I have a PHP script that creates a directory and outputs an image to the directory. This was working just fine under Apache but we recently decided to switch to NGINX to make more use of our limited RAM. I'm using the PHP mkdir() command to create the directory:

mkdir(dirname($path['image']['server']), 0755, true);

After the switch to NGINX, I'm getting the following warning:

Warning: mkdir(): Permission denied in ...

I've already checked all the permissions of the parent directories, so I've determined that I probably need to change the NGINX or PHP-FPM 'user' but I'm not sure how to do that (I never had to specify user permissions for APACHE). I can't seem to find much information on this. Any help would be great!

(Note: Besides this little hang-up, the switch to NGINX has been pretty seamless; I'm using it for the first time and it literally only took about 10 minutes to get up and running with NGINX. Now I'm just ironing out the kinks.)

  • 1
    If nginx was installed by a package manager, the best is probably to just use 'ps' to see what user nginx is running as and change the owner of the directory to that user. Usually security is set up pretty well by default by the packages, changing user may upset something else. Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 15:18
  • nginx.conf and www.conf by default IIRC.
    – PeeHaa
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 15:21
  • If you're using fastcgi, check if you can suexec the phpscripts. that will allow you to run different sites under their specific user. I'm sure some setup instructions are available online.
    – hakre
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 15:22

4 Answers 4


Run nginx & php-fpm as www:www

###1. Nginx

Edit nginx.conf and set user to www www;:

user www www;

If the master process is run as root, then nginx will setuid()/setgid() to USER/GROUP. If GROUP is not specified, then nginx uses the same name as USER. By default it's nobody user and nobody or nogroup group or the --user=USER and --group=GROUP from the ./configure script.

###2. PHP-FPM

Edit php-fpm.conf and set user and group to www:


user - Unix user of processes. Default "www-data"

group - Unix group of processes. Default "www-data"

  • 1
    Okay I just changed nginx.conf (it was set to user www-data). However, I don't see any user defined in php-fpm.conf. Should I just add it to the top using the same syntax (user www www)?
    – David
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 15:29
  • php-conf syntax is not the same os nginx.conf. Find [www] part and add user=www in next line, and group=www in the next.
    – glavić
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 15:30
  • I got the following error when restarting nginx: Restarting nginx: [emerg] getpwnam("www") failed in /etc/nginx/nginx.conf:1 nginx: configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf test failed.
    – David
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 15:45
  • Then you can either run Nginx and php-fpm as the user that has appropriate permissions for the appropriate directories or create a new user called www by running "sudo useradd -g www www". Please let us know, if you need more detailed explanation. Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 16:01
  • 3
    @xorinzor: no, use what you have :D
    – glavić
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 9:25

In Ubuntu 14.04 the file to change user and group in PHP-FPM is: /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf. In this file change these parameters:

user = www
group = www
listen.owner = www
listen.group = www
  • 3
    This is also the case for Ubuntu 16.10. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 22:20
  • 2
    This is also the case for Ubuntu 18.04 Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 16:30
  • 1
    For PHP 7.2 it is in /etc/php/7.2/fpm/pool.d/www.conf
    – Cromax
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 11:01

To answer your actual question is to just change the user line in nginx.conf like so:

user    [username];


user    www-data;

The preferred user for Nginx to run as actually differs between operating systems. Sometimes Nginx is supposed to run as www-data. Other times it is actually supposed to run as nobody.

On some operating systems (such as Windows), it doesn't even matter, and the user line in nginx.conf can be commented out or entirely excluded. It's also possible to exclude it in Linux if you're using the default user.

  • If I add the user directive in and restart Nginx service, it throws an error saying that the 'user' is an unknwn directive - is it therefore ok just to leave it out?
    – JoeTidee
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 10:29
  • Yes, depending on OS and/or Nginx, some versions do not require an explicit user directive. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 20:35
  • 1
    I had to place the user directive at the very top of my Nginx config file for it to be recognized.
    – JoeTidee
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 8:27

The following solution worked changing the web user with me using Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, nginx 1.14 and php7.2-fpm.

1. Nginx

Edit /etc/nginx/nginx.conf and set the user to webuser;

user webuser;


Edit /etc/php/7.2/fpm/pool.d/www.conf.

user = webuser
group = webuser
listen.owner = webuser
listen.group = webuser
  • 1
    It helped to have the .conf locations on hand (y).
    – pds
    Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 4:39
  • 1
    The listen.owner and listen.user sets the right permissions for socket file and resolved my problem.
    – SAMPro
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 10:59

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