Usually Windows users use the CGI version of PHP, and for a good reason:
It's stable, and you can easily plug it in to the most popular
Windows-based Web servers: Apache, Microsoft Internet Information Server
(IIS), Microsoft Personal Web Server (PWS), and Xitami. One of the
drawbacks of the CGI version of PHP is its inability to use PHP-based
authentication. Besides the overall performance hit, this would be the
other glaring drawback. There's nothing, however, stopping you from using
your normal Web server-based authentication; they're mutually exclusive.
As for the ISAPI version of PHP, it's coming along. The PHP Development
Team may not consider it ready for prime time just yet, but it is getting
closer with each release, and it continues to be part of the official
distribution. Now about that "official distribution" -- the PHP Development
Team distributes a set of pre-compiled files that they feel are the core,
stable, working elements of PHP, but these files may not suit your needs.
You have two other options: Grab the Windows source code and compile it
yourself, picking and choosing the support you want and the version you'd
like to build, or simply depend on the kindness of strangers, who do their
own pre-fab compilations and distribute them for your using pleasure.
The latter is a popular choice, and there is one group of PHP developers
in particular who have done a good job of producing a comprehensive set of
pre-compiled files, which you can find at NAPP: Not Another PHP Portal. From this
site you can download a ZIP file full of extensions: tons of database
connectivity extensions, image creation, CyberCash, FTP functions, and so
on. Their distribution also includes the ISAPI, NSAPI, AOLServer, and
Apache modules for Windows.
In this tutorial, you'll learn the basic CGI installation of PHP on
Windows, with Apache. It's so simple to install, however, that I'm positive
you'll soon be downloading additional extensions or even attempting a
module installation. When that time comes and you're ready to venture out
on your own, bookmark the search page for the php-windows mailing
list as a resource for those trying times.