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Running Contao 2.10.2 On Nginx (LEMP) On Debian Squeeze/Ubuntu 11.10

This tutorial shows how you can install and run a Contao 2.10.2 web site on a Debian Squeeze or Ubuntu 11.10 system that has nginx installed instead of Apache (LEMP = Linux + nginx (pronounced “engine x”) + MySQL + PHP). nginx is a HTTP server that uses much less resources than Apache and delivers pages a lot of faster, especially static files.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

I want to install Contao in a vhost called here with the document root /var/www/

You should have a working LEMP installation, as shown in these tutorials:

  • Installing Nginx With PHP5 And MySQL Support On Debian Squeeze
  • Installing Nginx With PHP5 (And PHP-FPM) And MySQL Support On Ubuntu 11.10

A note for Ubuntu users:

Because we must run all the steps from this tutorial with root privileges, we can either prepend all commands in this tutorial with the string sudo, or we become root right now by typing

sudo su


2 Installing APC

APC is a free and open PHP opcode cacher for caching and optimizing PHP intermediate code. It’s similar to other PHP opcode cachers, such as eAccelerator and XCache. It is strongly recommended to have one of these installed to speed up your PHP page.

APC can be installed as follows:

apt-get install php-apc

If you use PHP-FPM as your FastCGI daemon (like in Installing Nginx With PHP5 (And PHP-FPM) And MySQL Support On Ubuntu 11.10), restart it as follows:

/etc/init.d/php5-fpm restart

If you use lighttpd’s spawn-fcgi program as your FastCGI daemon (like in Installing Nginx With PHP5 And MySQL Support On Debian Squeeze), we must kill the current spawn-fcgi process (running on port 9000) and create a new one. Run

netstat -tap

to find out the PID of the current spawn-fcgi process:

root@server1:~# netstat -tap
Active Internet connections (servers and established)
Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address           Foreign Address         State       PID/Program name
tcp        0      0 *:sunrpc                *:*                     LISTEN      734/portmap
tcp        0      0 *:www                   *:*                     LISTEN      2987/nginx
tcp        0      0 *:ssh                   *:*                     LISTEN      1531/sshd
tcp        0      0 *:57174                 *:*                     LISTEN      748/rpc.statd
tcp        0      0 localhost.localdom:smtp *:*                     LISTEN      1507/exim4
tcp        0      0 localhost.localdom:9000 *:*                     LISTEN      1542/php5-cgi
tcp        0      0 localhost.localdo:mysql *:*                     LISTEN      1168/mysqld
tcp        0     52      ESTABLISHED 1557/0
tcp6       0      0 [::]:www                [::]:*                  LISTEN      2987/nginx
tcp6       0      0 [::]:ssh                [::]:*                  LISTEN      1531/sshd
tcp6       0      0 ip6-localhost:smtp      [::]:*                  LISTEN      1507/exim4

In the above output, the PID is 1542, so we can kill the current process as follows:

kill -9 1542

Afterwards we create a new spawn-fcgi process:

/usr/bin/spawn-fcgi -a -p 9000 -u www-data -g www-data -f /usr/bin/php5-cgi -P /var/run/


3 Installing Contao

The document root of my web site is /var/www/ – if it doesn’t exist, create it as follows:

mkdir -p /var/www/

Next we download Contao (the .tar.gz version) from and place it in our document root:

cd /tmp
tar xvfz contao-2.10.2.tar.gz
cd contao-2.10.2/
mv * /var/www/

It is recommended to make the document root and the Contao files in it writable by the nginx daemon which is running as user www-data and group www-data:

chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/

If you haven’t already created a MySQL database for Contao (including a MySQL Contao user), you can do that as follows (I name the database contao in this example, and the user is called contao_admin, and his password is contao_admin_password):

mysqladmin -u root -p create contao

mysql -u root -p

GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON contao.* TO ‘contao_admin’@’localhost’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘contao_admin_password’;
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON contao.* TO ‘contao_admin’@’localhost.localdomain’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘contao_admin_password’;



Next we create an nginx vhost configuration for our vhost in the /etc/nginx/sites-available/ directory as follows:

vi /etc/nginx/sites-available/

server {
       listen 80;
       root /var/www/;
       if ($http_host != "") {
                 rewrite ^$request_uri permanent;
       index index.php index.html;
       location = /favicon.ico {
                log_not_found off;
                access_log off;
       location = /robots.txt {
                allow all;
                log_not_found off;
                access_log off;
       # Make sure files with the following extensions do not get loaded by nginx because nginx would display the source code, and these files can contain PASSWORDS!
        location ~* \.(tpl|html5|xhtml)$ {
                deny all;
       # Deny all attempts to access hidden files such as .htaccess, .htpasswd, .DS_Store (Mac).
       location ~ /\. {
                deny all;
                access_log off;
                log_not_found off;
       location / {
                try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$args;
       location ~*  \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif|css|js|ico)$ {
                expires max;
                log_not_found off;
       location ~ \.php$ {
                try_files $uri =404;
                include /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params;
                fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;

Next make sure you have the following line in /etc/nginx/mime.types:

vi /etc/nginx/mime.types

        text/x-component                        htc;

To enable the vhost, we create a symlink to it from the /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/ directory:

cd /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/
ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/

Reload nginx for the changes to take effect:

/etc/init.d/nginx reload

Now we can launch the web-based Contao installer by going to – first you have to accept the Contao license (LGPL) :


To make sure that noone else can access the Contao installer in the future, provide a password for the installer (in addition to that, you can delete contao/install.php after successful installation):


Next fill in the database details and click on Save database settings:


On the next page you see CREATE TABLE statements for all MySQL database tables that need to be created (the installer has auto-checked all required tables already, so you should not change the selection unless you know what you’re doing). Click on Update database to populate the Contao MySQL database:


Now you have to decide if you want to install a completely empty Contao system (so that you can start with your project from scratch) or if you want to populate Contao with the example template that comes with the Contao sources. The template is a preconfigured website that includes an example site structure and several style sheets to format the Contao core modules and content elements. The default template is called Music Academy. To import that template, open the Import a template form and select music_academy.sql from the Templates drop-down menu. Click on the Import template button afterwards.

Please note that this action also creates a Contao admin user called k.jones with the password kevinjones so you don’t have to create an admin user.

(It is also possible to install the template after a successful Contao installation, simply by going back to the Contao installer (unless you have deleted contao/install.php after your first installation) –; go to the Import a template form then and import the template. Please note that any existing data will be overriden during the template import!)


If you decide not to install the example template, you must create an admin user now on the Create an admin user form:


Afterwards, your Contao installation is finished, and you can go to the administration area by following the Contao back end login link in the lower right corner of the installer (


Now log in with your admin user:


As I mentioned before, if you decided to install the example template, your admin user is k.jones with the password kevinjones:


That’s how the Contao administration area looks:


The first thing you should do is enable clean URLs. Go to Settings and check the Rewrite URLs checkbox:



If you have installed the example template, you already have a website to play with (under


  • Contao:
  • nginx:
  • nginx Wiki:
  • Debian:
  • Ubuntu: