How to Setup WordPress with Nginx on Ubuntu 14.04


WordPress is the most popular CMS (content management system) in the world. It allows you to easily get your site or blog up and running. After installation, you can manage almost everything in an easy web interface. In this guide, we will go over how to install WordPress on an Ubuntu 14.04 server. For the web server component, we will use nginx, a powerful and efficient web server that has seen wide adoption due to its performance capabilities.


Before you begin with this guide, there are a few procedures that you should undertake. First, you will need a non-root user with sudo privileges. You will also need a LEMP (Linux operating system, Nginx web server, MySQL database, and PHP processing) stack installed and configured on your server. When you have finished with the steps above, you can continue.

Step One — Create a MySQL Database and User for WordPress

The first thing that we need to do to get started with WordPress is to prepare our database. We have the MySQL database software installed, but we have not created a database for our WordPress information. We also need to create an account that WordPress can use to access the database we will be creating. We should begin by logging into an interactive session with our MySQL administrative account like this:

mysql -u root -p

You will be prompted for the password that you chose for the MySQL root account when you installed the software. You will be given a MySQL command prompt. Now, we can create a separate database that will be used exclusively by our WordPress application. The name is not important, but it should probably be descriptive so that you can easily recognize it. In this guide, we will call our database wordpress:


Note the semi-colon (;) that ends the MySQL statement. Each MySQL statement must end with one, so double-check that if you are running into issues. We have a database now, so we are ready to create a user account. We will then hand over control of the database to this new user so that our application can interact with the database. This system of creating a separate database and user for each application helps keep our data separate from other data being stored by MySQL, which is good for security and data management. For this guide, we’ll pick wordpressuser for our account name. We’ll assign it a password of password to authenticate with. When you are setting up your own configuration, you should select a more secure password:

CREATE USER wordpressuser@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

Now, we have a database and a user, but we haven’t established a relationship between the two yet. We need to tell MySQL that our new user can access and control the database. You can do that with this command: GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON wordpress.* TO wordpressuser@localhost; Everything should be configured correctly now. We need to flush the privileges to disk so that our current instance of MySQL knows about the privilege changes we have made: FLUSH PRIVILEGES; Now, exit the MySQL prompt: exit

Now we are back in our command prompt, ready to move on.

Step Two — Download WordPress to your Server

Next, we need to download the actual WordPress content onto our server. This is available on the WordPress website. The latest stable version of the application is always given the same URL, which makes this part easy. We want to download the file to our user’s home directory:

cd ~

Our application files have been downloaded as a compressed, archived directory structure stored in a file called latest.tar.gz. We can extract the contents by typing:

tar xzvf latest.tar.gz

This will create a directory called wordpress that contains the site files. We should take this opportunity to download some additional components that our WordPress instance will need. We can get these directly from Ubuntu’s software repositories using apt:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install php5-gd libssh2-php

These two packages allow you to work with images and install/update plugins and components using SSH respectively.

Step Three — Configure WordPress

We have the files now, so we can start to configure our WordPress instance. We need to modify the main configuration file located in our new directory. Move into the directory that you extracted in the last section:

cd ~/wordpress

Inside of this directory, we have a sample configuration file called wp-config-sample.php. This has most of the configuration details correct, so we can copy that to use as the base of our config file:

cp wp-config-sample.php wp-config.php

Now, open the new file so that we can make our changes:

nano wp-config.php

The file is suitable for our needs; it is just lacking the information to connect to the database we created. The parameters we need to set are DB_NAME, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD. We can find these parameters in this file and set them up to use the database and user details that we created. My file looks like this:

. . .
// ** MySQL settings - You can get this info from your web host ** //
/** The name of the database for WordPress */
define('DB_NAME', 'wordpress');

/** MySQL database username */
define('DB_USER', 'wordpressuser');

/** MySQL database password */
define('DB_PASSWORD', 'password');
. . .

When you have made the changes above, save and close the file.

Step Four — Copy the Files to the Document Root

We have our changes to our config files. The next step is to copy them over to our document root so that our web server can find and serve them. We will use the rsync utility to do the transfer. This has the advantage of preserving permissions, ownership, and ensuring data integrity. The location of the default document root of nginx on Ubuntu 14.04 is /usr/share/nginx/html/. However, we are going to set up our document root in /var/www/html/ to avoid modifying a directory location that is controlled by the nginx package. We will change this in our nginx configuration a bit later. We can create the new document root directory by typing:

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/html

Now, we can copy the files to this location by typing:

sudo rsync -avP ~/wordpress/ /var/www/html/

This will recursively copy the contents of our ~/wordpress directory into our document root. Next, let’s move over to the document root so that we can adjust some permissions:

cd /var/www/html/

The issue with the directory structure as it stands now is that all of our files have user and group ownership assigned to our regular user. This is fine, except that our web server needs to be able to modify certain directories and files. We can give this permission without exposing too much of our system by giving the group that our web server runs under group ownership of the files. We can then open up group permissions slightly as needed. The group that nginx operates under is www-data. For the user portion, enter your user account name. We will demonstrate with an account called demo here:

sudo chown -R demo:www-data *

This will give our files the necessary ownership. Before we move on, we should create a new directory for user uploads:

mkdir wp-content/uploads

The new directory should have group writing set already, but the new directory isn’t assigned with www-data group ownership yet. Let’s fix that:

sudo chown -R :www-data wp-content/uploads

Step Five — Modify Nginx Server Blocks

We have our files and directories configured. Now we need to modify our nginx configuration to serve the content correctly. We can use the default nginx server block as a base for our new server block. Copy it over like this:

sudo cp /etc/nginx/sites-available/default /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress

Open the new file we made so that we can make some changes:

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress

We will want to make the following changes:

server {
        listen 80 default_server;
        listen [::]:80 default_server ipv6only=on;

        root /var/www/html;
        index index.php index.php index.html index.htm;


        location / {
                # try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
                try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?q=$uri&$args;

        error_page 404 /404.html;

        error_page 500 502 503 504 /50x.html;
        location = /50x.html {
                root /usr/share/nginx/html;

        location ~ .php$ {
                try_files $uri =404;
                fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+.php)(/.+)$;
                fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
                fastcgi_index index.php;
                include fastcgi_params;

A summary of changes that you should be making are:

  • Change the value of the root directive to point to our new document root at /var/www/html.
  • Modify the index parameter to look for an index.php file before the other files.
  • Change the value of the server_name directive to point to your server’s domain name or IP address.
  • Adjust the try_files within the location / block to send requests to PHP when they do not exactly match.

Some of these might already be set from your LEMP installation. When you are finished with these changes, save and close the file. We need to link our new file to the sites-enabled directory in order to activate it. We can do that like this:

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

The file we just linked conflicts with our old default file, since it borrowed so much from it. We need to disable the old file:

sudo rm /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default

Now, restart the web server and PHP processor to enable our changes:

sudo service nginx restart
sudo service php5-fpm restart

Step Six — Complete the Installation through the Web Interface

Now, our WordPress is ready to go and we can finish the installation through our web browser. Point your browser to your server’s domain name or IP address, like this: If this shows your old default nginx page, you may have to refresh the page without the cache. You will see the basic WordPress welcome stage. Choose your options (Site name, username, password, and email) and then click the “Install WordPress” button:


You will have to log in with the account you just created:

You will be presented with your WordPress dashboard, where you can begin customizing your setup and creating content:



You should now have your WordPress instance up and running on an nginx web server in Ubuntu 14.04. WordPress is a fairly flexible platform that you can use to customize your site. Experiment with some different plugins, themes, etc. to find out what works best for you.