How to Setup Vanilla Forum with Nginx on Ubuntu Linux

youtube 1684601 640 1
youtube 1684601 640 1

Vanilla Forums is an open-source, flexible, customizable community forum solution that powers discussions on thousands of sites.

You might want to look at Vanilla Forums software when looking for a next-generation forum platform. It’s simple and efficient and makes online discussion easy and fun. To install Vanilla Forums software with Nginx and PHP 7.2-FPM support, this post should be a great place to start…

Individuals and web admins can use Vanilla Forums software to set up communities in minutes to stay in touch with groups of people or ideas.

This brief tutorial will show students and new users an easy way to get Vanilla Forums working on Ubuntu 16.04 / 18.10 and 18.04 with Nginx, MariaDB, and PHP 7.2-FPM support.

To get started with installing Vanilla Forums, follow the steps below:

Install Nginx HTTP Server on Ubuntu

Nginx HTTP Server is probably the second most popular web server in use. Install it since Vanilla Forums needs it.

To install Nginx HTTP on the Ubuntu server, run the commands below.

sudo apt update
sudo apt 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 Vanilla Forums. 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 16.04 LTS

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

Run these on Ubuntu 18.04 and 18.10 LTS

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 MariaDB server

Type the commands below to log on to the MariaDB server to test if MariaDB is installed.

sudo mysql -u root -p

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

mariadb welcome

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 and related modules.

sudo apt install php7.2-fpm php7.2-common php7.2-gmp php7.2-curl php7.2-intl php7.2-mbstring php7.2-xmlrpc php7.2-mysql php7.2-gd php7.2-xml php7.2-cli 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 save the changes on the following lines below in the file. The value below is an excellent setting to apply in your environment.

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

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

After installing PHP and related modules, you must restart Nginx to reload PHP configurations.

To restart Nginx, run the commands below

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

Create Vanilla Forums Database

Once you’ve installed all the packages required for Vanilla Forums to function, continue below to start configuring the servers. First, run the commands below to create a blank Vanilla Forums database.

To log on to the MariaDB database server, run the commands below.

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then create a database called vanilla.


Create a database user called vanillauser with a new password

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

Then grant the user full access to the database.

GRANT ALL ON vanilla.* TO 'vanillauser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'user_password_here' WITH GRANT OPTION;

Finally, save your changes and exit.


Download Vanilla Forums Latest Release

You may want to use the GitHub repository to get Vanilla Forums’ latest release. But first, install git and Composer packages by running the commands below.

sudo apt install curl git
curl -sS | sudo php -- --install-dir=/usr/local/bin --filename=composer

After installing git above, change into the Nginx root directory and download Vanilla Forums packages from Github. Always replace the branch number with the latest branch.

cd /var/www/html
sudo git clone --branch release/2.7
cd /var/www/html/vanilla
sudo composer install

Then run the commands below to set the correct permissions for Vanilla Forums.

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/vanilla/
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/html/vanilla/

Configure Nginx

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

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

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/html/vanilla;
    index  index.php index.html index.htm;

    client_max_body_size 100M;

    autoindex off;

    location / {
        try_files $uri @vanilla;

    location @vanilla {
        rewrite ^ /index.php$uri last;

    location ~* "^/index\.php(/|$)" {
         include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
         fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php/php7.2-fpm.sock;
         fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
         include fastcgi_params;

    location ~* "\.php(/|$)" {
        rewrite ^ /index.php$uri last;

Save the file and exit.

Enable the Vanilla Forums and Rewrite Module

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

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/vanilla /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

Restart Nginx by running the commands below to load all the settings above.

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

Then open your browser and browse to the server domain name. Next, you should see the Vanilla Forums setup wizard complete. Please follow the wizard carefully.

Type the database name and database user password. You should also create an admin portal account and complete the installation.

Vanilla Forum Software

That should install Vanilla Forums software.

Vanilla Forums software

Congratulation! You have successfully installed Vanilla Forums on Ubuntu 16.04 | 18.04, and may work on 18.10.

That’s it!

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