How to Setup ElkArte with Nginx on Ubuntu Linux

This brief tutorial shows students and new users how to install and configure ElkArte Forum software on Ubuntu 18.04 with Nginx HTTP Server.

ElkArte is a modern, community-building forum software based on Simple Machine Forum (SMF), but with improved code and new features that may not be available on SMF.

If you don’t know about Simple Machine Forum (SMF), it is a lightweight and simple platform based on PHP that allows anyone to create and own their online forum community.

Many other forum software is based on SMF, including ElkArte. SMF is designed for ease of use to allow webmasters to create forum communities with all the features needed from a bulletin board with fewer resources.

If you’re looking for a simple forum platform that’s free to use and easy to customize, you’ll find ElkArte to be useful.

For more about ElkArte Forum software, please visit its homepage.

To get started with installing ElkArte, follow the steps below:

Install Apache

ElkArte is PHP-based and requires a webserver. The most popular open-source web server in use today is Nginx. To install Nginx, run the commands below:

sudo apt update
sudo apt-get install nginx

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

sudo systemctl stop nginx.service
sudo systemctl start nginx.service
sudo systemctl enable nginx.service

To test the Nginx setup, open your browser and browse to the server hostname or IP address and you should see the Nginx default test page as shown below. When you see that, then Nginx is working as expected.

nginx default home page test

Install MariaDB Database Server

MariaDB database server is a great place to start when looking at open-source database servers to use with ElkArte. To install MariaDB run the commands below.

sudo apt-get install mariadb-server mariadb-client

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

Run these on Ubuntu

sudo systemctl stop mariadb.service
sudo systemctl start mariadb.service
sudo systemctl enable mariadb.service

After that, run the commands below to secure the MariaDB server by creating a root password and disallowing remote root access.

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 MySQL server

To test if MariaDB is installed, type the commands below to logon into the MariaDB server

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then type the password you created above to sign on. if successful, you should see MySQL welcome message

Install PHP 7.2-FPM and Related Modules

PHP 7.2-FPM may not be available in 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 7.2-FPM

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

Then update and upgrade to PHP 7.2-FPM

sudo apt update

Next, run the commands below to install PHP 7.2-FPM and related modules.

sudo apt install php7.2-fpm php7.2-common php7.2-curl php7.2-intl php7.2-mbstring php7.2-xmlrpc php7.2-mysql php7.2-gd php7.2-pgsql php7.2-xml php7.2-cli php7.2-imagick php7.2-bcmath php7.2-gmp php7.2-zip

After installing PHP 7.2, run the commands below to open Nginx’s PHP default config file.

sudo nano /etc/php/7.2/fpm/php.ini

Then make the changes on the following lines below in the file and save. The value below is a great setting to apply in your environment.

file_uploads = On
allow_url_fopen = On
short_open_tag = On
memory_limit = 256M
cgi.fix_pathinfo = 0
upload_max_filesize = 100M
max_execution_time = 360
date.timezone = America/Chicago

After making the change above, save the file and close it.

To restart Nginx, run the commands below

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

To test PHP 7.2 settings with Nginx, create a phpinfo.php file in the Nginx root directory by running the commands below

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

Then type the content below and save the file.

<?php phpinfo( ); ?>

Save the file. then browse to your server hostname followed by /phpinfo.php


You should see the PHP default test page.

PHP 7.2 ubuntu nginx

Create ElkArte Database

Now that you’ve installed all the packages that are required, continue below to start configuring the servers. First, create an ElkArte database.

Run the commands below to log on to MySQL. When prompted for a password, type the root password you created above.

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then create a database called elkarte


Create a database user called elkarteuser with a new password

CREATE USER 'elkarteuser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'new_password_here';

Then grant the user full access to the elkarteuser database.

GRANT ALL ON elkarte.* TO 'elkarteuser'@'localhost' WITH GRANT OPTION;

Finally, save your changes and exit.


Download ElkArte Latest Release

Next, continue below to download the ElkArte package. To download, go to the link below and download the latest version.

After downloading, run the commands below to extract the downloaded file into the Nginx root directory.

sudo mkdir /var/www/elkarte
sudo unzip -d /var/www/elkarte

Change or modify the directory permission to fit the Nginx configuration.

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/elkarte
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/elkarte

Configure Nginx

Finally, configure the Apahce2 site configuration file for ElkArte. This file will control how users access ElkArte content. Run the commands below to create a new configuration file called elkarte

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

Then copy and paste the content below into the file and save it. Replace the highlighted line with your domain name and directory root location.

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;
    root /var/www/icyphoenix;
    index  index.php index.html index.htm;

    location / {
	 index index.php index.html index.htm;
	 try_files $uri $uri/ @rewrites;
    location @rewrites {
	 rewrite ^ /index.php last;

    location ~ \.php(/|$) {
    fastcgi_split_path_info  ^(.+\.php)(/.+)$;
    fastcgi_index            index.php;
    fastcgi_pass             unix:/var/run/php/php7.2-fpm.sock;
    include                  fastcgi_params;
    fastcgi_param   PATH_INFO       $fastcgi_path_info;
    fastcgi_param   SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
    fastcgi_param DOCUMENT_ROOT $realpath_root;


Save the file and exit.

Enable the ElkArte and Rewrite Module

After configuring the VirtualHost above, enable it by running the commands below

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/elkarte /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/
sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

Then open your browser and browse to the server domain name followed by install. You should see the ElkArte setup wizard complete. Please follow the wizard carefully.

Confirm settings are ok and continue

Ubuntu ElkArte Install

Type the database connection settings. You’ll need the database and username and password and continue

Ubuntu ElkArte Install

Next, create an admin account to complete the installation.

Ubuntu ElkArte Install

That should install ElkArte

Ubuntu ElkArte Install

You can begin managing your forum settings by logging in as admin.

Ubuntu ElkArte Install

Congratulations! You have successfully installed ElkArte forum software on Ubuntu 18.04 with Nginx.

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