I have a standard version of Nginx (installed through apt-get) running my production environment (Debian Jessie).

Now I want to compile the most recent release of Nginx from source with some extra modules for testing. The executable may sit anywhere, but I want to make sure not to accidentally overwrite my production version.

What I know: I need to cd to nginx source directory and execute:

./configure --add-module=/path/to/some/module
make install

What I don't know: How to make sure that the test version doesn't install on top of the production version. Or how to install in a specific place I specify.

(I tried to read the man-pages on make but didn't come to any conclusive answer. I am rather inexperiences with compiling from source.)


You specify the installation target as an option to ./configure, not make. By default, nginx configures itself with a prefix of /usr/local/nginx, so there's no risk of overwriting the packaged version; you can specify your own path with

./configure --prefix=/your/installation/path

The default nginx setup doesn't install any files outside of its prefix, e.g. in /etc.

The installation process is documented on the nginx web site.

A general strategy to check whether a piece of software is safe to install from source is to run the installation step with the -n option (which tells Make not to actually do anything):

make -n install

This will list all the operations that would be done in a real installation. (Some build systems break with this option because later installation steps rely on the changes made by earlier ones; nginx's build works fine.)

Of course you should play around with the source build and installation steps on another system first, before touching your production system...

  • thank's a lot. I was reading about it but wasn't sure on that point, especially if /etc files would be overwritten. – lhermann Feb 23 '17 at 17:06

You should run ./configure with the --sbin-path= option:

--sbin-path=path — sets the name of an nginx executable file. This name is used only during installation. By default the file is named prefix/sbin/nginx.


Another idea would be to use ansible to do the configuration. Afterwards you can create new virtual machines (e.g. with vagrant) and rollout your ansible-configuration (so called playbooks).

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