I deleted the /var/log/nginx/error.log file, and then created a new one using:

sudo nano error.log

Doing ls -la shows that the error.log and access.log have the same permissions.

When I try and start nginx I get the error:

alert: could not open error log file: open() "/var/log/nginx/error.log" failed permission denited.


When trying to start nginx, I am also seeing:

emerg: /var/run/nginx.pid failed 13: permission denied.

  • Delete the Log and restart or reload Nginx. It will automatically create the Log. – Khubaib Raza Nov 26 '20 at 12:24

This doesn't solve your problem, but in the future, if you do

cat /dev/null > /file/you/want/to/wipe-out

you will copy over the contents of the file with nothing, and keep all permissions in tact.

Not nginx-speicific, but Additionally, make sure you are running the application as the user it is supposed to run as. If you ever ran it as root, all the permissions are going to be owned by root, so other users won't be able to run it.

  • 1
    How is it different from using echo "" > /file/to/empty? Are they both the same? – Gowtham Gopalakrishnan Dec 18 '16 at 9:18
  • 2
    That should be the same. Additionally, you can leave out all the stuff at the beginning and just do > /file/to/empty – Alex Dec 20 '16 at 16:55

The usual way to rotate the logs with NginX is to rename the file, and then /etc/init.d/nginx reload. The server starts a new file, and you can do what you wish with the old.

You may also find it useful to edit the configuration to not log as much....


have a look in the nginx config, check who the server is running as - at a guess the user will be nginx

so :

chown nginx: /var/run/nginx.pid chown -R nginx: /var/log/nginx

Should do the trick.

  • but why was it working before? – Blankman Jun 1 '10 at 1:40
  • 1
    I suspect because you tried to run it as root, and then tried starting it with its init script. – Geraint Jones Jun 1 '10 at 3:21
  • well I always start it like that, hmm.... – Blankman Jun 1 '10 at 9:51
  • nginx.conf says: "user www-data" – Blankman Jun 1 '10 at 9:54

Delete the error.log file and nginx will create it itself.

  • i deleted it, then when I try and start nginx is gives me the same permission denied error on the file /var/log/nginx/error.log – Blankman May 31 '10 at 19:45
  • Delete the Log and restart Nginx. It will automatically create the Log. – WhiteHorse Mar 6 '16 at 18:45

First try deleting the file, if that doesn't work check that the nobody user has the right permissions:


To re-size the file to 0 bytes, without having to re-load or re-start nginx, use the truncate command:

sudo truncate --size 0 /var/log/nginx/access.log

Followed the guidance of this post due to my use case requiring the use of sudo.

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