Install Moodle On Ubuntu with Nginx/PHP-fpm

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from lighttpd/php-fpm

Moving from a fully-functional lighttpd/php-fpm setup to nginx/php-fpm is fairly easy. The only trick is to pass the right values as fastcgi parameters.

If your current setup requires cgi.fix_pathinfo=1 you should set the SCRIPT_FILENAME parameter in nginx as follows:

fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME    $document_root$fastcgi_script_name$fastcgi_path_info;

Without the above you'll probably have some issues with missing images and css styling.

From scratch

This is a starting guide to install Moodle with Nginx/PHP-fpm/Postgres on the latest Ubuntu LTS. It is important to take note that Moodle is heavily tested in an Apache2 environment, not in a nginx environment. This document is for people having previously installed a Moodle site and a Ubuntu distribution, and having some basic knowledge of Linux command lines (vim, linux permissions, compiling, etc.).


sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install python-software-properties
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nginx/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nginx
sudo mkdir -p /home/nginx/localhost/{public,private,log,backup}
sudo mkdir /etc/nginx/server.conf.d

sudo vim /etc/nginx/server.conf.d/php.conf

# This code was found here :
# Thanks to KBeezie !!!
# It makes this configuration to be Moodle 2.x compliant ;)
fastcgi_intercept_errors on;
# this will allow Nginx to intercept 4xx/5xx error codes
# Nginx will only intercept if there are error page rules defined
# -- This is better placed in the http {} block as a default
# -- so that in the case of wordpress, you can turn it off specifically
# -- in that virtual host's server block
location ~ \.php {
fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(/.+)$;
# A handy function that became available in 0.7.31 that breaks down
# The path information based on the provided regex expression
# This is handy for requests such as file.php/some/paths/here/
fastcgi_param PATH_INFO $fastcgi_path_info;
fastcgi_param PATH_TRANSLATED $document_root$fastcgi_path_info;
fastcgi_param QUERY_STRING $query_string;
fastcgi_param REQUEST_METHOD $request_method;
fastcgi_param CONTENT_TYPE $content_type;
fastcgi_param CONTENT_LENGTH $content_length;
fastcgi_param SCRIPT_NAME $fastcgi_script_name;
fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
fastcgi_param REQUEST_URI $request_uri;
fastcgi_param DOCUMENT_URI $document_uri;
fastcgi_param DOCUMENT_ROOT $document_root;
fastcgi_param SERVER_PROTOCOL $server_protocol;
fastcgi_param GATEWAY_INTERFACE CGI/1.1;
fastcgi_param SERVER_SOFTWARE nginx;
fastcgi_param REMOTE_ADDR $remote_addr;
fastcgi_param REMOTE_PORT $remote_port;
fastcgi_param SERVER_ADDR $server_addr;
fastcgi_param SERVER_PORT $server_port;
fastcgi_param SERVER_NAME $server_name;
fastcgi_pass; # this value depends on your configuration, can be unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock; for example
fastcgi_index index.php;

sudo vim /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

server {
root /home/nginx/localhost/public;
index index.html index.htm index.php;
location / {
# First attempt to serve request as file, then
# as directory, then fall back to index.html
try_files $uri $uri/ /index.html;
include /etc/nginx/server.conf.d/php.conf;

Postgres 9.0.3

sudo apt-get install autoconf2.13 libssl-dev libcurl4-gnutls-dev libjpeg62-dev libpng12-dev  libmysql++-dev libfreetype6-dev libt1-dev libc-client-dev libevent-dev libxml2-dev libtool libmcrypt-dev

Note: also required to compiling PHP.

cd /usr/local/src
sudo apt-get install build-essential libreadline6-dev zlib1g-dev
tar zxvf postgresql-9.0.3.tar.gz
cd postgresql-9.0.3
sudo make install
sudo vim /etc/profile
<code bash>
Add to the end of /etc/profile:
export PATH="/usr/local/pgsql/bin:${PATH}"
source /etc/profile
sudo adduser postgres
sudo mkdir /usr/local/pgsql/data
sudo chown postgres /usr/local/pgsql/data
sudo su postgres
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/initdb-E UTF8 -D /usr/local/pgsql/data
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/pg_ctl start -D /usr/local/pgsql/data
psql -U postgres
createdb -E UTF8 -O postgres -T template0 -U postgres moodle

PHP 5.3.3

Note: if you use postgres do not take PHP 5.3.5, pg_set_client_encoding() will crash with a http 500 error.

sudo apt-get install libltdl-dev
cd /usr/local/src
sudo wget -O php-5.3.3.tar.gz
tar zxvf php-5.3.3.tar.gz
cd php-5.3.3
./configure --enable-fpm --with-gd --with-mcrypt --enable-mbstring --with-openssl --with-jpeg-dir=/usr/lib --enable-gd-native-ttf --with-libxml-dir=/usr/lib --with-curl --enable-zip --enable-sockets --with-zlib --enable-exif --enable-ftp --with-iconv --with-gettext --enable-gd-native-ttf --with-t1lib=/usr --with-freetype-dir=/usr --prefix=/usr/local/php --with-fpm-user=www-data --with-fpm-group=www-data --with-pgsql=/usr/local/pgsql --enable-tokenizer --with-xmlrpc --enable-soap --enable-ctype

Note: this is to support postgres. TODO: intl extension is not enabled.

sudo make
sudo make install
sudo cp php.ini-production /usr/local/php/lib/php.ini
sudo chmod 644 /usr/local/php/lib/php.ini
sudo cp /usr/local/php/etc/php-fpm.conf.default /usr/local/php/etc/php-fpm.conf
sudo cp sapi/fpm/init.d.php-fpm /etc/init.d/php-fpm
sudo chmod 755 /etc/init.d/php-fpm
sudo update-rc.d -f php-fpm defaults
sudo touch /var/run/
sudo vim /etc/init.d/php-fpm

Change location of pid (remove ${prefix}) to:

sudo vim /usr/local/php/etc/php-fpm.conf

Changes these values

pid = /var/run/
error_log = /var/log/php-fpm.log

Uncomment the lines for:

pm.start_servers = 20
pm.min_spare_servers = 5
pm.max_spare_servers = 35
sudo service php-fpm start
sudo /etc/init.d/nginx restart
vim /home/nginx/localhost/public/index.php

Enter in:


Check if the site is available.


With APC, Moodle will be a lot faster.

sudo /usr/local/php/bin/pecl config-set php_ini /usr/local/php/lib/php.ini
sudo /usr/local/php/bin/pecl install apc
sudo vim /usr/local/php/lib/php.ini

Add (if not already existing):


Install Moodle into /home/nginx/localhost/public/. Note that it is recommended to install Git and to get the Moodle files with Git.

In the Moodle administration, disable 'slash arguments' (http://YOURMOODLESITE/admin/search.php?query=slashargument). Without disabling the 'slash arguments', you may notice that the admin setup page is missing the images and css styling. However, if you turn off slash arguments, then other things won't work, so really someone ought to work out what is wrong here and fix it.

If you cannot access the Admin interface, you can edit the database using a tool like phpMyAdmin.

1. Go to the table labeled 'mdl_config'

2. Browse to line 281 (line 309 in 2.5), and change the value of 'slasharguments' from 1 to 0

3. Use Control-F5 to fully refresh the setup page.

Workaround if the above steps don't work:

1. Empty the database and try the command line installation.

cd /var/www/YOURMOODLESITE/public/moodle
php /admin/cli/install.php

Enabling PHP errors in php.ini will help you diagnose any errors that may arise.

Use if you ran the cli install.php as root: chown www-data:www-data config.php

2. Go to your Moodle site and log in. It will ask you to fill in your email address, City and Country. Save the changes.

3. Go to http://YOURMOODLESITE/admin/search.php?query=slashargument and uncheck "Use slash arguments"

Note: some version of Internet Explorer will display the page CSS with slash arguments on, while Firefox, Chrome and IE10 will not.

More to do

There are still a lot more to do (setting up your domain name, establishing a maintenance plan, performance tweaking, security testing...). Be patient and have fun.

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