How to install nginx

This article revisits essentials on how to install nginx non blocking single threaded multipurpose web server on development and production servers.

This article has complementary materials to the Testing nodejs Applications book. However, the article is designed to help both those who already bought the book, as well as the wide audience of software developers to setup working environment. Testing Nodejs Applications Book Cover You can grab a copy of this book on this link

Installing nginx on Linux

It is always a good idea to update the system before start working. There is no exception, even when a daily task updates automatically binaries. That can be achieved on Ubuntu and Aptitude enabled systems as following:

$ apt-get update # Fetch list of available updates
$ apt-get upgrade # Upgrades current packages
$ apt-get dist-upgrade # Installs only new updates

Example: updating aptitude binaries

At this point most of packages should be installed or upgraded. Except Packages whose PPA have been removed or not available in the registry. Installing software can be done by installing binaries, or using Ubuntu package manager.

Installing a nginx on Linux using apt

Updating/Upgrading or first install of nginx server can be achieved with by the following commands.

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nginx/stable
$ sudo apt-get update 
$ sudo apt-get install - nginx 

# To restart the service:
$ sudo service nginx restart 

Example: updating PPA and installing nginx binaries

Adding nginx PPA in first step is only required for first installs, on a system that does not have the PPA available in the system database.

Installing nginx on macOS

In case homebrew is not already available on your mac, this is how to get one up and running. On its own, homebrew depends on ruby runtime to be available.

homebrew is a package manager and software installation tool that makes most developer tools installation a breeze.

$ /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

Example: installation instruction as provided by

Generally speaking, this is how to install/uninstall things with brew

$ brew install wget 
$ brew uninstall wget 

Example: installing/uninstalling wget binaries using homebrew

We have to to stress on the fact that Homebrew installs packages to their own directory and then symlinks their files into /usr/local.

It is always a good idea to update the system before start working. And that, even when we have a daily task that automatically updates the system for us. macOS can use homebrew package manager on maintenance matters. To update/upgrade or check outdated packages, following commands would help.

$ brew outdated                   # lists all outdated packages
$ brew cleanup -n                 # visualize the list of things are going to be cleaned up.

$ brew upgrade                    # Upgrades all things on the system
$ brew update                     # Updates all outdated + brew itself
$ brew update <formula>           # Updates one formula

$ brew install <formula@version>    # Installs <formula> at a particular version.
$ brew tap <formular@version>/brew  # Installs <formular> from third party repository

# untap/re-tap a repo when previous installation failed
$ brew untap <formular> && brew tap <formula>   
$ brew services start <formular>@<version>

Example: key commands to work with homebrew cli

For more informations, visit: Homebrew ~ FAQ.

Installing a nginx on a Mac using homebrew

$ brew install nginx@1.17.8  # as in <formula>@<version>

Example: installing nginx using homebrew

Installing nginx on a Windows machine

MacOs comes with Python and Ruby already enabled, these two languages are somehow required to run successfully a nodejs environment on a Mac. This is an easy target as nginx gives windows binaries that we can download and install on a couple of clicks.

Automated upgrades

Before we dive into automatic upgrades, we should consider nuances associated to managing an nginx deployment. The updates fall into two major, quite interesting, categories: patch updates and version upgrades.

Following the SemVer ~ aka Semantic Versioning standard, it is not recommended to consider minor/major versions for automated upgrades. One of the reasons being that these versions are subject to introducing breaking changes or incompatibility between two versions. On the other hand, patches are less susceptible to introduce breaking changes, whence ideal candidates for automated upgrades. Another among other reasons, being that security fixes are released as patches to a minor version.

In case of a WebServer, breaking changes may be introduced when a critical configuration setting is added, or dropped between two successive versions.

We should highlight that it is always better to upgrade at deployment time. The process is even easier in containerized context. We should also automate only patches, to avoid to miss security patches.

In the context of Linux, we will use the unattended-upgrades package to do the work.

$ apt-get install unattended-upgrades apticron

Example: install unattended-upgrades

Two things to fine-tune to make this solution work are: to enable a blacklist of packages we do not to automatically update, and two, to enable particular packages we would love to update on a periodical basis. That is compiled in the following shell scripts.

Unattended-Upgrade::Allowed-Origins {
//  "${distro_id}:${distro_codename}";
    "${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-security"; # upgrading security patches only 
//   "${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-updates";  
//  "${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-proposed";
//  "${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-backports";

Unattended-Upgrade::Package-Blacklist {

Example: fine-tune the blacklist and whitelist in /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/50unattended-upgrades

The next step is necessary to make sure unattended-upgrades download, install and cleanups tasks have a default period: once, twice a day or a week.

APT::Periodic::Update-Package-Lists "1";            # Updates package list once a day
APT::Periodic::Download-Upgradeable-Packages "1";   # download upgrade candidates once a day
APT::Periodic::AutocleanInterval "7";               # clean week worth of unused packages once a week
APT::Periodic::Unattended-Upgrade "1";              # install downloaded packages once a day

Example: tuning the tasks parameter /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgrades

This approach works on Linux(Ubuntu), especially deployed in production, but not Windows nor macOS. The last issue, is to be able to report problems when an update fails, so that a human can intervene whenever possible. That is where the second tool apticron in first paragraph intervenes. To make it work, we will specify which email to send messages to, and that will be all.


Example: tuning reporting tasks email parameter /etc/apticron/apticron.conf


In this article we revisited ways to install nginx on various platforms. Even though configuration was beyond the scope of this article, we managed to get everyday quick refreshers out.

Reading list

#nodejs #homebrew #UnattendedUpgrades #nginx #y2020 #Jan2020 #HowTo #ConfiguringNodejsApplications #tdd #TestingNodejsApplications