 5.x is officially obsolete. So are many of the early PHP 7 versions. You should be moving to the latest version of PHP (and matching Zen Cart version) as soon as possible!

PHP Extensions/Modules used by Zen Cart

Zen Cart requires a few PHP modules/extensions installed:

  • bcmath
  • ctype
  • curl, openssl
  • fileinfo
  • gd
  • getimagesize()
  • iconv
  • json
  • mysqli, pdo_mysql
  • pcre
  • zip
  • zlib

It is recommended to also enable the following PHP extensions:

  • intl, mbstring, pcntl, pdo_sqlite

PHP Memory Recommendations

  • memory_limit suggested: 128M or higher such as 256M or 512M if your server can handle it.
  • post_max_size and upload_max_filesize should be set to whatever max file size you or your customers may upload. Usually 8M is sufficient for most sites, but if you’re accepting huge uploads, set both to the max size of accepted combined uploads.

PHP Settings for optimum security:

  • ENABLE: allow_url_fopen is needed for checking things that don’t/can’t use curl (many shipping-quote and currency-update modules use this).
  • DISABLE: allow_url_include should be OFF. Zen Cart never needs this.
  • DISABLE FUNCTIONS: passthru, system, shell_exec. These are not used by Zen Cart core (BUT might be used by some plugins).

MySQL Version

The following table shows the MySQL versions compatible with each version of Zen Cart.

(If your store uses non-english characters in product names/descriptions, or if your customers might use emojis in order comments, you should be using MySQL 5.7.2 or newer, and utf8mb4 character set.)

Note: Future versions of Zen Cart including v1.5.8 will require MySQL 5.7.8+ or MariaDB 10.2.7+.

  • Zen Cart v1.5.7 expects MySQL 5.1 to 8.0, or MariaDB 10.1 to 10.4
  • Zen Cart v1.5.6 expects MySQL 5.1 to 5.7, or MariaDB 10.1 to 10.4 (“strict” errors may occur with 5.7 or 10.2-10.4)
  • Zen Cart v1.5.5 expects MySQL 5.1 to 5.7, or MariaDB 10.1 (“strict” errors may occur with 5.7 or 10.2)
  • Zen Cart v1.5.0 to v1.5.4 expects MySQL 5.1 to 5.5, and may work with MariaDB 10.1
  • Zen Cart v1.3.9 is compatible with MySQL 4.1.3+ thru 5.1
  • Zen Cart v1.2.x thru 1.3.8a were designed for MySQL 4, and will give errors on MySQL5

Plugin compatibility may vary.

Using the latest version of Zen Cart is always recommended for maximum compatibility.

FYI: MySQL’s Version Support Policy


  • Zen Cart requires cURL to be installed/compiled into PHP with OpenSSL. If this capability is not available, a message to that effect will be displayed during the initial installation’s system-inspection, however it will still allow installation anyway. It is up to you to ensure cURL is enabled. Consult your hosting company for assistance.
  • You should always use HTTPS (SSL) on your store. Yes, you really do need an SSL certificate. Be sure to regularly test your site’s SSL (https) using and have your hosting company resolve all reported issues. If your hosting company doesn’t know how to resolve the issues to at least a “B” rating, find another hosting company.


Zen Cart works primarily with Apache 2.4 or 2.2

Apache modules

The Apache configuration must have AllowOverride set to All or at least Limit Indexes Options. (Without this the .htaccess rules will fail and trigger 500 Server Error errors.)

Recommended Apache modules include: expires, headers, env, alias, deflate, ssl, http2, mime, phpX, rewrite (in addition to other standard/default modules).


Zen Cart runs well on Nginx. But you must handle directory-security manually, as described here:

Nginx Directory Security

The default Zen Cart distribution contains numerous Apache .htaccess rules to aid in implementing security protections against malicious spoofing and other abuse. These will not give you any protections if you’re running Nginx, so you will need to do those yourself.

At the end of initial installation some Nginx conf file content suggestions are provided which you could manually copy into your nginx master configuration, to provide those same protections.

Windows Servers / IIS are NOT SUPPORTED

Zen Cart is not regularly tested or supported on Windows Servers or IIS. We don’t recommend IIS, and we don’t provide any default-configuration scripts for IIS.

Perl, Python, CGI and other languages?

Zen Cart does not use Perl or Python or CGI. See technologies used in Zen Cart.

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 20, 2020 by Chris Brown (d8997ba).