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I've got a brand new CentOS 6 installation, which has a symlink in the document root to my development files:

[root@localhost html]# ls -l
total 4
-rwxrwxrwx. 1 root root  0 Sep 18 20:16 index.html
-rwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 17 Sep 18 20:16 index.php
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 24 Sep 18 20:19 refresh-app -> /home/billy/refresh-app/

My httpd.conf has this:

<Directory "/">
    Options All
    AllowOverride None
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all

The target of the symbolic link has permissions which should allow apache to read anything it wants:

 [root@localhost billy]# ls -l
total 40 (Some entries were omitted because the list was too long
drwxr-xr-x. 7 billy billy 4096 Sep 18 20:03 refresh-app

I've also tried disabling SELinux by changing /etc/selinux/conf:


Yet no matter what I do, when someone tries to go to that link, http://localhost/refresh-app/, I get a 403 FORBIDDEN error page and this is written in the /var/log/httpd/error_log:

Symbolic link not allowed or link target not accessible

Why can't Apache access the target of the symlink?

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What user is apache running as? Can you actually read that resource as that user? – draeath Sep 19 '11 at 16:23
As well, you're better off running selinux in permissive mode and then using sealert to parse the audit log - this lets you see why/how SELinux is denying it and often even gives you a resolution. – draeath Sep 19 '11 at 16:23
@draeath: I have no idea how to check for that. – Billy ONeal Sep 19 '11 at 16:43
@draeath: 1. This isn't a production box; I don't care if SELinux is off. 2. In any case, I am just troubleshooting at this point -- I'll probably restore it once I figure out the root cause. – Billy ONeal Sep 19 '11 at 16:44
Not to worry this is a common oversight, first time i did it i was stuck for days, serverfault.com/questions/313485/… :: Its one of those errors. :D – whoami Sep 25 '11 at 13:28
up vote 25 down vote accepted

Found the issue. Turns out, Apache wants access to not just the directory I'm serving, /home/billy/refresh-app/, but also every directory above that, namely /home/billy/, /home, and /. (I have no idea why... giving someone access to a subdirectory shouldn't require giving away permissions to everything above that subdirectory....)

I would guess it's looking for .htaccess or something, or perhaps *nix being strange about how it treats permissions for directory transversal.

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It's not strange. That's how it works. You have to have +x for the entire path you're trying to access. – bahamat Sep 24 '11 at 20:50
@bahamat: That doesn't make any sense. Why would anyone need execute privileges for files that don't get executed? (This completely discounting that one shouldn't have to give away rights to /... pretty much ever) Systems with ACLs usually have a separate directory transverse option. You'd think after 30 years since Unix was designed, and wide availability of ACL systems, that ACLs would be the standard. :sigh: – Billy ONeal Sep 25 '11 at 1:07
I believe he meant +x on directories. Try switching into the user and cd-ing to the directory w/o +x. From memory +x allows you to access but not see the directory while +r allows you to list files and +w allows you to change files in said directory – acidzombie24 Sep 25 '11 at 20:42
@BillyONeal: the phrase "entire path" implies directories. – bahamat Sep 26 '11 at 19:46
This is correct behavior in unix. You need execute privileges (+x for g or o) on parent directories that you're trying to change into sub-directories underneath them. – slm Dec 28 '12 at 1:14

This error can also be caused if you are linking to an encrypted folder.

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It appears "FollowSymLinks" is the option you need in httpd.conf. It is detailed here. Looks like you might need a rule in htdocs too...but it's the option you need.

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See Options All -- FollowSymLinks is already specified. – Billy ONeal Sep 19 '11 at 16:43

You may also want to check if selinux is enforced or not. On RedHat/Fedora, execute this:


If the response is 'Enforcing', you may want to execute

setenforce 0

and try the url again in your browser.

Note that I am not saying that disabling selinux is the best way to solve this problem, but it may help to identify the cause.

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I had a similar problem where I had the following configuration which used to work with Ubuntu 10, but stopped working with Ubuntu 14 (Apache 2.4):

<Directory /var/www/vhosts/example.com/httpdocs>
    Options +FollowSymLinks

Switching to this sorted the problem (even though the web server user wasn't able to directly access the symlink)

<Directory /var/www/vhosts/example.com/httpdocs>
    Options +ExecCGI +FollowSymlinks -SymLinksIfOwnerMatch

From what I can tell its just the -SymLinksIfOwnerMatch setting and has something to do with changes in Apache 2.4 but I haven't tried researching the exact cause.

I also thought it could be down to openbase_dir restrictions in PHP but it wasn't that.

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Options +FollowSymLinks

Create a .htaccess file with this did the trick for me (put it in a dir before the symlink).

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You might also adjust your SELinux settings, and setenforce may not be on your path. So try this:

sudo /usr/sbin/setenforce 0

and to make this persist between reboots

sudo vi /etc/sysconfig/selinux
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