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I want to secure a file upload directory on my server as described beautifully here, but I have one problem before I can follow these instructions. I don't know what user Apache is running as.

I've found a suggestion that you can look in httpd.conf and there will be a "User" line, but there is no such line in my httpd.conf file, so I guess Apache is running as the default user. I can't find out what that is, though.

So, my question is (are):

  • how do I find out what the default user is
  • do I need to change the default user
  • if the answer is yes and I change the default user by editing httpd.conf, is it likely to screw anything up?


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why has this question been downvoted? Yes, it's been updated as it has been answered elswhere, but I see no need to down vote? It's a perfectly good question? Perhaps our down voter would care to add a constructive comment regarding this? – Bryan Mar 24 '10 at 16:44
You might want to post that update as an answer, and accept it, as you are currently in the Unanswered queue. – fahadsadah Apr 5 '10 at 9:40
This question belongs here? I don't think, as it is something easy – user130370 Nov 20 '13 at 13:44
+1 for being told off on StackOverflow; some users seem insistent on running off new users – wruckie Jun 7 '14 at 18:35
Linked question does not exist any more – pal4life Aug 11 '14 at 22:28

11 Answers 11

ps aux | egrep '(apache|httpd)' typically will show what apache is running as.

Usually you do not need to change the default user, "nobody" or "apache" are typically fine users. As long as its not "root" ;)

edit: more accurate command for catching apache binaries too

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Yup, or it'll be www-data on Ubuntu. – gravyface Apr 19 '10 at 23:55
...and Debian. :) – cubuspl42 Jan 28 '14 at 13:07
That command shows me a list of things, most from apache but 1 from root too. – User Mar 1 '15 at 3:40
lampp runs httpd as daemon user – Jekis Jul 5 '15 at 17:53
@GruffTech, What about Windows Server? – Pacerier Apr 15 at 14:14

You can try the following command:

ps -ef | egrep '(httpd|apache2|apache)' | grep -v `whoami` | grep -v root | head -n1 | awk '{print $1}'
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This worked for me. Thanks – Firoz Jul 15 at 11:17

I know that this is an old post, but it is still listed as unanswered, so I will make a suggestion. If you can't find which user or group Apache is running as, perhaps try opening the httpd.conf file. There should be an entry there for "User" and "Group". Not only can you see which user Apache is supposed to be running as, but you can change it if you feel the need to do so.

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You can include a line of code in your PHP script:

echo exec('whoami');
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Watch out here, this shows the user that PHP runs under, not the Apache user. If using mod_php these are the same but if, as is now very common, you're using something else (like php_fpm) they can easily be different. – benz001 Jul 31 '14 at 2:29
  • To find out the user, you can simply use ps aux | grep apache while it is running.
  • You don't need to, but if Apache is running as root there are security issues.
  • Thirdly, changing the user of Apache will change his rights to access some directories. You need to make sure that /var/www (or wherever you have your websites) is accessible to the new user and group.
  • On the systems I have looked at, apache was always installed using apache:apache (or similar) as user and group, so it should probably already be set like that.

NOTE: This is the same answer I gave on Stackoverflow.

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According to the, on Ubuntu the default user for apache2 is www-data.

Seen to be true on Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy.

From Lars Noodén on the above forum.

To be sure what [the user] is really set to, check the actual configuration files. The umbrella file, apache2.conf will have something like the following,


That is a reference to environment variables set in /etc/apache2/envvars. mod_suexec also allows scripts to be run as yet a different user and group.

To find any virtual hosts, which may use alternate users, groups, or both, check the configurations.

$ egrep "^User|^Group|^SuexecUserGroup" /etc/apache2/apache2.conf /etc/apache2/sites-available/*.conf
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This code will - more or less - alphabetically list all the non-root users running processes containing apache (or whose name contains apache)

ps aux | grep -v root | grep apache | cut -d\  -f1 | sort | uniq
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The list will probably include users who are running processes like 'grep apache', such as your fine self. – mwfearnley Jul 15 at 13:58

Or you can check the apache configuration file and look for the owner & group.

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As suggested by Noyo here:

APACHE_USER=$(ps axho user,comm|grep -E "httpd|apache"|uniq|grep -v "root"|awk 'END {if ($1) print $1}')

And then:

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Get the user (ubuntu command-line): echo $APACHE_USER – Jadeye Oct 22 '14 at 9:07

An alternative approach, at least for Debian/Ubuntu-based distros, is to use the same method Apache does to set its user and group: source /etc/apache2/envvars!

$ echo "$(source /etc/apache2/envvars && echo "$APACHE_RUN_GROUP")"

If you want to get fancy, you can suppress errors if the file is not found, and provide a default value:

$ apacheuser=$(
     source /fail/etc/apache2/envvars 2>/dev/null &&
     echo "$APACHE_RUN_GROUP" ||
     echo nobody  
$ echo "$apacheuser"
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I found this command in CakePHP docs.

HTTPDUSER=`ps aux | grep -E '[a]pache|[h]ttpd|[_]www|[w]ww-data|[n]ginx' | grep -v root | head -1 | cut -d\  -f1`

Now HTTPDUSER holds the username of the user who runs the server, echo $HTTPDUSER in my case outputs www-data –using rlerdorf/php7dev.

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