I just ran across a great tool for quickly (and I emphasize the quickly) getting a Windows box up for Apache/MySQL/PHP development:


Best part - you don't even have to install anything. In fact, I just threw the downloaded folder onto a USB stick, and copied the files over to the C drive of my laptop and was up and running in about 20 seconds.

Once you download and unzip the contents, put them at: c:\xampp
Then open two command prompts and enter:

c:\xampp> mysql_start.bat
c:\xampp> apache_start.bat

Open a browser and go to "localhost". That's it! I remember the old days where you would have to install mysql server, go through a wizard and configure things.. then install PHP, then Apache, then tweak some conf and ini files to get them all talking to each other...but those days are finally over.

Disclaimer: this is not a good way to get a production environment set up, or even a 'for fun' server that you have at home, open to the public. In fact, I probably wouldn't recommend it for serious development either, but for a quick start that doesn't bog down your computer with extra tools and services always running, it's a great find.