Fixing the Nginx Error `[emerg] host not found in upstream`: Comprehensive Troubleshooting Guide

Nginx is a popular web server and reverse proxy server that provides outstanding performance and scalability. However, like any software, issues can arise. One such error that can occur is [emerg] host not found in upstream. This error can be frustrating, but fortunately, it can be resolved with a bit of troubleshooting. In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps to resolve this error and get your Nginx server up and running again.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Error
  2. Quick Fixes
  3. Step-by-Step Troubleshooting
  4. FAQ

Understanding the Error

The [emerg] host not found in upstream error occurs when Nginx cannot resolve the domain name specified in the proxy_pass directive. This can be due to a misconfiguration, network issue, or DNS resolution problem.

Here's an example of a problematic configuration:

location / {

In this example, Nginx is unable to resolve, which results in the [emerg] host not found in upstream error.

Quick Fixes

Before diving into a more comprehensive troubleshooting process, try these quick fixes:

Check your Nginx configuration file for typos: Ensure that the domain name in the proxy_pass directive is spelled correctly and is a valid domain.

Restart the Nginx server: Sometimes, a simple restart can resolve the issue. Run the following command to restart Nginx:

sudo service nginx restart

If these quick fixes don't resolve the issue, proceed to the step-by-step troubleshooting guide below.

Step-by-Step Troubleshooting

Step 1: Verify DNS resolution

First, check if the domain name specified in the proxy_pass directive can be resolved by your system. You can use the nslookup or dig command to do this. Here's an example using nslookup:


If the domain name cannot be resolved, you'll need to fix your DNS settings or contact your DNS provider for assistance.

Step 2: Check Nginx error logs

Examine the Nginx error logs for any additional information about the issue. The default location for the error log is /var/log/nginx/error.log. You can use the tail command to view the most recent entries:

sudo tail /var/log/nginx/error.log

Look for any relevant error messages that may provide more insight into the problem.

Step 3: Update Nginx configuration

If the domain name in the proxy_pass directive is correct and resolvable, consider using an IP address instead of a domain name. This can help bypass any DNS-related issues. Update your Nginx configuration as follows:

location / {
    proxy_pass http://123.456.789.0; # Replace with the IP address of your upstream server

Don't forget to restart Nginx after making changes to the configuration:

sudo service nginx restart


Q: What is the proxy_pass directive in Nginx?

A: The proxy_pass directive is used in Nginx configuration files to forward incoming requests to another server. This is commonly used for load balancing, serving static content, or implementing a reverse proxy. Learn more about proxy_pass here.

Q: Where can I find my Nginx configuration file?

A: The default location for the main Nginx configuration file is /etc/nginx/nginx.conf. However, individual server blocks may be stored in separate files within the /etc/nginx/sites-available and /etc/nginx/sites-enabled directories.

Q: Can I use a hostname instead of an IP address in the proxy_pass directive?

A: Yes, you can use a hostname in the proxy_pass directive. However, if you encounter the [emerg] host not found in upstream error, using an IP address instead may help resolve the issue.

Q: How can I check the syntax of my Nginx configuration file?

A: You can use the nginx -t command to check the syntax of your configuration file. If there are any errors, this command will provide information on where the issue is located.

Q: How do I reload my Nginx configuration without restarting the server?

A: To reload your Nginx configuration without restarting the server, you can use the following command:

sudo service nginx reload

This will apply any changes made to your configuration without causing any downtime.

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