Setup Vanilla Forums on Ubuntu 18.04 | 16.04 / 18.10 with Nginx, MariaDB and PHP 7.2-FPM

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Recently, we showed you how to install Vanilla Forums software on Ubuntu with Apache2 and PHP 7.2 support. For those who want to run the software with Nginx instead, the steps below should be a great place to start.

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

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

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

This brief tutorial is going to 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:

Step 1: Install Nginx HTTP Server on Ubuntu

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

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

nginx default home page test

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 Vanilla Forums. 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 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 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

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

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

Step 3: Install PHP 7.2-FPM and Related Modules

PHP 7.2-FPM may not be available in 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

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 PHP default config file for Nginx.

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 are great settings to apply in your environments.

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, save the file and close out.

Step 3: Restart Nginx

After installing PHP and related modules, all you have to do is restart Nginx to reload PHP configurations.

To restart Nginx, run the commands below

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

Step 4: Create Vanilla Forums Database

Now that you’ve installed all the packages that are 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 logon to 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 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.


Step 5: Download Vanilla Forums Latest Release

To get Vanilla Forums latest release you may want to use Github repository. 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 downaload 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 to function.

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

Step 6: Configure Nginx

Finally, configure 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 own 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.

Step 7: Enable the Vanilla Forums and Rewrite Module

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

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

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. You should see Vanilla Forums setup wizard to 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 upcoming 18.10.

That’s it!

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