How To Install and Configure GitLab on Ubuntu 16.04
How To Install and Configure GitLab on Ubuntu 16.04
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How To Install and Configure GitLab on Ubuntu 16.04

UpdatedJanuary 24, 2018 171.3k views Applications Git Ubuntu Ubuntu 16.04


GitLab CE, or Community Edition, is an open source application primarily used to host Git repositories, with additional development-related features like issue tracking. It is designed to be hosted using your own infrastructure, and provides flexibility in deploying as an internal repository store for your development team, publicly as a way to interface with users, or even open as a way for contributors to host their own projects.

The GitLab project makes it relatively straight forward to set up a GitLab instance on your own hardware with an easy installation mechanism. In this guide, we will cover how to install and configure GitLab on an Ubuntu 16.04 server.


This tutorial will assume that you have access to a fresh Ubuntu 16.04 server. The published GitLab hardware requirements recommend using a server with:

  • 2 cores
  • 4GB of RAM

Although you may be able to get by with substituting some swap space for RAM, it is not recommended. For this guide we will assume that you have the above resources as a minimum.

In order to get started, you will need a non-root user with sudo access configured on the server. It is also a good idea to set up a basic firewall to provide an additional layer of security. You can follow the steps in our Ubuntu 16.04 initial server setup guide to get this setup.

When you have satisfied the above prerequisites, continue on to start the installation procedure.

Installing the Dependencies

Before we can install GitLab itself, it is important to install some of the software that it leverages during installation and on an ongoing basis. Fortunately, all of the required software can be easily installed from Ubuntu's default package repositories.

Since this is our first time using apt during this session, we can refresh the local package index and then install the dependencies by typing:

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get install ca-certificates curl openssh-server postfix

You will likely have some of this software installed already. For the postfix installation, select Internet Site when prompted. On the next screen, enter your server's domain name or IP address to configure how the system will send mail.

Installing GitLab

Now that the dependencies are in place, we can install GitLab itself. This is a straight forward process that leverages an installation script to configure your system with the GitLab repositories.

Move into the /tmp directory and then download the installation script:

  • cd /tmp
  • curl -LO

Feel free to examine the downloaded script to ensure that you are comfortable with the actions that it will take. You can also find a hosted version of the script here:

  • less /tmp/

Once you are satisfied with the safety of the script, run the installer:

  • sudo bash /tmp/

The script will set up your server to use the GitLab maintained repositories. This lets you manage GitLab with the same package management tools you use for your other system packages. Once this is complete, you can install the actual GitLab application with apt:

  • sudo apt-get install gitlab-ce

This will install the necessary components on your system.

Adjusting the Firewall Rules

Before you configure GitLab, you will need to ensure that your firewall rules are permissive enough to allow web traffic. If you followed the guide linked in the prerequisites, you will have a ufw firewall enabled.

View the current status of your active firewall by typing:

  • sudo ufw status
Status: active To Action From -- ------ ---- OpenSSH ALLOW Anywhere OpenSSH (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6)

As you can see, the current rules allow SSH traffic through, but access to other services is restricted. Since GitLab is a web application, we should allow HTTP access in. If you have a domain name associated with your GitLab server, GitLab can also request and enable a free TLS/SSL certificate from the Let's Encrypt project to secure your installation. We'll want to allow HTTPS access as well in this case.

Since the protocol to port mapping for HTTP and HTTPS are available in the /etc/services file, we can allow that traffic in by name. If you didn't already have OpenSSH traffic enabled, you should allow that traffic now too:

  • sudo ufw allow http
  • sudo ufw allow https
  • sudo ufw allow OpenSSH

If you check the ufw status command again, you should see access configured to at least these two services:

  • sudo ufw status
Status: active To Action From -- ------ ---- OpenSSH ALLOW Anywhere 80 ALLOW Anywhere 443 ALLOW Anywhere OpenSSH (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6) 80 (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6) 443 (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6)

The above output indicates that the GitLab web interface will be accessible once we configure the application.

Editing the GitLab Configuration File

Before you can use the application, you need update one configuration file and run a reconfiguration command. First, open Gitlab's configuration file:

  • sudo nano /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb

Near the top is the external_url configuration line. Update it to match your own domain or IP address. If you have a domain, change http to https so that GitLab will automatically redirect users to the site protected by the Let's Encrypt certificate we will be requesting.

# If your GitLab server does not have a domain name, you will need to use an IP
# address instead of a domain and keep the protocol as `http`.
external_url 'https://yourdomain'

Next, if your GitLab server has a domain name, search the file for the letsencrypt['enable'] setting. Uncomment the line and set it to true. This will tell GitLab to request a Let's Encrypt certificate for your GitLab domain and configure the application to serve traffic with it.

Below that, look for the letsencrypt['contact_emails'] setting. This setting defines a list of email addresses that the Let's Encrypt project can use to contact you if there are problems with your domain. It's a good idea to uncomment and fill this out too so that you will know of any issues:

letsencrypt['enable'] = true
letsencrypt['contact_emails'] = ['']

Save and close the file. Now, run the following command to reconfigure Gitlab:

  • sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure

This will initialize GitLab using information it can find about your server. This is a completely automated process, so you will not have to answer any prompts. If you enabled the Let's Encrypt integration, a certificate should be configured for your domain.

Performing Initial Configuration Through the Web Interface

Now that GitLab is running and access is permitted, we can perform some initial configuration of the application through the web interface.

Logging In for the First Time

Visit the domain name of your GitLab server in your web browser:


If you enabled Let's Encrypt and used https in your external_url, you should be redirected to a secure HTTPS connection.

On your first time visiting, you should see an initial prompt to set a password for the administrative account:

GitLab initial password set prompt

In the initial password prompt, supply and confirm a secure password for the administrative account. Click on the Change your password button when you are finished.

You will be redirected to the conventional GitLab login page:

GitLab first sign in prompt

Here, you can log in with the password you just set. The credentials are:

  • Username: root
  • Password: [the password you set]

Enter these values into the fields for existing users and click the Sign in button. You will be signed into the application and taken to a landing page that prompts you to begin adding projects:

GitLab initial login landing page

You can now make some simple changes to get GitLab set up the way you'd like.

Adjusting your Profile Settings

One of the first things that you should do after a fresh installation is to get your profile into better shape. GitLab selects some reasonable defaults, but these are not usually appropriate once you start using the software.

To make the necessary modifications, click on the user icon in the upper-right hand corner of the interface. In the drop down menu that appears, select Settings:

GitLab profile settings button

You will be taken to the Profile section of your settings:

GitLab profile settings page

Adjust the Name and Email address from "Administrator" and "" to something more accurate. The name you select will be displayed to other users, while the email will be used for default avatar detection, notifications, Git actions through the interface, etc.

Click on the Update Profile settings button at the bottom when you are done:

GitLab update profile settings button

A confirmation email will be sent to the address you provided. Follow the instructions in the email to confirm your account so that you can begin using it with GitLab.

Changing Your Account Name

Next, click on the Account item in the left-hand menu bar:

GitLab account menu item

Here, you can find your private API token or configure two-factor authentication. However, the functionality we are interested in at the moment is the Change username section.

By default, the first administrative account is given the name root. Since this is a known account name, its more secure to change this a different name. You will still have administrative privileges; the only thing that will change is the name:

GitLab change username section

Click on the Update username button to make the change:

GitLab update username button

Next time you log in to the GitLab, remember to use your new username.

Adding an SSH Key to your Account

In most cases, you will want to use SSH keys with Git to interact with your GitLab projects. To do this, you need to add your SSH public key to your GitLab account.

If you already have an SSH key pair created on your local computer, you can usually view the public key by typing:

  • cat ~/.ssh/

You should see a large chunk of text, like this:

ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDMuyMtMl6aWwqBCvQx7YXvZd7bCFVDsyln3yh5/8Pu23LW88VXfJgsBvhZZ9W0rPBGYyzE/TDzwwITvVQcKrwQrvQlYxTVbqZQDlmsC41HnwDfGFXg+QouZemQ2YgMeHfBzy+w26/gg480nC2PPNd0OG79+e7gFVrTL79JA/MyePBugvYqOAbl30h7M1a7EHP3IV5DQUQg4YUq49v4d3AvM0aia4EUowJs0P/j83nsZt8yiE2JEYR03kDgT/qziPK7LnVFqpFDSPC3MR3b8B354E9Af4C/JHgvglv2tsxOyvKupyZonbyr68CqSorO2rAwY/jWFEiArIaVuDiR9YM5 sammy@mydesktop

Copy this text and head back to the Profile Settings page in GitLab's web interface.

If, instead, you get a message that looks like this, you do not yet have an SSH key pair configured on your machine:

cat: /home/sammy/.ssh/ No such file or directory

If this is the case, you can create an SSH key pair by typing:

  • ssh-keygen

Accept the defaults and optionally provide a password to secure the key locally:

Generating public/private rsa key pair. Enter file in which to save the key (/home/sammy/.ssh/id_rsa): Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): Enter same passphrase again: Your identification has been saved in /home/sammy/.ssh/id_rsa. Your public key has been saved in /home/sammy/.ssh/ The key fingerprint is: SHA256:I8v5/M5xOicZRZq/XRcSBNxTQV2BZszjlWaIHi5chc0 The key's randomart image is: +---[RSA 2048]----+ | ..%o==B| | *.E =.| | . ++= B | | ooo.o . | | . S .o . .| | . + .. . o| | + .o.o ..| | o .++o . | | oo=+ | +----[SHA256]-----+

Once you have this, you can display your public key as above by typing:

  • cat ~/.ssh/
ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDMuyMtMl6aWwqBCvQx7YXvZd7bCFVDsyln3yh5/8Pu23LW88VXfJgsBvhZZ9W0rPBGYyzE/TDzwwITvVQcKrwQrvQlYxTVbqZQDlmsC41HnwDfGFXg+QouZemQ2YgMeHfBzy+w26/gg480nC2PPNd0OG79+e7gFVrTL79JA/MyePBugvYqOAbl30h7M1a7EHP3IV5DQUQg4YUq49v4d3AvM0aia4EUowJs0P/j83nsZt8yiE2JEYR03kDgT/qziPK7LnVFqpFDSPC3MR3b8B354E9Af4C/JHgvglv2tsxOyvKupyZonbyr68CqSorO2rAwY/jWFEiArIaVuDiR9YM5 sammy@mydesktop

Copy the block of text that's displayed and head back to your Profile Settings in GitLab's web interface.

Click on the SSH Keys item in the left-hand menu:

GitLab SSH Keys menu item

In the provided space paste the public key you copied from your local machine. Give it a descriptive title, and click the Add key button:

GitLab add SSH Key

You should now be able to manage your GitLab projects and repositories from your local machine without having to provide your GitLab account credentials.

Restricting or Disabling Public Sign-ups (Optional)

You may have noticed that it is possible for anyone to sign up for an account when you visit your GitLab instance's landing page. This may be what you want if you are looking to host public project. However, many times, more restrictive settings are desirable.

To begin, make your way to the administrative area by clicking on the wrench icon in the main menu bar at the top of the page:

GitLab administrative area button

On the page that follows, you can see an overview of your GitLab instance as a whole. To adjust the settings, click on the Settings item at the bottom of the left-hand menu.

GitLab administrative settings button

You will be taken to the global settings for your GitLab instance. Here, you can adjust a number of settings that affect whether new users can sign up and what their level of access will be.

Disabling Sign-ups

If you wish to disable sign-ups completely (you can still manually create accounts for new users), scroll down to the Sign-up Restrictions section.

Deselect the Sign-up enabled check box:

GitLab deselect sign-ups enabled

Scroll down to the bottom and click on the Save button:

GitLab save settings button

The sign-up section should now be removed from the GitLab landing page.

Restricting Sign-ups By Domain

If you are using GitLab as part of an organization that provides email addresses associated with a domain, you can restrict sign-ups by domain instead of completely disabling them.

In the Sign-up Restrictions section, first select the Send confirmation email on sign-up box only allow users to log in after they've confirmed their email.

Next, add your domain or domains to the Whitelisted domains for sign-ups box, one per line. You can use the asterisk "*" to specify wildcard domains:

GitLab restrict sign-ups by domain

Scroll down to the bottom and click on the Save button:

GitLab save settings button

The sign-up section should now be removed from the GitLab landing page.

Restricting Project Creation

By default, new users can create up to 10 projects. If you wish to allow new users from the outside for visibility and participation, but want to restrict their access to creating new projects, you can do so in the Account and Limit Settings section.

Inside, you can change the Default projects limit to 0 to completely disable new users from creating projects:

GitLab set projects to zero

New users can still be added to projects manually and will have access to internal or public projects created by other users.

Scroll down to the bottom and click on the Save button:

GitLab save settings button

New users will now be able to create accounts, but unable to create projects.

Creating a Cron Job To Automatically Renew Let's Encrypt Certificates

By design, Let's Encrypt certificates are only valid for 90 days. If you enabled Let's Encrypt for your GitLab domain earlier, you will need to ensure that your certificates are renewed on a regular basis to avoid service interruptions. GitLab provides the gitlab-ctl renew-le-certs command to request new certificates when your current assets approach their expiration.

To automate this process, we can create a cron job to automatically run this command on a regular basis. The command will only renew the certificate when it's close to expiring, so we can safely run it regularly.

To begin, create and open a file at /etc/cron.daily/gitlab-le in your text editor:

  • sudo nano /etc/cron.daily/gitlab-le

Inside, paste the following script:


set -e

/usr/bin/gitlab-ctl renew-le-certs > /dev/null

Save and close the file when you are finished.

Mark the file as executable by typing:

  • sudo chmod +x /etc/cron.daily/gitlab-le

Now, GitLab should automatically check each day if its Let's Encrypt certificate needs to be renewed. If it does, the command will renew the certificate automatically.


You should now have a working GitLab instance hosted on your own server. You can begin to import or create new projects and configure the appropriate level of access for your team. GitLab is regularly adding features and making updates to their platform, so be sure to check out the project's home page to stay up-to-date on any improvements or important notices.


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