How to Install and Configure a NGINX Server (LEMP Stack)

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LEMP Stack

If you are interested, like I am, in setting up your own web server and hosting your own projects then I hope you will follow along. This guide will walk you step by step on setting up a LEMP stack (Linux, Nginx, MySQL, and PHP).


Getting Started

I will be installing the required packages on Ubuntu 10.04 LucidLynx LTS. Additionally, I’ve had great success using [IP_ADDRESS], they are easy to setup and use (like this one, most of my linux based guides will use a [IP_ADDRESS] as a starting point). I will assume you have your server all setup, and you are ready to begin at the command line, so lets get started:

First, for good measure lets make sure our server is all up-to-date.

apt-get update

Installing MySQL

Then let’s begin by installing MySQL:

apt-get install mysql-server mysql-client

after entering the above command you will also be prompted for a MySQL “root” user password…

Installing PHP

Next up, lets install PHP5 and a few common extensions (here is a list if you are in need of other extensions):

apt-get install php5-cgi php5-cli php5-mysql php5-curl php5-gd php5-idn php-pear php5-imagick php5-imap php5-mcrypt php5-memcache php5-mhash php5-pspell php5-recode php5-sqlite php5-tidy php5-xmlrpc php5-xsl

As you may have noticed, we have installed php-cgi, that is because we will be running a FastCGI interface.

There are some articles online which recommend using lighttpd for its FastCGI interface, this is totally not needed. PHP has its own FastCGI interface which works perfectly well (thanks to Tomasz Sterna for a great article on FastCGI with Nginx)

At this point, we will be using a little bit of vim to do a bit of file editing, so here is a [IP_ADDRESS] on using vim.

Open files with the following command:

vim /path/to/the/file

Once you’ve opened a file, enter editing mode by pressing i. You will now be able to make changes to the file.

Use the directional arrows on your keyboard to navigate.

When you are finished editing press ESC, this will exit the editing mode. To save the file enter :wq (write and quit).

If you want to exit without saving, enter :q!


Lets create the following file: /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi

vim /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi

This file will have the following content:


PHP_CGI_NAME=`basename $PHP_CGI`

start() {
      echo -n "Starting PHP FastCGI: "
      start-stop-daemon --quiet --start --background --chuid "$USER" --exec /usr/bin/env -- $PHP_CGI_ARGS
      echo "$PHP_CGI_NAME."
stop() {
      echo -n "Stopping PHP FastCGI: "
      killall -q -w -u $USER $PHP_CGI
      echo "$PHP_CGI_NAME."

case "$1" in
      echo "Usage: php-fastcgi {start|stop|restart}"
      exit 1
exit $RETVAL

As Tomasz Sterna mentions, you will need to fiddle with the PHP_FCGI_CHILDREN and PHP_FCGI_MAX_REQUESTS variables depending on your server’s amount of memory and compute power. I am running a baseline 256 MB / 10 GB [IP_ADDRESS] so I use the following settings which seem to work very well (as seen above):


Moving on … after you’ve created and saved the file we will make it executable and then start up the FastCGI service with the following commands:

chmod +x /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi
/etc/init.d/php-fastcgi start

We will want the service to auto start when we reboot our server, so we also do the following:

update-rc.d php-fastcgi defaults

Installing Nginx

Installing Nginx is easy, use the following commands to install and then start up the Nginx server.

apt-get install nginx
/etc/init.d/nginx start

After installing Nginx, it will be automatically configured to start when we reboot our server (unlike the PHP FastCGI service we had to setup), so we are all set.

Testing Nginx and PHP

At this point we can see that Nginx is working by typing the server’s IP address into a web browser (http://[IP_ADDRESS]/). You should get a “Welcome to nginx!” message.

Now lets test PHP, we will create a generic phpinfo.php file with the following:

echo "<?php phpinfo(); ?>" > /var/www/nginx-default/phpinfo.php

/var/www/nginx-default/ is the Nginx server default root directory…

If you use your browser to go to http://[IP_ADDRESS]/phpinfo.php,you will notice that it doesn’t work … before this will work, we have to enable FastCGI in the Nginx config file. Open up the following file:

vim /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

Find the following lines (scroll to line 47):

#location ~ .php$ {
	#fastcgi_index  index.php;
	#fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME  /scripts$fastcgi_script_name;

and change them to (removing the # character from each line, changing line 50 and adding a space between include and fastcgi_params on line 51):

location ~ .php$ {
	fastcgi_index  index.php;
	fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME  /var/www/nginx-default/$fastcgi_script_name;
	include fastcgi_params;

Now lets restart Nginx so our config changes will take effect:

/etc/init.d/nginx restart

Now use your web browser to go to http://[IP_ADDRESS]/phpinfo.php, you should see a PHP info page similar to the following:


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