Solving 500 Internal Server Error in Nginx: A How-To Guide

Solving the dreaded 500 Internal Server Error in Nginx can be a daunting task, but fear not! With a step-by-step guide, you can troubleshoot and fix this issue in no time. Usually, this error occurs because of a server-side problem, and fixing it involves checking for configuration issues, permissions, and software conflicts. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to resolve this problem and get your website up and running smoothly again.

Step-by-Step Tutorial: Solving 500 Internal Server Error in Nginx

Encountering a 500 Internal Server Error can be frustrating, but understanding what’s happening behind the scenes can help you resolve it quickly. In Nginx, this error often points to a problem with the server’s configuration, scripts, or file permissions. Let’s walk through the steps to identify and correct the issue.

Step 1: Check the Nginx Error Logs

The first place to look for clues is in the Nginx error logs.

Nginx keeps a record of server activities and errors in its logs. By examining these logs, you can often find the root cause of the 500 Internal Server Error. Typically, the error logs are located in /var/log/nginx/error.log. Open this file using a text editor or command-line tool and look for any recent entries that correspond to the time the error occurred.

Step 2: Verify Nginx Configuration Files

Next, ensure that your Nginx configuration files are correct and have no syntax errors.

Nginx configuration files can be complex, and even a small typo can cause a big problem. Use the command nginx -t to test your configuration files for any syntax errors. If you find an error, open the configuration file in question and correct the issue. Remember to reload Nginx after making any changes with the command sudo service nginx reload.

Step 3: Check File Permissions

Make sure that files and directories have the correct permissions set.

File permissions dictate who can read, write, or execute files on your server. If your scripts or files have incorrect permissions, Nginx may not be able to serve them, leading to a 500 Internal Server Error. Use the ls -l command to check permissions and the chmod and chown commands to correct them if necessary.

Step 4: Disable Problematic Scripts or Plugins

Sometimes, the error may be caused by a specific script or plugin.

If you’re running a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, a plugin or theme may be causing the error. Try disabling all plugins and then re-enable them one by one, checking your site each time to see if the error reappears. This can help you pinpoint the problematic plugin or script.

Step 5: Increase PHP Memory Limit

If you’re running PHP scripts, a memory limit issue might be the culprit.

PHP has a memory limit setting that, if exceeded, can cause a 500 Internal Server Error. If your scripts are memory-intensive, consider increasing this limit in your php.ini file. Look for the memory_limit directive and adjust the value higher, then restart PHP to apply the changes.

After completing these steps, your Nginx server should be back to normal, serving web pages without the ominous 500 Internal Server Error. If the problem persists, you may need to dive deeper into server settings or consult with a professional.

Tips: Preventing Future 500 Internal Server Errors in Nginx

  • Keep Nginx and all associated software up to date to prevent compatibility issues.
  • Regularly review and optimize your server’s configuration files to avoid errors.
  • Monitor your server’s resources, and upgrade if necessary, to prevent overloading.
  • Implement proper error handling in your scripts to prevent them from causing server errors.
  • Always back up your website before making significant changes to prevent data loss.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the 500 Internal Server Error mean?

The 500 Internal Server Error is a general server error that indicates something has gone wrong on the website’s server. It’s a catch-all error message that can be caused by a variety of issues.

Can caching cause a 500 Internal Server Error?

Yes, sometimes caching mechanisms on your server can cause this error. Clearing the cache may resolve the issue.

Is the 500 Internal Server Error always a server-side issue?

Generally, yes, the error is server-side. However, faulty client-side scripts, such as JavaScript or AJAX calls, can sometimes trigger this error as well.

Can incorrect database credentials cause this error?

Yes, if your website is unable to connect to its database due to incorrect credentials, it may result in a 500 Internal Server Error.

Should I restart Nginx after resolving the issue?

Yes, it’s a good practice to restart Nginx after making changes to ensure they take effect.


  1. Check the Nginx error logs.
  2. Verify Nginx configuration files.
  3. Check file permissions.
  4. Disable problematic scripts or plugins.
  5. Increase PHP memory limit.


Tackling a 500 Internal Server Error in Nginx might seem intimidating at first, but with the right approach, it’s entirely manageable. By methodically checking the error logs, configuration files, file permissions, and scripts, you’re likely to find the source of the problem. Remember to take preventive measures such as updating your software, optimizing configurations, and monitoring resources to avoid future errors. And of course, don’t hesitate to ask for help if you’re stuck – the Nginx community is vast, and chances are, someone else has faced and overcome the same issue. Keep calm, troubleshoot systematically, and you’ll have your website running smoothly again in no time.