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Serving PHP with FPM (FastCGI) using Nginx on CentOS

PHP-FPM is an alternative FastCGI implementation which I prefer for keeping resources manageable in a moderate - high traffic site. You can read about some of the advantages and disadvantages elsewhere, this article is a how-to guide for installing and configuration using Nginx on CentOS.

Step 1 - Install PHP with related libraries

$ yum install php php-mysql php-common php-gd php-fpm php-mbstring php-mcrypt php-devel php-xml


Step 2 - Start PHP-FPM

$ php-fpm on

And also make sure it starts when your server boots up.

$ chkconfig php-fpm on


Step 3 - Install the EPEL repo

Installing alternative repos allows you to install packages not included in the default yum package manager for CentOS.

Two repos which I recommend installing are the EPEL (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux) and Remi repos. These will ensure you have a more up to date Nginx installation.

$ wget http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/6/x86_64/epel-release-6-8.noarch.rpm
$ wget http://rpms.famillecollet.com/enterprise/remi-release-6.rpm
$ sudo rpm -Uvh remi-release-6*.rpm epel-release-6*.rpm

Verify that the EPEL repo is installed, by checking that you have the following files:


Then you need to enable the Remi repo, by making sure that you have enabled=1 for when editing:

$ sudo nano /etc/yum.repos.d/remi.repo


Step 4 - Install Nginx

Now that you have the extra repos installed, install Nginx by running:

$ yum install nginx


Step 5 - Configure Nginx

You will also need a Nginx config file for your site. Usually, this would be a new file you create in /etc/nginx/conf.d/my-site.com.conf and looks something like this:

server {
    listen 80 default;
    server_name my-site.com www.my-site.com;
    gzip_static on;

    root /var/www/my-site;

    location ^~ /blog {
        root /var/www/my-site/blog;
        index index.php index.html
        try_files $uri $uri/ index.php?q=$uri&$args;

        rewrite ^/blog(.*)$ /blog/index.php?q=$1;

        location ~ \.php$ {
            fastcgi_index index.php;
            fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
            include fastcgi_params;

        # This block will catch static file requests, such as images, css, js
        # The ?: prefix is a 'non-capturing' mark, meaning we do not require
        # the pattern to be captured into $1 which should help improve performance
        location ~* \.(?:ico|css|js|gif|jpe?g|png|eot|svg|ttf|woff|txt)$ {
                # Some basic cache-control for static files to be sent to the browser
                expires max;
                add_header Pragma public;
                add_header Cache-Control "public, must-revalidate, proxy-revalidate";



This config file basically serves files from the /var/www/my-site directory for any visitors to my-site.com, *except* if the visitor comes to anything from my-site.com/blog. If this happens, then we ask Nginx to send any PHP files to FastCGI. An exception is made to serve static files (like image, CSS, or javascript files) directly from Nginx.

I usually also like to add an init file so that you can easily start or stop Nginx using commands like sudo /etc/init.d/nginx start and sudo /etc/init.d/nginx stop respectively. You can do this by adding the following file at /etc/init.d/nginx:

# nginx - this script starts and stops the nginx daemin. It should be kept in /etc/init.d/nginx
# chkconfig:   - 85 15 
# description:  Nginx is an HTTP(S) server, HTTP(S) reverse \
#               proxy and IMAP/POP3 proxy server
# processname: nginx
# config:      /usr/local/nginx/conf/nginx.conf
# pidfile:     /usr/local/nginx/logs/nginx.pid

# Source function library.
. /etc/rc.d/init.d/functions

# Source networking configuration.
. /etc/sysconfig/network

# Check that networking is up.
[ "$NETWORKING" = "no" ] && exit 0

prog=$(basename $nginx)



start() {
    [ -x $nginx ] || exit 5
    [ -f $NGINX_CONF_FILE ] || exit 6
    echo -n $"Starting $prog: "
    daemon $nginx -c $NGINX_CONF_FILE
    [ $retval -eq 0 ] && touch $lockfile
    return $retval

stop() {
    echo -n $"Stopping $prog: "
    killproc $prog -QUIT
    [ $retval -eq 0 ] && rm -f $lockfile
    return $retval

restart() {
    configtest || return $?

reload() {
    configtest || return $?
    echo -n $"Reloading $prog: "
    killproc $nginx -HUP

force_reload() {

configtest() {
  $nginx -t -c $NGINX_CONF_FILE

rh_status() {
    status $prog

rh_status_q() {
    rh_status >/dev/null 2>&1

case "$1" in
        rh_status_q && exit 0
        rh_status_q || exit 0
        rh_status_q || exit 7
        rh_status_q || exit 0
        echo $"Usage: $0 {start|stop|status|restart|condrestart|try-restart|reload|force-reload|configtest}"
        exit 2

Lastly, make sure you setup the correct permissions for the init file, and set Nginx to start when your server starts.

$ sudo chmod a+x /etc/init.d/nginx
$ sudo /etc/init.d/nginx start
$ chkconfig nginx on

And that's it, your PHP files should now be served via PHP-FPM.

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