Using reCAPTCHA with PHP

Important: Version 1.0 of the reCAPTCHA API is no longer supported, please upgrade to Version 2.0. Learn more

The reCAPTCHA PHP Library provides a simple way to place a CAPTCHA on your PHP website, helping you stop bots from abusing it. The library wraps the reCAPTCHA API.

To use reCAPTCHA with PHP, you can download reCAPTCHA PHP library. You will only need one file from there (recaptchalib.php). The other files are examples, readme and legal stuff -- they don't affect functionality.

Quick Start

After you've signed up for your API keys, below are basic instructions for installing reCAPTCHA on your site. A full reference guide to the PHP plugin can be found below.

Client Side (How to make the CAPTCHA image show up)

If you want to use the PHP library to display the reCAPTCHA widget, you'll need to insert this snippet of code inside the <form> element where the reCAPTCHA widget will be placed:

  $publickey = "your_public_key"; // you got this from the signup page
  echo recaptcha_get_html($publickey);

With the code, your form might look something like this:

    <body> <!-- the body tag is required or the CAPTCHA may not show on some browsers -->
      <!-- your HTML content -->

      <form method="post" action="verify.php">
          $publickey = "your_public_key"; // you got this from the signup page
          echo recaptcha_get_html($publickey);
        <input type="submit" />

      <!-- more of your HTML content -->

Don't forget to set $publickey by replacing your_public_key with your API public key.

Note that the value of the "action" attribute is "verify.php". Now, verify.php is the destination file in which the values of this form are submitted to. So you will need a file verify.php in the same location as the client html.

The require_once function in the example above expects recaptchalib.php to be in the same directory as your form file. If it is in another directory, you must link it appropriately. For example if your recaptchalib.php is in the directory called "captcha" that is on the same level as your form file, the function will look like this: require_once('captcha/recaptchalib.php').

Server Side (How to test if the user entered the right answer)

The following code should be placed at the top of the verify.php file:

  $privatekey = "your_private_key";
  $resp = recaptcha_check_answer ($privatekey,

  if (!$resp->is_valid) {
    // What happens when the CAPTCHA was entered incorrectly
    die ("The reCAPTCHA wasn't entered correctly. Go back and try it again." .
         "(reCAPTCHA said: " . $resp->error . ")");
  } else {
    // Your code here to handle a successful verification

In the code above:

  • recaptcha_check_answer returns an object that represents whether the user successfully completed the challenge.
  • If $resp->is_valid is true then the captcha challenge was correctly completed and you should continue with form processing.
  • If $resp->is_valid is false then the user failed to provide the correct captcha text and you should redisplay the form to allow them another attempt. In this case $resp->error will be an error code that can be provided to recaptcha_get_html. Passing the error code makes the reCAPTCHA control display a message explaining that the user entered the text incorrectly and should try again.
  • Notice that this code is asking for the private key, which should not be confused with the public key. You get that from the same page as the public key.

    Also make sure your form is set to get the form variables using $_POST, instead of $_REQUEST, and that the form itself is using the POST method.

    That's it! reCAPTCHA should now be working on your site.

    Further Reading

  • Customizing Look and Feel
  • Tips and Guidelines
  • Troubleshooting
  • PHP Plugin Reference Guide

    Below is a comprehensive list of all the methods of the reCAPTCHA PHP Plugin.

    The recaptcha_get_html function

    The recaptcha_get_html function displays the HTML that presents reCAPTCHA to the user.

    $pubkey -- string. required. Your reCAPTCHA public key, from the API Signup Page
    $error -- string. optional (null is the default) If this string is set, the reCAPTCHA area will display the error code given. This error code comes from ReCaptchaResponse->$error
    $use_ssl -- boolean. optional (false is default) Should the SSL-based API be used? If you are displaying a page to the user over SSL, be sure to set this to true so an error dialog doesn't come up in the user's browser.
    Return value A string containing HTML to put on the web page.

    The recaptcha_check_answer function

    After the user has filled out the HTML form, including their answer for the CAPTCHA, we want to check their answer when they submit the form using the recaptcha_check_answer function. The user's answer will be in two form fields, recaptcha_challenge_field and recaptcha_response_field. The reCAPTCHA library will make an HTTP request to the reCAPTCHA server and verify the user's answer.

    $privkey -- string. required. Your reCAPTCHA private key, from the API Signup Page.
    $remoteip -- string. required. The user's IP address, in the format
    $challenge -- string. required.
    The value of the form field recaptcha_challenge_field
    $response -- string. required The value of the form field recaptcha_response_field
    Return value An instance of the ReCaptchaResponse class

    $is_valid -- boolean Did reCAPTCHA believe the answer was valid?
    $error -- string If the answer was invalid what was the problem? This error code can be used in recaptcha_get_html
    Return value The HTML or raw url to decode the email address, depending on which you function you called.


    The reCAPTCHA PHP Library includes bindings for the Mailhide API. This API allows you to wrap an email in a reCAPTCHA to prevent spammers from seeing it:

    The Mailhide portion of the PHP Library requires the PHP mcrypt module.

    The Mailhide API consists of two functions recaptcha_mailhide_html and recaptcha_mailhide_url. The functions have the same parameters. The _html version returns HTML that can be directly put on your web page. The username portion of the email that is passed in is truncated and replaced with a link that calls Mailhide. The _url version gives you the url to decode the email and leaves it up to you to place the email in HTML.

    recaptcha_mailhide_url / recaptcha_mailhide_html
    $pubkey -- string The Mailhide public key from the signup page
    $privkey -- string The Mailhide private key from the signup page
    $email -- string The email address you want to hide.

    The following example shows how to use Mailhide:

    require_once ("recaptchalib.php");
    // get a key at
    $mailhide_pubkey = '';
    $mailhide_privkey = '';
    The Mailhide encoding of is
    echo recaptcha_mailhide_html ($mailhide_pubkey,
    The url for the email is:
    echo recaptcha_mailhide_url ($mailhide_pubkey,