Installing Joomla 1.5.6 On A Lighttpd Web Server (Debian Etch)

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme

This guide explains how you can install Joomla 1.5.6 on a lighttpd web server on Debian Etch. Joomla comes with an .htaccess file with mod_rewrite rules (for Apache) (to enable search-engine friendly URLs) that do not work on lighttpd. Fortunately Joomla has a built-in method to make search-engine friendly URLs work on lighttpd as well.

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


1 Preliminary Note

I have tested this on a Debian Etch server where lighttpd and PHP5 are already installed and working (e.g. like in this tutorial). I'll use the hostname and the document root /var/www/web1/web (where I will install Joomla) with the user web1_admin and the group web1 in this tutorial for demonstration purposes. Of course, you can use any other vhost as well, but you might have to adjust your lighttpd.conf.


2 Creating The Document Root And the User/Group

If your document root and the web user/group don't already exist, you can create them as follows:

groupadd web1
useradd -s /bin/bash -d /var/www/web1 -m -g web1 web1_admin
passwd web1_admin

mkdir /var/www/web1/web
chown web1_admin:web1 /var/www/web1/web


3 Installing Prerequsites

The Joomla sources come as a zip file, so we must install unzip. In addition to that, Joomla needs an FTP server if the Joomla files are owned by another user/group than the web server is running as (user www-data, group www-data on Debian) to avoid permission problems when Joomla tries to change its configuration file. Because I want to use the user web1_admin and the group web1 for the Joomla web site, I must install an FTP server (e.g. ProFTPd) as well (you don't have to do this if you already have a working FTP server on the system).

apt-get install unzip proftpd


4 Configuring Lighttpd And PHP

Because I want to install Joomla in /var/www/web1/web and not in the default document root /var/www, I open /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf and change server.document-root; in addition to that I add a directive for server.error-handler-404 (I want to run only this Joomla web site on the server, so I can change this in the global configuration - if you're using virtual hosts, you must adjust your vhost configuration instead):

vi /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf

## a static document-root, for virtual-hosting take look at the
## server.virtual-* options
server.document-root       = "/var/www/web1/web/"
server.error-handler-404 = "/index.php"

Restart lighttpd afterwards:

/etc/init.d/lighttpd restart

Next we open /etc/php5/cgi/php.ini and set display_errors to Off:

vi /etc/php5/cgi/php.ini

display_errors = Off

We restart lighttpd again:

/etc/init.d/lighttpd restart


5 Installing Joomla 1.5.6

We can install Joomla 1.5.6 to /var/www/web1/web as follows:

cd /var/www/web1/web
chown -R web1_admin:web1 *
touch configuration.php
chown www-data:www-data configuration.php
chmod 644 configuration.php

Then we log in to MySQL...

mysql -u root -p

... and create a Joomla database (I name it joomla) and a database user for that database (I name it joomlauser and use the password password for it - please use a password of your choice on your installation):

GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON joomla.* TO [email protected] IDENTIFIED BY 'password';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON joomla.* TO [email protected] IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

Next open a browser and go to to start Joomla's installation wizard. Select your language and click on Next:

In the next step Joomla checks if your server fulfills all requirements. Click on Next (unless you see something red on that page):

Click on Next to accept the license:

Now fill in the database details and click on Next:

Falko Timme

About Falko Timme

Falko Timme is an experienced Linux administrator and founder of Timme Hosting, a leading nginx business hosting company in Germany. He is one of the most active authors on HowtoForge since 2005 and one of the core developers of ISPConfig since 2000. He has also contributed to the O'Reilly book "Linux System Administration".

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There was a wave of Joomla 1.5 break-ins due to a critical security flaw. Every site running on Joomla < 1.5.7 can be in dander so You have to update to at least 1.5.7.

By: Holiday home web design

Thanks for this. I still have nightmares about my first attempt to install Joomla on my private LAMP server.
Great tutorial.