How To Install WordPress, Nginx, PHP, and Varnish on Ubuntu 12.04

How To Install WordPress, Nginx, PHP, and Varnish on Ubuntu 12.04

Status: Deprecated

This article covers a version of Ubuntu that is no longer supported. If you are currently operate a server running Ubuntu 12.04, we highly recommend upgrading or migrating to a supported version of Ubuntu:

Reason: Ubuntu 12.04 reached end of life (EOL) on April 28, 2017 and no longer receives security patches or updates. This guide is no longer maintained.

See Instead:
This guide might still be useful as a reference, but may not work on other Ubuntu releases. If available, we strongly recommend using a guide written for the version of Ubuntu you are using. You can use the search functionality at the top of the page to find a more recent version.

About Varnish

Varnish is an HTTP accelerator and a useful tool for speeding up a server, especially during a times when there is high traffic to a site. It works by redirecting visitors to static pages whenever possible and only drawing on the server itself if there is a need for an active process.


Before you start to work through this tutorial, there are a couple prerequisites. You will need a user with root privileges, the LEMP stack, and Wordpress already installed on your server.

You can run through a few of the previous tutorials to make sure that your server is up to speed:

  1. To create a user with sudo privileges, go through the third and fourth steps of the Initial Ubuntu Server Setup

  2. To install LEMP (linux, nginx, mysql, and php) stack, follow the steps in the LEMP Installation Tutorial.
    To install wordpress on your server, check out the instructions in the Wordpress Installation Tutorial

Step One—Install Varnish

Once you have all of the prerequisites needed to configure varnish with wordpress, you should go ahead and start the process to install Varnish.

The varnish site recommends installing the varnish package through their repository.

You can start that process by grabbing the repository:

sudo curl http://repo.varnish-cache.org/debian/GPG-key.txt | sudo apt-key add -

The next step is to add the repository to the list of apt sources. Go ahead and open up the file.

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Once inside the file, add the varnish repository to the list of sources.

deb http://repo.varnish-cache.org/ubuntu/ lucid varnish-3.0

Save and exit.

Finally, update apt-get and install varnish.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install varnish libvarnish-dev

Step Two—Configure Varnish

Once you have both nginx and varnish installed, you can start to configure them to ease the load on your virtual private server.

Varnish will serve the content on port 80, while fetching it from nginx which will run on port 8080.

Go ahead and start setting that up by opening the /etc/default/varnish file:

sudo nano /etc/default/varnish

Find the lines under “DAEMON_OPTS”— in the Alternative 2 section, and change the port number by "-a" to 80. The configuration should match the following code:

 DAEMON_OPTS="-a :80 \
             -T localhost:6082 \
             -f /etc/varnish/default.vcl \
             -S /etc/varnish/secret \
             -s malloc,256m"

That's the only change you need to make there. Save and exit out of that file and open up the default.vcl file:

sudo nano /etc/varnish/default.vcl

This file tells varnish where to look for the webserver content. It should already be configured to have the backend (ie. nginx) listening in on port 8080.

We need to use this file for a secondary purpose. Wordpress is chock full of various cookies that make caching it very difficult. In order to have varnish work as efficiently as possible, we need to tell it to drop all the cookies that don't relate to the admin side of the Wordpress site.

Additionally, we need to tell varnish to remove the cookies that make worpdress very difficult to cache.

The beginning of the default.vcl file should look like this:

backend default {
    .host = "";
    .port = "8080";

# Drop any cookies sent to Wordpress.
sub vcl_recv {
        if (!(req.url ~ "wp-(login|admin)")) {
                unset req.http.cookie;

# Drop any cookies Wordpress tries to send back to the client.
sub vcl_fetch {
        if (!(req.url ~ "wp-(login|admin)")) {
                unset beresp.http.set-cookie;


Step Three—Configure Nginx

Although we have already configured varnish to expect that nginx ports will be running on 8080, the default settings for nginx are still on port 80. We will correct the discrepancy now.

Open up the virtual host file with the Wordpress information. In the previous Wordpress tutorial we simply called it wordpress:

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress

The Virtual Host should also be set to port 8080 and be accessible only from the localhost. The updated line looks like this:

server {
        listen; ## listen for ipv4; this line is default and implied

We need to do one last thing prior to starting varnish running on our site, and that is to remove the default enabled virtual host.

sudo rm /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default

The template will remain in the sites-available directory, should you need it once more.

Step Five—Restart

Once you have made all of the required changes, restart varnish and nginx.

sudo service nginx restart
sudo service varnish restart

Accessing your domain should instantly take you to the varnish cached version, and you can see the details of varnish’s workings on your VPS with this command:

By Etel Sverdlov

Thanks for learning with the DigitalOcean Community. Check out our offerings for compute, storage, networking, and managed databases.

Learn more about our products

About the authors

Still looking for an answer?

Ask a questionSearch for more help

Was this helpful?

This textbox defaults to using Markdown to format your answer.

You can type !ref in this text area to quickly search our full set of tutorials, documentation & marketplace offerings and insert the link!

Hey there micah,

Just add the following to your sites-available/default (or what you’ve called that file):

That goes into the server {} - part of your domain. port_in_redirect off;

Furthermore, ensure that your Blog-URL in the WordPress preferences does not show :8080 at the end.


This comment has been deleted

    With Ubuntu 16+, we have small problem with connect varnish with port 80, this is how to resolve this

    nano /lib/systemd/system/varnish.service

    find line :

    ExecStart=/usr/sbin/varnishd -a :8061 -T localhost:6082 -f /etc/varnish/default.vcl -S /etc/varnish/secret -s malloc,256m

    and update to

    ExecStart=/usr/sbin/varnishd -a :80 -T localhost:6082 -f /etc/varnish/default.vcl -S /etc/varnish/secret -s malloc,256m

    Final run

    systemctl daemon-reload


    service varnish restart

    Hi i want to add varnish to Sarkari Result Website would it help increasing server response ?

    Thank you so much for this.

    A few hitches that I just spent several hours hours tracking down to make this work with phpmyadmin and wp-admin (maybe you could make a note about these in the article?)

    1. When you turn off cookies in varnish’s default.vcl file - it breaks access to /phpmyadmin, if you’re using that, because phpmyadmin can no longer set cookies.

    I fixed this like so by adding a check for /phpmyadmin above the unsetting of cookies. (obviously change /phpmyadmin to whatever you call that subdir):

    # Drop any cookies sent to Wordpress.
    sub vcl_recv {
            // do not cache or drop cookies for phpmyadmin
            if (req.url ~ "^/phpmyadmin") {
               return (pass);
            if (!(req.url ~ "wp-(login|admin)")) {
                    unset req.http.cookie;
    # Drop any cookies Wordpress tries to send back to the client.
    sub vcl_fetch {
            // do not cache or drop cookies for  phpmyadmin
            if (req.url ~ "^/phpmyadmin") {
               return (hit_for_pass);
            if (!(req.url ~ "wp-(login|admin)")) {
                    unset beresp.http.set-cookie;
    1. Varnish causes phpmyadmin to redirect to port 8080, which breaks. I fixed this by editing my /etc/phpmyadmin/config.inc.php file to include the absolute URL to /phpmyadmin:
    $cfg['PmaAbsoluteUri'] = 'http://YOURDOMAIN.COM/phpmyadmin/';
    1. To make /wp-admin work, I had to add this line into the server{} block of my /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress (as pasbeier suggested in the comments (thank you!)):
    port_in_redirect off;

    – Hope this helps anyone else just getting setup! Abby

    If you are setting up varnish 4

    vcl_fetch is now vcl_backend_response

    source: https://www.varnish-cache.org/docs/4.0/whats-new/upgrading.html

    Can varnish and nginx run on the same port? I dont understand which port they should be run.

    The installation of Varnish doesn’t work as described. I get this error:

    The following packages have unmet dependencies: libvarnish-dev : Depends: libvarnish1 (= 3.0.0-1~lucid1) E: Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.

    When I install libvarnish1 and try again I get this error:

    The following packages have unmet dependencies: varnish : Depends: libvarnishapi1 (>= 4.0.3-2~wheezy) but it is not going to be installed E: Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.

    When I install libvarnishapi1 and try again I get the first error again.

    How to solve this?

    I got Varnish up and running, but even though my website is working fine, X-Varnish header is not included. What might be the problem?

    I am having problems getting it to work, because I have made a simple rewrite for the www to non-www.

    Here is my original virtual host, the rest is the same http://pastebin.com/bFduGSnc

    Is this what I need to change it to? It’s not working like this http://pastebin.com/qiZNV2Jn

    How do I need to change my original one to make it to work, it’s working fine until I change the listen.

    Try DigitalOcean for free

    Click below to sign up and get $200 of credit to try our products over 60 days!

    Sign up

    Join the Tech Talk
    Success! Thank you! Please check your email for further details.

    Please complete your information!

    Featured on Community

    Get our biweekly newsletter

    Sign up for Infrastructure as a Newsletter.

    Hollie's Hub for Good

    Working on improving health and education, reducing inequality, and spurring economic growth? We'd like to help.

    Become a contributor

    Get paid to write technical tutorials and select a tech-focused charity to receive a matching donation.

    Welcome to the developer cloud

    DigitalOcean makes it simple to launch in the cloud and scale up as you grow — whether you're running one virtual machine or ten thousand.

    Learn more
    DigitalOcean Cloud Control Panel