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Categories: Linux, Server, HowTo

This short tutorial is going to show how to set up Lighttpd with fastcgi on Debian 4.0 (Etch). Actually it’s nothing special but I hope it demonstrates how easy it is. ;-)

What is Lighttpd?

Lighttpd is a light (I bet you already guessed that … ;)), fast and secure high performance web server. It perfectly fits the needs for high load websites but it’s not the best choice for servers hosting multiple independant websites. There are some popular sites running on lighttpd (eg. Youtube).


If you’ve been running apache, the first step is to stop it:

apache2ctl stop

Afterwards you can savely install the lighttpd package:

aptitude install lighttpd

It should install smoothly and start itself when finished.

Basic Configuration

Lighttpds default configuration on Debian file is /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf. The default settings might be just fine for your needs, but it’s a bit messy for my taste. So let’s simply write our own. Open the configuration with your favorite editor.

The first thing we need to do is loading the required modules. This is what we’ll use for this tutorial:

# Modules
server.modules = (

Of course there are a lot more modules. Just take a look at the list provided in the Lighttpd documentation wiki. We’ll use mod_evhost to simulate multiple virtual hosts. More on this later. Next we’ve to set some required values in order to get the server working. This should be self explaining:

# Server settings
server.port = 80 = "/var/run/"

server.username = "www-data"
server.groupname = "www-data"

# Document root
server.document-root = "/var/www/default"

In order to use logging we also need to set the following two paths:

# Logs
server.errorlog = "/var/log/lighttpd/error.log"
accesslog.filename = "/var/log/lighttpd/access.log"

You also might want to set index file names and enable directory listing. Do this by adding this to your configuration file:

# Index files
index-file.names = (

# Directory listing
server.dir-listing = "enable"

To finish the basic configuration we’ve to add two more lines. They’re used to load more configuration files located in /etc/lighttpd/conf-enabled/ and to load the mime-types:

# External configuration files
include-shell "/usr/share/lighttpd/"
include-shell "/usr/share/lighttpd/"

Don’t forget to save! ;-)

Enabling fastcgi support

In order to use ruby or php on our server we need to activate lighty’s fastcgi module. This can be done by running:


You’ll see a list of available modules and asked to enter the module in question (fastcgi). Afterwards open up /etc/lighttpd/conf-enabled/10-fastcgi.conf to see the fastcgi configuration. By default php4 support is enabled. In order to use it you need to install php4-cgi:

aptitude install php4-cgi

In order to use the newly created configuration file we need to restart lighttpd:

/etc/init.d/lighttpd force-reload

That’s it! Now go and place a file like this called info.php in /var/www/default:

<?php phpinfo(); ?>

View it’s output by visiting If everything worked you should now see php’s details.