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Joe D.
In this guide, you will learn how to install, configure, and test NGINX and Node.js to serve static site content on a Debian 8 server.
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How to Install Node.js and NGINX on Debian 8
Web Applications
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Debian 8

Install Node.js and NGINX on Debian

Node.js is a JavaScript platform which can serve dynamic, responsive content. JavaScript is usually a client-side, browser language like HTML or CSS. However, Node.js is a server-side, JavaScript platform, comparable to PHP. Node.js often works with other popular server applications like NGINX or Apache. In this guide, NGINX is configured to handle front-end, static file requests, and Node.js is configured to handle back-end file requests.

Install and Configure NGINX

This guide can be started immediately after terminal login on a new Linode, it's written for the root user. However, before installation you might want to make sure the Linode is up-to-date with our Getting Started guide and secured with our Securing Your Server guide.

  1. Install NGINX as well as screen, which you'll use later:

    apt-get install nginx screen
  2. Start NGINX:

    service nginx start
  3. Change the working directory to the NGINX sites-available directory:

    cd /etc/nginx/sites-available/
  4. Create a new sites-available file, replacing with your domain or IP address:

    {{< file "/etc/nginx/sites-available/" nginx >}} #Names a server and declares the listening port server { listen 80; server_name;

    #Configures the publicly served root directory #Configures the index file to be served root /var/www/; index index.html index.htm;

    #These lines create a bypass for certain pathnames is now routed to port 3000 #instead of port 80 location /test.js { proxy_pass http://localhost:3000; proxy_set_header Host $host; } }

{{< /file >}}

  1. Change the working directory to the NGINX sites-enabled directory:

    cd /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/
  2. Create a symlink to the new example sites-available file:

    ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/
  3. Remove the default symlink:

    rm default
  4. Load the new NGINX configuration:

    service nginx reload

Create the Directories and HTML Index File

NGINX is now configured. However, the server block points to directories and files that still need to be created.

  1. Create the /var/www and /var/www/ directories:

    mkdir -p /var/www/
  2. Change the working directory:

    cd /var/www/
  3. Create the HTML index file:

    {{< file "/var/www/" >}}

If you have not finished the guide, the button below will not work.

The button links to test.js. The test.js request is passed through NGINX and then handled by the Node.js server.

Go to test.js

{{< /file >}}

Install Node.js and Write a Web Server

NGINX is now listening on port 80 and serving content. It's also configured to pass /test.js requests to port 3000. The next steps are to install Node.js, then write a server with Node.js. The new server listens on port 3000.

  1. Install the Node Version Manager:

    wget -qO- | bash
  2. Close and reopen your terminal.

  3. Install Node.js:

    nvm install 0.10
  4. While still in the /var/www/ directory, create a Node.js server:

    {{< file "/var/www/" javascript >}} // for API docs //Node.js web server var http = require("http"), //Import Node.js modules url = require("url"), path = require("path"), fs = require("fs");

http.createServer(function(request, response) { //Create server var name = url.parse(request.url).pathname; //Parse URL var filename = path.join(process.cwd(), name); //Create filename fs.readFile(filename, "binary", function(err, file) { //Read file if(err) { //Tracking Errors response.writeHead(500, {"Content-Type": "text/plain"}); response.write(err + "\n"); response.end(); return; } response.writeHead(200); //Header request response response.write(file, "binary"); //Sends body response response.end(); //Signals to server that }); //header and body sent }).listen(3000); //Listening port console.log("Server is listening on port 3000.") //Terminal output

{{< /file >}}

  1. Run a new screen session:

  2. Press return and run the Node.js server:

    node server.js
  3. Exit the screen by pressing Ctrl+a then d.

Create the Test.js File

NGINX is listening on port 80 and passing any /test.js requests to port 3000. Node.js is listening on port 3000 and serving any file requests. Next, write a /test.js file.

  1. Create the file:

    {{< file "/var/www/" html >}}

Your Node.JS server is working.

The below button is technically dynamic. You are now using Javascript on both the client-side and the server-side.

Display the date and time.

{{< /file >}}

  1. Test the NGINX server at the IP address or domain. Use the "Go to test.js" button to test that the Node.js server is serving files. On the test page, the "Display the date and time" button will execute a client-side snippet of JavaScript to return the current time.

[Node.js]( and [NGINX]( are now working together. Route requests to one server or the other depending on your needs. Node.js offers a large [API]( with many tools. With Node.js, a developer can stay within the JavaScript language while working client-side or server-side.

For next steps, look into technologies like WebSockets, iframes, or framesets. And for developing in JavaScript, try Express.js, Ember.js, jQuery, or the Node Package Manager for modules.