Drupal 7.x on Altervista host in 10 hits

Submitted by Nicola Rainiero on 2012-06-02 (last updated on 2013-04-07)

I report some hints to install and setup Drupal on Altervista free hosting service, without using control panel and above all using the SQLite database.

The free hosting service offered by Altervista lets you install "various application in order to enrich the service offer at your site". For helping you in web creation, Altervista makes a special page in the user menu: after the autentication, it is sufficient to click on the Enter in the control panel link and then AltersitoApplications in the upper menu. Drupal 7.8 is an application selectable with the implicit demand of "class 2" database  ( in other words 500 AC[1] for activation and 100 AC/month). The fast and painless procedure installs this fantastic CMS in your site but there are 2 negative aspects: the version is older and you have to use MySQL and not SQLite (a simple database reduced in a single file that doesn't request any AC).

Well, that's perfect, doesn't it? Absolutely not! The version adopted by Altervista has been tested and considered stable by Altervista team, but probably not the last version (i.e. new bugs and incompatibilities). So could be a jump in the dark...

This guide explains you in 10 steps how to install and fix Drupal 7.14 on Altervista host, assuming this time that your site is called "my_site". I found useful hints and guides in this forum, I suggest you to visit it. (2012-08-10) Also Drupal 7.15 works fine on Altervista following these suggestions, however, I noticed two things:

  1. during installation and precisely when you import other language modules reappears the worrisome warning: "Error 500 - Internal server error", it is hardly sufficient reload the page;
  2. "Clean URLs" problem in overlay mode (the system menu that appears after you login in Drupal) and above all the test to enable this useful function. My solution is simple: I enter in my site with the following address: "MY_SITE.altervista/admin/config/search/clean-urls" and I click the corresponding item.

(2012-07-17) In order to install Drupal on Altervista must be enabled PHP 5 version. You can do this: enter in Pannello di Controllo (Control Panel), then click on Altersito (menu in the head) and next on Gestione File (File Manager), then click on the PHP 5 icon and in the new page, you can check the PHP version loaded. In my case is the 5.2. In the old domains could however still be the 4 for compatibility reasons. Just you set the 5.2 (5.3 should work) and click the save button. Or manually editing ".htaccess" file, before the installation process starts:

# Altervista configuration
# # av:php5-engine
AddHandler av-php53 .php

# # av:PHP-RG
php_flag register_globals off

# Apache/PHP/Drupal settings:

This is how:

  1. Before start download the following archives files: the last stable version, your language if differs from English, the modules and theme that you consider useful for site.
  2. Extract the entire Drupal archive file in a folder (for example call it "Drupal_7_14") and insert the language file (ending in ".po", downloaded previously) in “Drupal_7_14/profiles/standard/translations”, extract every module archive file (preserving the corresponding directory) in “Drupal_7_14/sites/all/modules”, If you want to change the default themes, extract it in “Drupal_7_14/sites/all/themes” (again preserving the corresponding directory). Finally if you use the "libraries" module put the extra libraries in “Drupal_7_14/sites/all/libraries”.
  3. In order to have the "clean-urls" active and so eliminate in every page and internal link the following characters "?q=", you have to modify the ".htaccess" file in "Drupal_7_14" removing the comment (i.e. "#") in the 105 row: from “# RewriteBase /” to “RewriteBase /”. if you are going to put the Drupal files in another folder like "my_site" rather than the classical root "/", change in “RewriteBase /my_site”.
  4. In order to eliminate the annoying alert "Error 500 - Internal server error" rename the “Drupal_7_14 /sites/default/default.settings.php” file in “Drupal_7_14/sites/default/settings.php” and add in 278 row the following string: “ini_set('memory_limit', '64M');”.
  5. Create the "files" folder in “Drupal_7_14/sites/default/” and change its permission and the permission of the previously “settings.php” file. You have to change in read and write for both.
  6.  Using a FTP program (for example gFTP or FileZilla) copy the entire content of “Drupal_7_14” directory in the online FTP directory (the root "/" or if you prefer another one "/my_site/")[2].
  7. Wait that upload process ends and then check again the online permission of the directory and file changed previously.
  8. Point your browser in “my_site.altervista.org” or “my_site.altervista.org/my_site/". Follow the instructions in the screen, look the third image and select SQLite:

  9. Complete the installation and insert the site name, the administration datas, etc.
  10. Your site is now ready! You can change the theme, install, remove or setup modules or simply put your contents online.



[ 1] AC is the abbrevation of AlterCent, i.e. a virtual money used in Altervista to buy upgrades and/or to earn a few Euros.

[ 2] The FTP parameters for Altervista are in this hypothetical case:
HOST: ftp.my_site.altervista.org
LOGIN: my_site
PASSWORD: password_my_site
PORT: 21.

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Nicola Rainiero

A civil geotechnical engineer with the ambition to facilitate own work with free software for a knowledge and collective sharing. Also, I deal with green energy and in particular shallow geothermal energy. I have always been involved in web design and 3D modelling.

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