Troubleshooting Guide: How to Fix Nginx HTTP and Reverse Proxy Server Startup Failures

Nginx is a popular web server and reverse proxy server that can be used to host websites, load balance, and perform caching. It is known for its high performance and low resource consumption. However, sometimes, Nginx may face startup failures due to various reasons such as incorrect configuration, missing files, or port conflicts. This guide will help you troubleshoot and fix these issues step by step.

Table of Contents

Step 1: Check the Nginx error log

The first step in troubleshooting Nginx startup failures is to check the error log. The error log contains valuable information about the errors that occurred during the startup process. By default, the Nginx error log is located at /var/log/nginx/error.log. You can view the log using the following command:

sudo tail -n 20 /var/log/nginx/error.log

This command will display the last 20 lines of the error log. Look for any error messages that may indicate the cause of the startup failure.

Step 2: Check Nginx configuration

Nginx startup failures can often be attributed to incorrect configuration settings. To check your Nginx configuration for errors, run the following command:

sudo nginx -t

This command will validate the configuration and report any errors or warnings. If any issues are found, fix them in the configuration file (usually located at /etc/nginx/nginx.conf) and restart the Nginx service.

sudo service nginx restart

Step 3: Resolve port conflicts

If Nginx is unable to bind to the configured listening ports, it may fail to start. This can happen if another service is already using the same port. To check for port conflicts, use the ss or netstat command:

sudo ss -tuln | grep ':80\|:443'


sudo netstat -tuln | grep ':80\|:443'

These commands will display all services listening on ports 80 and 443 (commonly used by Nginx). If you find another service using the same port, you can either change the port number in the Nginx configuration file or stop the conflicting service.

Step 4: Check file permissions and ownership

Nginx startup failures can also occur if the server does not have the proper permissions to access the required files and directories. To check the file permissions and ownership, use the ls command:

ls -l /etc/nginx/

Ensure that the Nginx configuration files are owned by the appropriate user (usually root) and have the correct permissions (usually 644 for files and 755 for directories). If the permissions or ownership are incorrect, you can use the chown and chmod commands to fix them:

sudo chown root:root /etc/nginx/nginx.conf
sudo chmod 644 /etc/nginx/nginx.conf

Step 5: Update Nginx to the latest version

If none of the previous steps resolved the startup failure, it might be worth updating Nginx to the latest version. This can help fix any bugs or compatibility issues that may be causing the problem. To update Nginx, use the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade nginx

After updating, restart the Nginx service and check if the issue is resolved.


1. How do I check the Nginx version installed on my system?

Use the following command to check the installed Nginx version:

nginx -v

2. Can I have multiple Nginx configuration files?

Yes, Nginx allows you to have multiple configuration files. You can include additional configuration files using the include directive in your main nginx.conf.

3. How do I enable Nginx to start automatically at boot?

To enable Nginx to start automatically at boot, use the following command:

sudo systemctl enable nginx

4. How do I disable Nginx from starting automatically at boot?

To disable Nginx from starting automatically at boot, use the following command:

sudo systemctl disable nginx

5. How do I restart Nginx after making changes to the configuration file?

After making changes to the Nginx configuration file, you can restart the service using the following command:

sudo service nginx restart

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