Once you have found a hack, you have to install it. However, there’s no one single way to install a hack. In fact, there is almost as many ways of installing a hack as there are hacks!
Generally a hack consists of code and installation instructions. Instructions are generally quite clear and straight forward following the following format:
1. Open file xyz.php.
2. At line xx add the following code: …
3. Save the file and upload.
4. Open up template yyy.
5. Find the following code: …
6. Add the following code: …
7. Save the template.
These instructions are usually detailed, but it is recommended that you work through the instructions before making any actual changes to the files—this way, if there are any ambiguities in the instructions, you have a chance of spotting them first.
Be on the lookout for problems. If the instructions ask you to find some particular code or highlight a line of code that you cannot find, then first make sure that you are looking in the correct file. If you still cannot find the code, then there may be a problem somewhere. For example, you might have already made changes to that file, or perhaps a later version of vBulletin has removed the line referenced in the instructions. Either way, don’t make guesses at where the code should go, as this could be disastrous.
Check for an updated version of the hack, or get in touch with the author of the hack. (If you found the hack on a forum, this should be easy.) Installing a hack is easier if it contains an install script—you just upload the files to the appropriate location on the server (usually specified in the instructions) and then run the install script, which will make all the changes for you. When done, you normally delete the installation file to prevent it being rerun by some other, unauthorized person.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by a hack that has an installation script—things can nonetheless go wrong, so make sure that you have an up-to-date backup of the forum and of the database just in case things don’t go according to plan.
After installation, test the hack thoroughly. Since each hack is different, it’s impossible to offer detailed advice on how to do this, but if you’ve installed a spellchecker, then test that it works; if you’ve installed a hack that makes moderating easier, then test this. Work methodically, and be on the lookout for problems. Don’t tolerate error messages—if you see any, find out what the problem is. Don’t ignore them—they will only get worse!