What's a great way to approaching this? I must produce a local database, just on my small laptop (for the time being), to ensure that I'm able to train myself some PHP and just how to have interaction with databases.
... ideally a totally free approach...
XAMPP is what you want. It's very easy to setup and obtain working very quickly, and you will just switch off all of the services and switch on MySQL and you will be all set.
Attempting to install and configure a MySQL official install is really a nightmare (or at best, was before I attempted it). XAMPP is prepackaged and may be running within minutes, yet is indeed a MySQL install so there is no cost for this user-friendliness.
That old standby is XAMPP, but any longer I'd give Zend Server CE a go. If you are running on Home windows or OSX it offers MySQL. If you are running linux, you will still have to install mysql, but based on your distribution that's as simple as a line in terminal.
From things i remember of XAMPP, it's relatively simple to configure, and it has the advantage of a transportable installation to some USB stick. I've found Zend Server CE attractive using its internet based status/monitoring tools and ZF integration.
Each one would suit your needs. If you are running on Home windows I recommend whatever you decide, create install php by hand. I have discovered that the correct answer is the painful process.
For those who have a Mac, it's simple enough, because Apache 2 is preinstalled, MySQL is rather straightforward to set up, and someone built a simple Mac package for PHP. You will find a few extra steps, but nothing intense. I do not like MAMP because I must keep an additional application open.
Should you simply want a database to adjust take a look at SQLite
SQLite is really a software library that implements a self-contained, serverless, zero-configuration, transactional SQL database engine.
If you would like PHP though, you will need Apache or IIS (does PWS remain? It is a very long time since i have used Home windows) go and among another suggestions