Running Contao 3.x On Nginx (LEMP) On Debian Wheezy/Ubuntu 12.10

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme
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This tutorial shows how you can install and run a Contao 3.x web site on a Debian Wheezy or Ubuntu 12.10 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 this tutorial:

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

Reload PHP-FPM as follows:

/etc/init.d/php5-fpm reload


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
wget -O contao-3.0.3.tar.gz
tar xvfz contao-3.0.3.tar.gz
cd contao-3.0.3/
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;
                rewrite "^/[a-z]{2}/$" /index.php break;
                rewrite "^/([a-z]{2})$" /$1/ redirect;

       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_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
                fastcgi_index index.php;
                fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
                fastcgi_intercept_errors on;

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:

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