How to Install Lighttpd with MariaDB and PHP on Ubuntu Linux

screen with web apps
screen with web apps

This post provides a detailed guide on using Lighttpd HTTP server as an alternative to commonly used servers like Apache or Nginx. Lighttpd is a secure, fast, and flexible HTTP server that has a smaller memory footprint, making it optimized for high-performance dynamic applications. The post includes step-by-step instructions on installing and configuring Lighttpd, PHP server scripts, MariaDB Database Server, and PHP FastCGI.

Web admins often use Apache or Nginx with PHP and MariaDB to create a LAMP or LEMP stack. This post shows you how to use an alternative HTTP server called Lighttpd HTTP server instead.

Lighttpd is a secure, fast, and flexible HTTP server with a smaller memory footprint than other webservers. In addition, its event-driven architecture is optimized for many parallel connections (keep-alive), which is essential for high-performance dynamic applications.

Also, if you’re going to be developing any PHP-based application, you’re mostly going to need PHP server scripts installed. PHP is an open-source server scripting language for creating dynamic, powerful web applications and websites.

PHP is a widely used, accessible, and efficient alternative to competitors like Microsoft’s ASP. With this setup, you can quickly run WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla CMS platforms.

Install Lighttpd HTTP Server

sudo apt install lighttpd

After installing Lighttpd, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable Lighttpd service to always startup when the server boots up.

sudo systemctl stop lighttpd.service
sudo systemctl start lighttpd.service
sudo systemctl enable lighttpd.service

Install MariaDB Database Server

OrangeHRM also requires a database server. And MariaDB database server is a great place to start. To install it, run the commands below.

sudo apt install mariadb-server mariadb-client

After installing, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable the MariaDB service to always start up when the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop mysql.service
sudo systemctl start mysql.service
sudo systemctl enable mysql.service

After that, run the commands below to secure the MariaDB server.

sudo mysql_secure_installation

When prompted, answer the questions below by following the guide.

  • Enter current password for root (enter for none): Just press the Enter
  • Set root password? [Y/n]: Y
  • New password: Enter password
  • Re-enter new password: Repeat password
  • Remove anonymous users? [Y/n]: Y
  • Disallow root login remotely? [Y/n]: Y
  • Remove test database and access to it? [Y/n]:  Y
  • Reload privilege tables now? [Y/n]:  Y

Restart MariaDB server

sudo systemctl restart mysql.service

Install PHP FastCGI  and Related Modules

PHP 7.1 isn’t available on Ubuntu default repositories… to install it, you will have to get it from third-party repositories.

Run the commands below to add the below third party repository to upgrade to PHP 7.1

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php

Then update and upgrade to PHP 7.1

sudo apt update

After that, run the commands below to install PHP7.1-FastCGI and related PHP modules. PHP-FastCGI is a version for Lighttpd web servers, while PHP is Apache2. Nginx is PHP-FPM.

Many PHP modules perform different functions. However, some important ones are always needed when developing PHP-based websites.

sudo apt install php7.1-cgi php7.1-mcrypt php7.1-cli php7.1-mysql php7.1-gd php7.1-imagick php7.1-recode php7.1-tidy php7.1-xmlrpc

The line above will allow PHP to function with many popular PHP-based websites and applications.

After installing PHP7.1-FastCGI, you can enable PHP-FastCGI modules by running the commands below.

sudo sudo lighttpd-enable-mod fastcgi 
sudo lighttpd-enable-mod fastcgi-php

If the commands above fail, install the package below.

sudo apt install libterm-readline-gnu-perl

Then run the commands to enable the modules again; this time, they should work.

 sudo /etc/init.d/lighttpd force-reload

Configure Lighttpd PHP-FastCGI Settings

Now that Lighttpd and PHP0-FastCGI are installed, you may want to configure Lighttpd to use PHP server scripting properly. The default Lighttpd PHP-FastCGI configuration file is located at /etc/php/7.1/cgi/php.ini

Open the PHP Lighttpd configuration file by running the commands below

sudo nano /etc/php/7.1/cgi/php.ini

Then edit the file to suit your environment. Some crucial lines to consider:

file_uploads = On
allow_url_fopen = On
memory_limit = 256M
upload_max_filesize = 100M

Next, open the Lighttpd site configuration file. By default, it’s stored at /etc/Lighttpd/lighttpd.conf

Use the main configuration file to set up advanced server global settings.

Lighttpd PHP-FastCGI configuration file is stored at /etc/lighttpd/conf-available/15-fastcgi-php.conf

Run the commands below to open the Lighttpd PHP-FastCGI default site configuration file

sudo nano /etc/lighttpd/conf-available/15-fastcgi-php.conf

Then confirm that PHP-FastCGI is configured, as shown in the highlighted portion below.

# -*- depends: fastcgi -*-
# /usr/share/doc/lighttpd/fastcgi.txt.gz 

## Start an FastCGI server for php (needs the php7.1-cgi package)
fastcgi.server += ( ".php" =>
                "bin-path" => "/usr/bin/php-cgi7.1",
                "socket" => "/var/run/lighttpd/php.socket",
                "max-procs" => 1,
                "bin-environment" => (
                        "PHP_FCGI_CHILDREN" => "4",
                        "PHP_FCGI_MAX_REQUESTS" => "10000"
                "bin-copy-environment" => (
                        "PATH", "SHELL", "USER"
                "broken-scriptfilename" => "enable"

Restart Lighttpd services

sudo systemctl restart lighttpd.service

Test PHP-CGI Setup

At this point, Lighttpd and PHP-FastCGI should be installed and ready. To test your Lighttpd PHP settings, create a blank file with the line below:

sudo nano /var/www/html/phpinfo.php

Then add the line in the file and save.

<?php phpinfo( ); ?>

Save the file and open your browser and browse to the server name or IP address followed by phpinfo.php


You should see something similar to the image below. If you do, then you’re all good!

lighttpd ubuntu


Congratulations! You’ve successfully installed and configured Lighttpd and PHP on Ubuntu servers.

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