Install Contao CMS on Ubuntu with Nginx, MariaDB and PHP 7.2-FPM

Contao CMS works great with Apache2 HTTP support. however, if you want to run it with Nginx instead, the steps below show you how to do that.

If you’re looking for a true open-source enterprise content manage system, Contao might be a good place to start. It’s built using PHP server scripting language, and keeps content, modules and templates separated.

Contao is an open source, enterprise content management system that relies on the LAMP or LEMP stack. It is designed for ease of use to allow business owners and power users to create powerful and dynamic content websites.

For high performance content management platform, you may want to give Contao a test ride to manage your websites or blogs. This brief tutorial is going to show students and new users how to install Contao on Ubuntu 16.04 and 18.04 LTS with Nginx, MariaDB and PHP 7.1 support.

This post covers installing the latest version of Contao, which at the time of writing was at version 4.5.4

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

Step 1: Install Nginx

Contao requires a webserver and the second most popular webserver in use today is Nginx. So, go and install Nginx on Ubuntu by running the commands below:

sudo apt update 
sudo apt install nginx

Next, run the commands below to stop, start and enable 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

Step 2: Install MariaDB Database Server

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

sudo apt-get install mariadb-server mariadb-client

After installing MariaDB, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable MariaDB service to always 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 17.10 and 18.04 LTS

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

After that, run the commands below to secure 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

Step 3: Install PHP 7.2-FPM and Related Modules

PHP 7.2-FPM may not be available on Ubuntu default repositories… in order 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

Run the commands below to install PHP 7.2-FPM and related modules.

sudo apt install php7.2-fpm php7.2-common php7.2-mbstring php7.2-xmlrpc php7.2-soap php7.2-gd php7.2-xml php7.2-intl php7.2-mysql php7.2-cli php7.2-zip php7.2-curl

After install PHP, run the commands below to open Nginx PHP default file.

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

Then make the change the following lines below in the file and save.

file_uploads = On
allow_url_fopen = On
max_execution_time = 180
memory_limit = 256M
cgi.fix_pathinfo = 0
post_max_size = 20M
upload_max_filesize = 100M

Step 4: Create Contao Database

Now that you’ve install all the packages that are required, continue below to start configuring the servers. First run the commands below to create Contao database.

Run the commands below to logon to the database server. When prompted for a password, type the root password you created above.

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then create a database called contaodb


Create a database user called contaouser with new password

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

Then grant the user full access to the database.

GRANT ALL ON contaodb.* TO 'contaouser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'user_password_here' WITH GRANT OPTION;

Finally, save your changes and exit.


After creating the Contao database, run the commands below to open MariaDB configuration file.

sudo nano /etc/mysql/mariadb.conf.d/50-server.cnf

Then copy and paste the lines below into the file just below [mysqld]

innodb_large_prefix = 1
innodb_file_format = Barracuda
innodb_file_per_table = 1

Save and exit.

Restart MariaDB Server

sudo systemctl restart mysql.service

Step 5: Download Contao Latest Release

Next, visit Contao site and download the latest version.

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

cd /tmp && wget wget  -O
sudo apt install unzip
sudo mv contao-4.5.4 /var/www/html/contao

Then run the commands below to set the correct permissions for Contao to function.

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

Step 6: Configure Nginx

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

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

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

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

    client_max_body_size 100M;

    location / {
        try_files $uri $uri/ /app.php/$uri?$args;

    location ~ \.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;


Save the file and exit.

Step 7: Enable the Contao

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

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

Step 8: Restart Nginx

To load all the settings above, restart Nginx by running the commands below.

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

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

You should now be presented with a Contao install screen. If, instead, you see a white screen it probably means that your
server is probably not configured correct.

Type a new installation password for the installation.

Next, type the database connection info and continue.

contao ubuntu install

Next, create Contao admin user for the portal.

contao ubuntu install

That should create the admin account to logo to the backend. when done, logon and begin configuring Contao.

contao ubuntu setup

The installation assistant can then be used to guide you through the process of installing a new version of Contao.

To logon to the backend go to the URL below:

Congratulations! You’ve successfully installed Contao CMS on Ubuntu server.

Remove the installation folder by running the commands below

sudo rm -rf /var/www/html/contao/contao/install.php

And you’re done.