How to Install ProcessWire CMS 3.0 on a Debian 9 LAMP VPS

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 6, 2018
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This article is outdated and may not work correctly for current operating systems or software.

ProcessWire CMS 3.0 is a simple, flexible and powerful, free and open source Content Management System (CMS). ProcessWire CMS 3.0 features an easy-to-use jQuery-style API, fully modular plugin architecture, and a flexible and powerful templating system that delivers an equally satisfying user experience for designers, developers, and end-users.

In this tutorial we are going to install ProcessWire CMS 3.0 on a Debian 9 LAMP VPS using Apache web server, PHP 7.1, and a MariaDB database.


  • A clean Vultr Debian 9 server instance with SSH access

Step 1: Add a Sudo User

We will start by adding a new sudo user.

First, log into your server as root:


The sudo command isn't installed by default in the Vultr Debain 9 server instance, so we will first install sudo:

apt-get -y install sudo

Now add a new user called user1 (or your preferred username):

adduser user1

When prompted, enter a secure and memorable password. You will also be prompted for your "Full Name" and some other details, but you can simply leave them blank by pressing Enter.

Now check the /etc/sudoers file to make sure that the sudoers group is enabled:


Look for a section like this:

%sudo        ALL=(ALL:ALL)       ALL

This line tells us that users who are members of the sudo group can use the sudo command to gain root privileges. It should be uncommented by default so you can simply exit the file.

Next we need to add user1 to the sudo group:

usermod -aG sudo user1

We can verify the user1 group membership and check that the usermod command worked with the groups command:

groups user1

Now use the su command to switch to the new sudo user user1 account:

su - user1

The command prompt will update to indicate that you are now logged into the user1 account. You can verify this with the whoami command:


Now restart the sshd service so that you can login via ssh with the new non-root sudo user account you have just created:

sudo systemctl restart sshd

Exit the user1 account:


Exit the root account (which will disconnect your ssh session):


You can now ssh into the server instance from your local host using the new non-root sudo user user1 account:


If you want to execute sudo without having to type a password every time, then open the /etc/sudoers file again, using visudo:

sudo visudo

Edit the section for the sudo group so that it looks like this:


Please note: Disabling the password requirement for the sudo user is not a recommended practice, but it is included here as it can make server configuration much more convenient and less frustrating, especially during longer systems administration sessions. If you are concerned about the security implications, you can always revert the configuration change to the original after you finish your administration tasks.

Whenever you want to log into the root user account from within the sudo user account, you can use one of the following commands:

sudo -i

sudo su -

You can exit the root account and return back to your sudo user account any time by simply typing exit.

Step 2: Update Debian 9 System

Before installing any packages on the Debian server instance, we will first update the system.

Make sure you are logged in to the server using a non-root sudo user and run the following commands:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get -y upgrade

Step 3: Install Apache Web Server

Install the Apache web server:

sudo apt-get -y install apache2 

Use the systemctl command to start and enable Apache to execute automatically at boot time:

sudo systemctl enable apache2

sudo systemctl start apache2

Check your Apache default site configuration file to ensure that the DocumentRoot directive points to the correct directory:

sudo vi /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf 

The DocumentRoot configuration option will look like this:

DocumentRoot "/var/www/html"

We now need to enable the mod_rewrite Apache module, so ensure that your Apache deafult site configuration file is still open, and add the following Directory Apache directives just before the closing </VirtualHost> tag, so that the end of your configuration file looks like this:

    <Directory /var/www/html/>

        Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews

        AllowOverride All

        Order allow,deny

        allow from all



The most important directive shown above is AllowOverride All.

Now save and exit the file, and enable the mod_rewrite Apache module:

sudo a2enmod rewrite

We will restart Apache at the end of this tutorial, but restarting Apache regularly during installation and configuration is certainly a good habit, so let's do it now:

sudo systemctl restart apache2

Step 4: Install PHP 7.0

We can now install PHP 7.0 along with all of the necessary PHP modules required by ProcessWire CMS:

sudo apt-get -y install php php-gd php-mbstring php-common php-mysql php-imagick php-xml libapache2-mod-php php-curl php-zip

Step 5: Install MariaDB (MySQL) Server

Debian 9 defaults to using MariaDB database server, which is an enhanced, fully open source, community developed, drop-in replacement for MySQL server.

Install MariaDB database server:

sudo apt-get -y install mariadb-server

Start and enable MariaDB server to execute automatically at boot time:

sudo systemctl enable mariadb

sudo systemctl start mariadb    

Secure your MariaDB server installation with:

sudo mysql_secure_installation

The root password will be blank, so simply hit enter when prompted for the root password.

When prompted to create a MariaDB/MySQL root user, select "Y" (for yes) and then enter a secure root password. Simply answer "Y" to all of the other yes/no questions as the default suggestions are the most secure options.

Step 6: Create Database for ProcessWire CMS

Log into the MariaDB shell as the MariaDB root user by running the following command:

sudo mariadb -u root -p

To access the MariaDB command prompt, simply enter the MariaDB root password when prompted.

Run the following queries to create a MariaDB database and database user for ProcessWire CMS:


CREATE USER 'pw_user'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'UltraSecurePassword';

GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON pw_db.* TO 'pw_user'@'localhost';



You can replace the database name pw_db and username pw_user with something more to your liking, if you prefer. Also, make sure that you replace "UltraSecurePassword" with an actually secure password.

Step 7: Install ProcessWire CMS Files

Change your current working directory to the default web directory:

cd /var/www/html/

If you get an error message saying something like 'No such file or directory' then try the following command:

cd /var/www/ ; sudo mkdir html ; cd html

Your current working directory will now be: /var/www/html/. You can check this with the pwd (print working directory) command:


Now use wget to download the ProcessWire CMS installation package:

sudo wget

Please note: You should definitely check for the most recent version by visiting the ProcessWire CMS download page.

List the current directory to check that you have successfully downloaded the file:

ls -la

Let's quickly install unzip so we can unzip the file:

sudo apt-get -y install unzip

Remove index.html:

sudo rm index.html

Now uncompress the zip archive:

sudo unzip

Move all of the installation files to the web root directory:

sudo mv processwire-master/* /var/www/html

Change ownership of the web files to avoid any permissions problems:

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data * ./

Restart Apache again:

sudo systemctl restart apache2

Step 8: Complete ProcessWire CMS Installation

It's now time to visit the IP address of your server instance in your browser, or if you've already configured your Vultr DNS settings (and given it enough time to propagate) you can simply visit your domain instead.

To access the ProcessWire CMS installation page, enter your Vultr instance IP address into your browser address bar, followed by index.php:


The ProcessWire CMS installer contains a lot of options, so here are a few pointers to help you along:

  1. On the ProcessWire CMS installation welcome page, click the Get Started button to start the installation process.

  2. Now select your preferred installation profile (or demo site) and click Continue.

  3. You will see a Compatibility Check page. If you see any errors, it probably means you are missing some PHP modules or have a permissions problem, otherwise you can simply click Continue.

  4. Enter the following values into the MySQL Database Settings page:

    DB Name:            pw_db
    DB User:            pw_user
    DB Pass:            UltraSecurePassword
    DB Host:            localhost
    DB Port:            3306
  5. You can leave the File Permission settings at their default values, or you can adjust them if you understand the implications.

  6. You can enter the future hostnames of your site in the appropriate section, or you can edit the site/config.php file later if you prefer.

  7. Click on Continue to configure the database and install the ProcessWire CMS files.

  8. Next, select your preferred Admin Theme.

  9. You can change the Admin URL if you prefer, or you can simply leave it at the default value.

  10. Enter your Admin Login Details as shown below:

    User (a-z 0-9):     <admin username>
    Password:           <admin password>
    Password (again):   <same admin password>
    Email Address:      <admin email address>
  11. Once all of the appropriate details have been entered, you can click Continue to finalize the ProcessWire installation.

  12. Once the installation is complete, simply click on the Login to Admin button to log in the the Admin section.

You may see a warning saying something like:

Warning: your server locale is undefined and may cause issues. Please add this to /site/config.php file (adjust en_US.UTF-8†as needed): setlocale(LC_ALL,'en_US.UTF-8');

You can fix this error by editing the site/config.php file:

sudo vi site/config.php

Append the appropriate value to the end of the file:


If you can't figure out what value to use, you can find a list of appropriate values for your particular server instance by running the locale command:

locale -a

Don't forget to save and exit the site/config.php file when you are finished editing.

For security purposes, make sure you change the permissions on the site/config.php file:

sudo chmod 400 site/config.php

Restart Apache.

sudo systemctl restart apache2

You are ready to start adding your content and configuring the look and feel of your site. Make sure you check out the excellent ProcessWire CMS documentation for more information about how to build and configure your site.

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