compiling php from source

Revision as of 09:17, 25 October 2011 by Howard Miller (talk | contribs) (Obtaining and building PHP)

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Note: You are currently viewing documentation for Moodle 3.1. Up-to-date documentation for the latest stable version of Moodle is probably available here: compiling php from source.

This page shows you how to build PHP from source on Ubuntu or other Debian based distributions. It could no doubt be used as a basis for compiling PHP on other Unix or Linux systems.

It is possible that you may need to do this because the latest versions of Moodle require reasonably new versions of PHP which may not be supported by the packages in your version of PHP - especially "long term support" versions.

This discussion was based on Ubuntu 10.04 which (at the time of writing) is the latest Ubuntu LTS. It does not carry a new enough PHP version for Moodle 2.1.


It is assumed that you will have a basic install of Ubuntu (10.04 in this case) without (specifically) PHP installed and possibly no Apache web server either. If you already have PHP installed (as a package) you will need to remove it first:

sudo apt-get remove php5

Apache web server

You can either install Apache from the Ubuntu packages (recommended) or compile it from source. Compiling from source is simple but you end up (using default settings) with a directory structure that is completely different from the Ubuntu packaged version. This is not covered further here.

To install the package version, it's just

sudo apt-get install apache2 apache2-dev

The -dev package is required in order to build PHP.

Obtaining additional libraries

Moodle requires a significant number of optional PHP modules. Many of these require development libraries to be available on the system before PHP is compiled. This aspect is what makes building PHP from source tricky. If you would like a challenge, all of these can be downloaded as source packages and built from scratch but it is much easier to use the packaged versions. They are installed as follows...

sudo apt-get install \
    libxml2-dev \
    libcurl4-openssl-dev \
    libjpeg-dev \
    libpng-dev \
    libxpm-dev \
    libmysqlclient-dev \
    libpq-dev \
    libicu-dev \
    libfreetype6-dev \
    libldap2-dev \

Build environment

Ubuntu does not have all the compilers, linkers and libraries you need in a standard installation. If you have not compiled anything from source before this can be fixed by a single command...

sudo apt-get install build-essential

Note that the above includes the clients for both the MySQL and PostgreSQL databases. You may not want to install both. You may need to include other libraries if you add further options to your PHP build. A Google search involving your Ubuntu version, the function and the word 'lbrary' or 'development' will often turn up the correct package name.

Obtaining and building PHP

The latest version can be downloaded from At the time of writing, this was 5.3.8 but new versions come out quite regularly. This should download as a .tar.gz file (e.g. php-5.3.0.tar.gz). Place this in a suitable location in (probably) your home folder and unpack the file.

tar -zxvf php-5.x.y.tar.gz
cd php-5.x.y 

The next step is to run the 'configure' program. This digs around your system and creates specific make files based on your particular configuration. It also specified all the optional modules that will be compiled in. The minimum for Moodle 2 (and 1.9) is as follows...

./configure \
  --prefix=/usr/local/php \
  --with-apxs2=/usr/local/apache/bin/apxs \
  --enable-mbstring \
  --with-curl \
  --with-openssl \
  --with-xmlrpc \
  --enable-soap \
  --enable-zip \
  --with-gd \
  --with-jpeg-dir \
  --with-png-dir \
  --with-mysql \
  --with-pgsql \
  --enable-embedded-mysqli \
  --with-freetype-dir \
  --with-ldap \
  --enable-intl \

If you have special requirements you may need others. To get the full list of possibilities you can do...

./configure --help

This should complete without errors and finishes with an obvious copyright notice in a box. If you do get errors, it is most likely to be due to missing libraries. Make sure you have added all the libraries described above (with apt-get). Failing that, Google is your friend.

Once that bit is done, it's time to do the actual compiling and linking. Simply do...

This (depending on how fast your machine is) will take some time and will end up with the phrase
Build complete