XAMPP, WordPress and the login mystery (featuring ZoneAlarm Pro)

I got up early this morning so that I could get a couple of hours of web development in before Jane rose and we had to get involved in Operation Clear Kadesh.

Which was a nice plan … but it has just taken me 90 minutes to work out why I couldn’t login to my new installation of WordPress on my local PC running the XAMPP all-in-one Apache/PHP/MySQL server.

  • XAMPP package 1.5.3a installed beautifully – CHECK
  • XAMPP Control Panel is working – CHECK
  • Apache server is running – CHECK
  • MySQL server is running – CHECK
  • phpMyAdmin is allowing me to access it – CHECK
  • mod_rewrite Apache module is running – CHECK
  • WordPress installed ok – CHECK
  • Can I login to WordPress … NO!

Thinking that it may be a problem with the XAMPP installation I uninstalled version 1.5.3 and upgraded to 1.5.3a. No joy – same problem. After much prodding, tweaking and peering under the bonnet while sucking on my teeth and saying helpful things like “You see … it’s the parts, innit!” I discovered that the problem lay in my over-zealous firewall, ZoneAlarm Pro.

I discovered this by turning off the firewall completely and lo and behold! I could at last connect. I switched the firewall back on and once again the burly, dinner-suited gatekeeper of my PC barred me from logging in to my own local WordPress installation. After more tweaking and systematically turning off the ZoneAlarm settings one by one I finally narrowed the issue down to the “3rd Party Coookies” setting in the Privacy settings (Main tab):

Zonealarm Pro Cookies panel

Switching off “Block 3rd party cookies” and “Remove private header information” immediately did the trick, allowing me to immediately login to my local WordPress installation under the XAMPP Apache server.

I offer this to you in case you’ve encountered the same problem and couldn’t work out what was going on. Switching off the firewall is often one of my first actions when trying to diagnose web-related problems. Often its well-intentioned desire to protect me from all things nasty also prevents me from accessing exactly the thing that I do want to use. I just wish I’d tried it earlier this morning.