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How To Connect To An SQL Database In PHP

September 10, 2020

Today, I want to you to learn the right way to make a connection to an SQL database in a PHP project.

td;lr: no time to read, show me the script.


  • Be familiar with the PHP language
  • Have a local PHP and MySQL/MariaDB environment
  • [Optional] Have a GUI database management app (phpmyAdmin or others), if you don’t have/need this you can use CLI to connect to the database


I’ve seen a lot of tutorials still teaching deprecated technics to connect to MySQL database in PHP. So, I want this to stop. My goal in this tutorial is to teach you a modern and secure way to connect to any SQL database in PHP. You’ll learn how to use PDO method.

In this tutorial, I’ll be working with MySQL database. There’s no much difference with other SQL-like database systems. So, feel free to use anyone you have.

Let’s start our tour.

The workspace

Create a folder for the project (mine is php-pdo)

mkdir php-pdo

Add index.php, config.php and connection.php

touch index.php config.php connect.php

Create also a database (test).


Connecting to the database with PDO

To connect to a database, you can use either database-specific extension like MysQLi for MySQL or the PHP Data Objects (aka PDO). The advantage of using PDO is that it can be used to connect to any database. For that reason, we will use PDO in this tutorial.


Now is the time to start using PDO. In connection.php, create an instance of PDO like this:

$connection = new PDO();

PDO syntax looks stranger to you? Don’t be intimidated by it. Just follow a long with me to see how to use it.

PDO() accepts these four parameters:

  • DSN (data source name): type of database, hostname, database name (optional)
  • host login
  • host password
  • additional options

Considering our database info, let’s replace these parametors with their real values:

$connection = new PDO("mysql:host=localhost;dbname=test", "root", "", [


  • The line PDO::ATTR_ERRMODE => PDO::ERRMODE_EXCEPTION instructs PDO to emit an exception in case of an error.
  • You may have noticed that I’m not closing my PHP tag. It is optional and even better to leave it off if the last thing you have in a file is PHP code

We are professionals, let’s code as professionals.

Refact the code

Our connection works just fine, but we can still refactor the code. Let’s simplify our connection string like so:

$connection = new PDO($dsn, $username, $password, $options);

In config.php, we put all database info:

$host       = "localhost";
$username   = "root";
$password   = "";
$dbname     = "test";
$dsn        = "mysql:host=$host;dbname=$dbname";
$options    = [

If you use a database other then MySQL, you just need to change mysql in $dsn = "mysql:host=$host;dbname=$dbname" with the name of your database like pgsql.

Now we can call config.php in connection.php.

function db_connect()
  require "config.php";
  $connection = new PDO($dsn, $username, $password, $options);
  return $connection;

We create a function that returns the database connection object. Now is the time to:

Use the connection string

In index.php we can use the db_connect() function like this:

require "connection.php";

$connection = db_connect();


<p>Hello World</p>

Going to the browser, you’ll have Hello World printed if everything is OK.

hello world

But what happens in case of an error?

Good question. Let’s see how to:

Handle exceptions

Simply speaking, exceptions are just errors. Remember that we’ve set PHP attributes to emit errors as exceptions (PDO::ATTR_ERRMODE => PDO::ERRMODE_EXCEPTION).

First, go to config.php and put something wrong. Let’s say I put the database password as blablabla. Now on the browser, you have this:

default error message

As you can see in the image above, the application has encountered an error. It gives the description of the error and also the line where the problem can be found. This can be interesting if we are still developing our app, but when in production, it is a high-security risk. We don’t want to reveal to our visitors too much information about the error. You can notice that the application error tells much about our code: the file, the connection string, and the line.

To fix this issue, we need to use try/catch block.

try {
        require "config.php";
        $connection = new PDO($dsn, $username, $password, $options);

        return $connection;
    } catch (PDOException $e) {

In a nutshell, the snippet above will first try to connect to the database, and if it encounters an error it catches it and prints just an explicit error message.

error message after try/catch


In this tutorial we’ve learned how to write a script to connect to an SQL database in PHP like a pro:

  • Use PDO
  • Use try/catch block to handle errors.

You can find all the code here.

Thank you for learning with me.

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