How To Install Nginx on Debian 8

Published on July 9, 2015
Default avatar

By Alvin Wan

AI PhD Student @ UC Berkeley

How To Install Nginx on Debian 8
Not using Debian 8?Choose a different version or distribution.
Debian 8


Nginx is an popular HTTP-server alternative to Apache2. It can be used as a reverse proxy, mail server, or web server. According to the Netcraft survey as of July 2015, Nginx currently holds 14% of the market and has had an increasing trend since 2007.

In this guide, we will install Nginx on your Debian 8 server.


To follow this tutorial, you will need:

  • One fresh Debian 8.1 Droplet
  • A sudo non-root user, which you can setup by following steps 2 and 3 of this tutorial

Unless otherwise noted, all of the commands in this tutorial should be run as a non-root user with sudo privileges.

Step 1 — Install Nginx

In this step, we will use a built-in package installer called apt-get. It simplifies management drastically and facilitates a clean installation.

As part of the prerequisites, you should have updated the apt package index with apt-get and installed the sudo package. Unlike other Linux distributions, Debian 8 does not come with sudo installed.

Nginx is the aforementioned HTTP server, focused on handling large loads with low memory usage. To install it, run the following command:

  1. sudo apt-get install nginx

For information on the differences between Nginx and Apache2, the two most popular open-source web servers, see this article.

Step 2 — Test Your Web Server

In this step, we will test that your Nginx server is accessible.

In a web browser, access http://your_server_ip, replacing your_server_ip with the IP address of your server. You should see the default Nginx page, confirming that server is up and running.

Nginx Default Page on Debian 8

If you do not have access to a web browser, you can still test your server from the command line. It is best to test it from a different system to make sure your website is visible to the outside world. Issue the command:

  1. curl your_server_ip

You should see the following HTML output.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>Welcome to nginx on Debian!</title>
    body {
        width: 35em;
        margin: 0 auto;
        font-family: Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;
<h1>Welcome to nginx on Debian!</h1>
<p>If you see this page, the nginx web server is successfully installed and
working on Debian. Further configuration is required.</p>

<p>For online documentation and support please refer to
<a href="http://nginx.org/">nginx.org</a></p>

      Please use the <tt>reportbug</tt> tool to report bugs in the
      nginx package with Debian. However, check <a
      bug reports</a> before reporting a new bug.

<p><em>Thank you for using debian and nginx.</em></p>


An error would have looked like the following. You should not see this.

curl: (52) Empty reply from server

Step 3 — Manage the Nginx Process

Now that you have your web server up and running, we can go over some basic management commands.

To stop your web server, you can type:

  1. sudo systemctl stop nginx

To start the web server when it is stopped, type:

  1. sudo systemctl start nginx

To stop and then start the service again, type:

  1. sudo systemctl restart nginx

If you are simply making configuration changes, Nginx can often reload without dropping connections. To do this, this command can be used:

  1. sudo systemctl reload nginx

We can make sure that our web server will restart automatically when the server is rebooted by typing:

  1. sudo systemctl enable nginx

To test that this configuration works, restart your server.

  1. sudo shutdown -r now

Then logout, as the server is now restarting.

After a minute or two, you may repeat Step 2 to test that your web server starts on reboot.

Server Root and Configuration

If you want to start serving your own pages or application through Nginx, you will want to know the locations of the Nginx configuration files and default server root directory.

Default Server Root

The default server root directory is /var/www/html. Files that are placed in this directory will be served on your web server. This location is specified in the default server block configuration file that ships with Nginx, which is located at /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default.

Server Block Configuration

Any additional server blocks, known as Virtual Hosts in Apache, can be added by creating new configuration files in /etc/nginx/sites-available. To activate these configurations, create a symbolic link to /etc/nginx/sites-enabled, using the following:

  1. sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/site /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/site

All configuration files in the sites-enabled directory will be loaded by Nginx.

Nginx Global Configuration

The main Nginx configuration file is located at /etc/nginx/nginx.conf. This is where you can change settings like the user that runs the Nginx daemon processes, and the number of worker processes that get spawned when Nginx is running, among other things.


Now that you have your web server installed, you have many options for the type of content to serve and the technologies you want to use to create a richer experience.

You may also want to explore additional options to secure your server. Remember that it is now open to the world wide web and is extremely vulnerable.

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About the authors
Default avatar
Alvin Wan


AI PhD Student @ UC Berkeley

I’m a diglot by definition, lactose intolerant by birth but an ice-cream lover at heart. Call me wabbly, witling, whatever you will, but I go by Alvin

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Tammy Fox


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“You may also want to explore additional options to secure your server. Remember that it is now open to the world wide web and is extremely vulnerable.”

You should include links to more writeups. … for a friend. :)

“Remember that it is now open to the world wide web and is extremely vulnerable.”

How vulnerable the server is if we just install nginx and leave it serving the default ‘welcome’ page? What kind of attacks it can suffer?

This comment has been deleted

    Probably useful to note that the sudo update-rc.d nginx defaults step is already the default

    I am confuse! in debian 7 have than do:

    […] server { listen 80;

        root /usr/share/nginx/www;
        index index.php index.html index.htm;   ///add index. php
        server_name example.com;  ///add ip of our VPS in exem.. 
        location / {
                try_files $uri $uri/ /index.html;
        error_page 404 /404.html;
        error_page 500 502 503 504 /50x.html;
        location = /50x.html {
              root /usr/share/nginx/www;
        # pass the PHP scripts to FastCGI server listening on /var/run/php5-fpm.sock
        location ~ \.php$ {
                try_files $uri =404;        ///  add this
                fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;    ///add this
                fastcgi_index index.php;               //add this
                fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;  ///add thid
                include fastcgi_params;         ///add this

    } […] In Debian 8 we not need mahe this changes???

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