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UPDATED FOR FURTHER CLARITY:

According to http://expressionengine.com/user_guide/installation/installation.html, it says:

For most Unix hosts the following is typical, but you may check with your host to see if more restrictive permissions can be used to allow PHP to write to files (666) and folders (777). On Windows servers the following will not apply, but you will need to ensure that the files and folders are writable by ExpressionEngine. You may need to contact your host for this.

Not sure what this means. I can change the specific files and folders to 666 and 777 respectively where I am the chown'er, but the above sounds like I need to allow PHP to do this too?

ORIGINAL QUESTION:

I need to ensure that PHP can write to specific files (666) and folders (777).

How do I do this?

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I am not sure what problem you are trying to solve? If you can access the directory where file is located and have execute permission in it you can write to files and directories with those permissions. –  Karlson Apr 4 '12 at 15:19
    
Added further details above. –  oshirowanen Apr 4 '12 at 15:31
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For most Unix hosts the following is typical, but you may check with your host to see if more restrictive permissions can be used to allow PHP to write to files (666) and folders (777) -- Is there a coma missing? otherwise this phrase doesn't make any sense. Unless higher level directory is restricted you have no issue writing to world writable files or directories. –  Karlson Apr 4 '12 at 15:39
    
I just did a copy and paste from the documentation. Plus, it's the reason why I posted the question as I don't understand what that quote means... –  oshirowanen Apr 4 '12 at 15:55
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If you see documentation suggesting that you use 666 or 777 in relation to web files, you should probably ignore it unless there is a good reason explained. It's usually something written by someone who couldn't figure out how to set up the right permissions, and gave up and gave everyone read or write access to the files. –  jsbillings Apr 4 '12 at 19:44
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2 Answers

No matter who's the owner of the files, 666 permissions and 777 would be enough: the last digit makes sure that every user on the system has access. While this is the easiest way to do it, it is definitely not the safest for that exact reason.

A better way to do it

The first thing you need to understand is how Unix permissions work. In the interest of understanding the answer I gave at this link, please note that permissions can be translated to numbers:

  • 0: ---
  • 1: --x
  • 2: -w-
  • 3: -wx
  • 4: r--
  • 5: r-x
  • 6: rw-
  • 7: rwx

A chmod 666 is then equivalent to changing permissions to rw-rw-rw.

Next you have to figure out which is the user that is executing the PHP script. Normally that would be the user running your web server. Here's an example of how to do this (you can replace Apache with the name of your web server).

Once you know which is the user executing the scripts, and which's the owner of the files you mention, it is up to you to set appropriate permissions. Keep in mind that giving write access (even read) to every user on your system can be potentially disastrous.

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Expression Engine is just like many other PHP web applications which need read+write access to some files and directories. For example, EE requires write access to its config.php and database.php files, and write access to its file upload directories.

What the documentation is stating is that, as most servers run PHP as mod_php (and so run with the permissions of the web server), and as you probably will upload your files with FTP (or similar) using your own user, those files and directories will need to be given permissions 666 (everybody can read and write) and 777 (everybody can read, write and browse).

That is not the safest way, but certainly is the easiest, specially if your are using a hosting service.

However, as the EE instructions state, ask your hosting provider, because some don't use mod_php but a fastcgi, suphp or different version. Those servers run PHP as your own user, so all files you upload are already readable and writable by PHP and by any file created by the EE scripts. In that case files and directories accessed by PHP would need to be given 600 and 700 access. Other files to be accessed directly by the web server (not the PHP runtime) would still need 666 and 777 access).

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