Apparently, I shouldn't have spent sleepless night trying to debug an application. I wanted to restart my nginx and discovered that its config file is empty. I don't remember truncating it, but fat fingers and reduced attention probably played their part.

I don't have backup of that config file. I know I should have made it.

Good for me, current nginx daemon is still running. Is there a way to dump its configuration to a config file that it'll understand later?


You need a gdb installed to dump memory regions of running process.

# Set pid of nginx master process here

# generate gdb commands from the process's memory mappings using awk
cat /proc/$pid/maps | awk '$6 !~ "^/" {split ($1,addrs,"-"); print "dump memory mem_" addrs[1] " 0x" addrs[1] " 0x" addrs[2] ;}END{print "quit"}' > gdb-commands

# use gdb with the -x option to dump these memory regions to mem_* files
gdb -p $pid -x gdb-commands

# look for some (any) nginx.conf text
grep worker_connections mem_*
grep server_name mem_*

You should get something like "Binary file mem_086cb000 matches". Open this file in editor, search for config (e.g. "worker_connections" directive), copy&paste. Profit!

Update: This method isn't entirely reliable. It's based on assumption that nginx process will read configuration and don't overwrite/reuse this memory area later. Master nginx process gives us best chances for that I guess.

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    Thanks, but this is too hardcore for me. I will rewrite the config file from scratch :) – Sergio Tulentsev Feb 18 '12 at 14:03
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    An mmap'd file implies an ope filehandle. See for an easier way to recover one: serverfault.com/questions/45237/link-to-a-specific-inode – Jeff Ferland Mar 31 '12 at 19:03
  • @JeffFerland nginx don't keep open fd for configuration file. – kupson Apr 1 '12 at 17:11
  • Yeah, most applications don't... thought I edited my comment after to include mention. Oops. – Jeff Ferland Apr 1 '12 at 17:47
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    This feels so hardcore! I'm officially a hacker now. Reading out memory to find your configs back. Thanks for explaining @kupson – adriaan Jan 14 '19 at 11:23

This will not help on this request, but might help other reaching here for the same reason. Newer nginx versions have the -T option to dump the nginx config read from all nginx config files, not from memory:

nginx -T

This can be useful to confirm that a config file is being read, to compare with other server or search for configs.

Again, this will not dump the config from the running process, only what a new process would load.


The ngx_conf_t is a type of a structure used for configuration parsing. It only exists during configuration parsing, and obviously you can't access it after configuration parsing is complete.

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    It's 'obviously' inaccessible just because apparently there's no such facility implemented in nginx; other programs have such facilities, such as postconf -n for Postfix or exim -bP for Exim or (the badly named) testparm -v for Samba, etc. – Josip Rodin Nov 26 '15 at 10:54

the ideal way is to look for the ngx_conf_t struct from nginx process image.

It is defined here


My C & gdb sucks so home someone else could come up with a solution.

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