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Installing Nginx With PHP 5.3 And PHP-FPM On Ubuntu Lucid Lynx (10.04) Without Compiling Anything

Since Apache is most of the time a memory hungy process, people started to look for different ways to host their website. Apache is clearly not the only webserver available. A few good examples are lighttpd and nginx. In this tutorial I will show you how to install it on your Ubuntu server. This tutorial also applies to Debian, though. There is only a very small difference.

Ready? Let’s begin shall we.
Step 0 – Preliminary Notes

In order to complete this tutorial, I assume you have installed a base system of Ubuntu Lucid (10.04). How this can be done, can be read in different tutorials. This tutorial only focusses on getting nginx+php running without much hassle.
Step 1 – Nginx

Installing nginx is the first step we have to do. This can be easily done by downloading it from the repository.

sudo apt-get install nginx

The default vhost has to be changed in order to work properly.

sudo vim /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

A nice starting point for your config is:

server {
listen 80;
server_name localhost;
access_log /var/log/nginx/localhost.access.log;

## Default location
location / {
root /var/www;
index index.php;

## Images and static content is treated different
location ~* ^.+.(jpg|jpeg|gif|css|png|js|ico|xml)$ {
access_log off;
expires 30d;
root /var/www;

## Parse all .php file in the /var/www directory
location ~ .php$ {
fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(.*)$;
fastcgi_pass backend;
fastcgi_index index.php;
fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME /var/www$fastcgi_script_name;
include fastcgi_params;
fastcgi_intercept_errors on;
fastcgi_ignore_client_abort off;
fastcgi_connect_timeout 60;
fastcgi_send_timeout 180;
fastcgi_read_timeout 180;
fastcgi_buffer_size 128k;
fastcgi_buffers 4 256k;
fastcgi_busy_buffers_size 256k;
fastcgi_temp_file_write_size 256k;

## Disable viewing .htaccess & .htpassword
location ~ /\.ht {
deny all;
upstream backend {

Ok, we’re done here. Now we’ll install the needed files for PHP.
Step 2 – Installing PHP

Many sites rely on PHP for providing them dynamic content, whether this is a wiki, forum software, weblog or something entirely different.
There is no need to use DotDeb, since PHP5.3 is now officially supported in Ubuntu Lucid (10.04). Its as easy as

sudo apt-get update

The resulting text should include dotdeb.

Now we’ll install PHP. In order to install PHP-FPM, we’ll have to add the PPA to it since it is not officially supported.

add-apt-repository ppa:brianmercer/php

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install php5-fpm

If you are planning to use a database or require specific modules (mcrypt, ldap, snmp etc) you can install them as well.

Ok, so now we have nginx and PHP installed and ready to go.


Step 3 – Finalizing

Restart nginx in order to catch up with the config changes we made earlier.

sudo service nginx restart

The restart should have gone without any problems.

After installing php5-fpm, it should have been started. If you did change your php.ini files, you have to restart php5-fpm.

sudo service php5-fpm restart

All right. They should now both be running.

Step 4 – Testing

In order to test if the execution of PHP is working, create an index.php file in /var/www with the following content:

<?php phpinfo(); ?>

Visit your webserver and you should be able to see the generated phpinfo. If not, something went wrong.


Step 5 – Troubleshooting & Final notes

If  you did not see the phpinfo, there might be something wrong. In order to track down what went wrong, you can check the nginx error log:

sudo tail /var/log/nginx/error.log

Remember, if you did change your php.ini you have to restart php5-fpm. Restarting nginx isn’t’ necessary.

In my example config I’ve enabled the fastcgi error interception. If a serious error occurs (for instance a “cannot redeclare class xyz”), nginx can catch this page and show a “nice” error page that something went wrong. This way, there is less information given out in case something is going seriously wrong.

If you do not like this, you can turn it off.

If php5-fpm is not running, your PHP files cannot be parsed and nginx will show the user an error page.

Well, I guess we’re done and you are now able to serve PHP with your new nginx based webserver. Nginx is pretty nice and you can configure a lot. If you need rewrites, be aware that nginx does not work with .htaccess files. You will need to change your vhost settings in order for the rewrites to work.