I did this about 8 months ago and never wrote down my steps. I just had to figure it out again for another server, and thought I’d write it down here to save myself (and possibly someone else) time.

First, this requires you have SSH access to your host. If you don’t, this post wasn’t meant for you. Then again… you probably wouldn’t need vim7 if you didn’t. Anyway, open a shell and enter these commands:

$ mkdir -p ~/local/src
$ cd ~/local/src
$ wget ftp://ftp.vim.org/pub/vim/unix/vim-7.1.tar.bz2
$ tar -vjxf vim-7.1.tar.bz2
$ cd vim71
$ ./configure --prefix=$HOME/local
$ make
$ make install

Vim is now installed in $HOME/local/bin/vim. To use that instead of /usr/bin/vim (your webhost’s OLD vim), open ~/.bash_profile (create it if it doesn’t exist) and add $HOME/local/bin to the front of your path. My path looks like this:

export PATH=$HOME/local/bin:$PATH

That will look for any programs in $HOME/local/bin first. If they’re not there, move on the system defined path to look.

Note: When I did this, vim wasn’t importing /etc/vimrc, so I had to copy it to my home dir.

$ cp /etc/vimrc ~/.vimrc

You’ll likely need to make some edits so everything works/looks how you want.