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Set up Discourse in the cloud in under 30 minutes with zero knowledge of Rails or Linux shell. One example is DigitalOcean, but these steps will work on any Docker-compatible cloud provider or local server.

🔔 Don't have 30 minutes to set this up? For a flat one-time fee of $99, the community can install Discourse in the cloud for you. Click here to purchase a self-supported community install.

Create New Cloud Server

Create your new cloud server, for example on DigitalOcean:

  • The default of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS x64 works fine. At minimum, a 64-bit Linux OS with a kernel version of 3.10+ is required.

  • The default of 1 GB RAM works fine for small Discourse communities. We recommend 2 GB RAM for larger communities.

  • The default of New York is a good choice for most US and European audiences. Or select a region that is geographically closer to your audience.

  • Enter your domain as the Droplet name.

Create your new Droplet. You will receive an email with the root password. (However, if you know how to use SSH keys, you may not need a password to log in.)

Access Your Cloud Server

Connect to your server via its IP address using SSH, or Putty on Windows:

ssh root@

Enter the root password from the email DigitalOcean sent you when the server was set up. You will be prompted to change the root password.

Install Docker / Git (Optional)

If you have reason to install your own version of Docker, you may do so. If docker is not installed, discourse-setup will automatically install it from

Install Discourse

Clone the Official Discourse Docker Image into /var/discourse.

sudo -s
git clone /var/discourse
cd /var/discourse

You will need to be root through the rest of the setup and bootstrap process.


⚠️ Email is CRITICAL for account creation and notifications in Discourse. If you do not properly configure email before bootstrapping YOU WILL HAVE A BROKEN SITE!

Domain Name

🔔 Discourse will not work from an IP address, you must own a domain name such as to proceed.

  • Already own a domain name? Great. Select a subdomain such as or or for your Discourse instance.

  • No domain name? We can recommend NameCheap, or there are many other great domain name registrars to choose from.

  • Your DNS controls should be accessible from the place where you purchased your domain name. Create a DNS A record for the hostname in your DNS control panel, pointing to the IP address of your cloud instance where you are installing Discourse.

Edit Discourse Configuration

Launch the setup tool at


Answer the following questions when prompted:

Hostname for your Discourse? []: 
Email address for admin account(s)? [,]: 
SMTP server address? []: 
SMTP port? [587]: 
SMTP user name? []: 
SMTP password? [pa$$word]: 
Let's Encrypt account email? (ENTER to skip) []: 

This will generate an app.yml configuration file on your behalf, and then kicks off bootstrap. Bootstrapping takes between 2-8 minutes to set up your Discourse. If you need to change these settings after bootstrapping, you can run ./discourse-setup again (it will re-use your previous values from the file) or edit /containers/app.yml manually with nano and then ./launcher rebuild app, otherwise your changes will not take effect.

Start Discourse

Once bootstrapping is complete, your Discourse should be accessible in your web browser via the domain name you entered earlier.

Register New Account and Become Admin

Register a new admin account using one of the email addresses you entered before bootstrapping.

(If you are unable to register your admin account, check the logs at /var/discourse/shared/standalone/log/rails/production.log and see our Email Troubleshooting checklist.)

After registering your admin account, the setup wizard will launch and guide you through basic configuration of your Discourse.

After completing the setup wizard, you should see Staff topics and READ ME FIRST: Admin Quick Start Guide. This guide contains advice for further configuring and customizing your Discourse install.

Post-Install Maintenance

  • We strongly suggest you turn on automatic security updates for your OS. In Ubuntu use the dpkg-reconfigure -plow unattended-upgrades command. In CentOS/RHEL, use the yum-cron package.
  • If you are using a password and not a SSH key, be sure to enforce a strong root password. In Ubuntu use the apt-get install libpam-cracklib package. We also recommend fail2ban which blocks any IP addresses for 10 minutes that attempt more than 3 password retries.
    • Ubuntu: apt-get install fail2ban
    • CentOS/RHEL: sudo yum install fail2ban (requires EPEL)
  • If you need or want a default firewall, turn on ufw for Ubuntu or use firewalld for CentOS/RHEL 7 or later.

You will get email reminders as new versions of Discourse are released. Please stay current to get the latest features and security fixes. To upgrade Discourse to the latest version, visit /admin/upgrade in your browser and click the Upgrade button.

The launcher command in the /var/discourse folder can be used for various kinds of maintenance:

Usage: launcher COMMAND CONFIG [--skip-prereqs] [--docker-args STRING]
    start:      Start/initialize a container
    stop:       Stop a running container
    restart:    Restart a container
    destroy:    Stop and remove a container
    enter:      Use nsenter to get a shell into a container
    logs:       View the Docker logs for a container
    bootstrap:  Bootstrap a container for the config based on a template
    rebuild:    Rebuild a container (destroy old, bootstrap, start new)
    cleanup:    Remove all containers that have stopped for > 24 hours

    --skip-prereqs             Don't check launcher prerequisites
    --docker-args              Extra arguments to pass when running docker

Add More Discourse Features

Do you want...

Help us improve this guide! Feel free to ask about it on, or even better, submit a pull request.

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