There is a new version of this tutorial available for Debian 11 (Bullseye).

Installing Nginx With PHP5 And MySQL Support On Debian Lenny

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme

Nginx (pronounced "engine x") is a free, open-source, high-performance HTTP server. Nginx is known for its stability, rich feature set, simple configuration, and low resource consumption. This tutorial shows how you can install Nginx on a Debian Lenny server with PHP5 support (through FastCGI) and MySQL support.

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


1 Preliminary Note

In this tutorial I use the hostname with the IP address These settings might differ for you, so you have to replace them where appropriate.


2 Installing MySQL 5.0

In order to install MySQL, we run

aptitude install mysql-server mysql-client

You will be asked to provide a password for the MySQL root user - this password is valid for the user [email protected] as well as [email protected], so we don't have to specify a MySQL root password manually later on:

New password for the MySQL "root" user: <-- yourrootsqlpassword
Repeat password for the MySQL "root" user: <-- yourrootsqlpassword


3 Installing Nginx

Nginx is available as a package for Debian Lenny which we can install as follows:

aptitude install nginx

Start nginx afterwards:

/etc/init.d/nginx start

Type in your web server's IP address or hostname into a browser (e.g., and you should see the nginx welcome page:


4 Installing PHP5

We can make PHP5 work in nginx through FastCGI. Fortunately, Debian Lenny provides a FastCGI-enabled PHP5 package which we install like this (together with some PHP5 modules like php5-mysql which you need if you want to use MySQL from your PHP scripts):

aptitude install php5-cgi php5-mysql php5-curl php5-gd php5-idn php-pear php5-imagick php5-imap php5-mcrypt php5-memcache php5-mhash php5-ming php5-pspell php5-recode php5-snmp php5-sqlite php5-tidy php5-xmlrpc php5-xsl

Then open /etc/php5/cgi/php.ini and add the line cgi.fix_pathinfo = 1 right at the end of the file:

vi /etc/php5/cgi/php.ini
cgi.fix_pathinfo = 1

There's no standalone FastCGI daemon package for Debian Lenny, therefore we use the spawn-fcgi program from lighttpd. We install lighttpd as follows:

aptitude install lighttpd

You will see an error message saying that lighttpd can't start because port 80 is already in use:

Starting web server: lighttpd2009-03-19 15:58:09: (network.c.300) can't bind to port: 80 Address already in use

That's how it's supposed to be because nginx is already listening on port 80. Run

update-rc.d -f lighttpd remove

so that lighttpd will not start at boot time.

We've installed lighttpd because we need just one program that comes with the package, /usr/bin/spawn-fcgi, which we can use to start FastCGI processes. Take a look at

spawn-fcgi --help

to learn more about it.

To start a PHP FastCGI daemon listening on port 9000 on localhost and running as the user and group www-data, we run the following command:

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

Of course, you don't want to type in that command manually whenever you boot the system, so to have the system execute the command automatically at boot time, open /etc/rc.local...

vi /etc/rc.local

... and add the command at the end of the file (before the exit line):

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


5 Configuring nginx

The nginx configuration is in /etc/nginx/nginx.conf which we open now:

vi /etc/nginx/nginx.conf

The configuration is easy to understand (you can learn more about it here: and here:

First (this is optional) increase the number of worker processes and set the keepalive_timeout to a reasonable value:

worker_processes  5;
    keepalive_timeout   2;

The virtual hosts are defined in server {} containers. The default vhost is defined in the file /etc/nginx/sites-available/default - let's modify it as follows:

vi /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
server {
        listen   80;
        server_name  _;

        access_log  /var/log/nginx/localhost.access.log;

        location / {
                root   /var/www/nginx-default;
                index  index.php index.html index.htm;

        location /doc {
                root   /usr/share;
                autoindex on;
                deny all;

        location /images {
                root   /usr/share;
                autoindex on;

        #error_page  404  /404.html;

        # redirect server error pages to the static page /50x.html
        error_page   500 502 503 504  /50x.html;
        location = /50x.html {
                root   /var/www/nginx-default;

        # proxy the PHP scripts to Apache listening on
        #location ~ \.php$ {

        # pass the PHP scripts to FastCGI server listening on
        location ~ \.php$ {
                fastcgi_index  index.php;
                fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME  /var/www/nginx-default$fastcgi_script_name;
                include        fastcgi_params;

        # deny access to .htaccess files, if Apache's document root
        # concurs with nginx's one
        location ~ /\.ht {
                deny  all;

server_name _; makes this a default catchall vhost (of course, you can as well specify a hostname here like

In the location / part, I've added index.php to the index line. root /var/www/nginx-default; means that the document root is the directory /var/www/nginx-default.

The important part for PHP is the location ~ \.php$ {} stanza. Uncomment it to enable it. Please make sure that you change the fastcgi_param line to fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME /var/www/nginx-default$fastcgi_script_name; (replace /var/www/nginx-default with your vhost's document root) because otherwise the PHP interpreter won't find the PHP script that you call in your browser.

Make sure that there are some spaces between include and fastcgi_params; - in the default file this is written as one word which is a bug.

Now save the file and restart nginx:

/etc/init.d/nginx restart

Now create the following PHP file in the document root /var/www/nginx-default:

vi /var/www/nginx-default/info.php

Now we call that file in a browser (e.g.

As you see, PHP5 is working, and it's working through FastCGI, as shown in the Server API line. If you scroll further down, you will see all modules that are already enabled in PHP5, including the MySQL module:


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8 Comment(s)

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By: D Mobius

I know this is old, but man, why do people keep insisting on installing spawn-fcgi from lighty? The whole idea here is to use nginx, and now we're cribbing from lighty. Worse yet, it's totally unnecessary!

php -b will do the SAME thing as spawn-fcgi, without having to install two webservers. Want that to happen automatically? try an init script:



"We've installed lighttpd because we need just one program that comes with the package..."

you should have known you'd gone wrong right about here (:

By: ym


i use command: aptitude install phpmyadmin or apt-get install phpmyadmin to install phpmyadmin,but i failed.why?can u install it yourself to see if u are successful??

expecting ur reply

By: alemaster

#spawn-fcgi setup

cd /usr/local/bin

tar zxvf spawn-fcgi-1.6.2.tar.gz
cd spawn-fcgi-1.6.2
make install

which spawn-fcgi
#returned: /usr/local/bin/spawn-fcgi
which php-cgi
#returned: /usr/bin/php-cgi

#for help run for spawning
/usr/local/bin/spawn-fcgi --help

#SPAWN it:
/usr/local/bin/spawn-fcgi -a -p 9000 -u www-data -g www-data -f /usr/bin/php-cgi -P /var/run/

#add it to the start up
vi /etc/rc.local
#add the following line to the end of file
/usr/local/bin/spawn-fcgi -a -p 9000 -u www-data -g www-data -f /usr/bin/php-cgi -P /var/run/

By: Anonymous


Why do you use 5 worker processes? It is recommended to use one worker per CPU Core, and I do not believe that you have a 5 Core CPU.


By: thaicla

I use your nginx for lenny and it's work!

I used many config from several website but it's can't work. I very headache.

I bookmarked this page. Woo Hoooo  

Thanks you,


By: CarbUncle

Quoting nginx official website : :

"The solution is to set cgi.fix_pathinfo=0 in the php.ini file"

Side note : Adding cgi.fix_pathinfo=1 has no effects since it is the php default setting:

; cgi.fix_pathinfo provides *real* PATH_INFO/PATH_TRANSLATED support for CGI. PHP's ; previous behaviour was to set PATH_TRANSLATED to SCRIPT_FILENAME, and to not grok ; what PATH_INFO is. For more information on PATH_INFO, see the cgi specs. Setting ; this to 1 will cause PHP CGI to fix it's paths to conform to the spec. A setting ; of zero causes PHP to behave as before. Default is 1. You should fix your scripts ; to use SCRIPT_FILENAME rather than PATH_TRANSLATED.

By: r00t

A note on spawn-fcgi. I used that tutorial on an ubuntu 10.04 system. I noticed that when i runned,

ab -c100 -n2000

 with the configuration above, spawn-fcgi stopped working, before the test ended, spawn-fcgi crushed. When i opened the same url on my browser i saw "Bad Gateway" (or something like that
don't remember exaclty)  nginx error. The conclution i made was that somehow it crushed. I tried that many times and i had the same error. The same command with apache on the same server (i had apache runnung on 81 port) had no problem at all.

 The same when i used apache as a reverse proxy, still no problems. But i didn't want apache, so i tried to find something else, and i found this: and i tried it, no problems at all.

 Then i saw the comment here with the php -b followed the link provided and tried the Unix Socket trick, worked x2-x4 faster than any other configuration. So i really reccomend that configuration to anyone want's to use nginx.

By: Queti Nporta

This is not working. After making exactly what you've written here, php ends not working at all.