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Lighttpd Setup CGI-BIG CGI For Perl Programs

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Lighttpd has mod_cgi module that allows you running Perl and other server side programs via cgi-bin directory. The Common Gateway Interface (CGI) is a standard protocol for interfacing external application software with an information server.

Step #1: Create a CGI cgi-bin Directory

First you need to create a cgi-bin directory for your domain. Assuming that your domain hosted at /home/lighttpd/theos.in/http (DocumentRoot), create cgi-bin as follows:
# mkdir -p /home/lighttpd/theos.in/cgi-bin

Step # 2: Load mod_cgi Module

Open lighttpd configuration file using a text editor such as vi:
# vi /etc/lighttpd/ligttpd.conf

Now append or modify text as follows so that support for mod_cgi get loaded:

server.modules += ( "mod_cgi" )

Find out your virtual server configuration and append the following:

$HTTP["url"] =~ "/cgi-bin/" {
      cgi.assign = ( ".pl" => "/usr/bin/perl" )

Here is complete my config code:

$HTTP["host"]  =~ "theos.in" {
  server.document-root = "/home/lighttpd/theos.in/http"
  accesslog.filename         = "/var/log/lighttpd/theos.in/access.log"
  $HTTP["url"] =~ "/cgi-bin/" {
      cgi.assign = ( ".pl" => "/usr/bin/perl" )

Step # 3:Restart the Lighttpd

Restart lighttpd webserver, enter:
# /etc/init.d/lighttpd restart

Step # 4: Test It

Create a file/perl program in /home/lighttpd/theos.in/cgi-bin/sample.pl:

print "Content-Type: text/plain", "\n\n";
print "Hi there! This is a sample perl program!!!", "\n";

Save and execute the program (http://yourdomain.com/cgi-bin/sample.pl).

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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • james August 25, 2008, 2:04 am

    thanks mate, works sweet as

  • Leszek September 25, 2008, 10:43 pm

    Can I enable CGI globally by entering:
    lighty-enable-mod cgi
    and restarting Lighttpd ?

  • Thomas Martin Klein February 8, 2009, 4:02 pm

    Thanks for the info… it works like a charm,

  • Amir March 16, 2009, 3:34 pm

    A life saver!
    Thank you.

  • Dmitry March 26, 2009, 9:30 am

    Thank you!

    Trying this sample I got 403 Forbidden from lighttpd.

    Would you please, explain why?

    Thanks again.

    • nixCraft March 26, 2009, 1:20 pm

      Check for directory permission and set +x permission on your script:
      chmod +x script.pl

      Also, look at your error log file.

  • Dmitry March 26, 2009, 3:48 pm

    Thanks Vivek,

    The problem has been solved by reading POST data from stdin by cgi script.


  • nobody June 10, 2009, 7:19 am

    why using the so fast lighttpd when you are using the so slow perl… in 2009, it’s really pathetic still using perl…

  • Twitter Friendly June 11, 2009, 8:03 pm

    thank you for the post. nginx has a limited embed implementation as well, alternatively you can wrap cgi for it and run Perl inside.
    @nobody for many reasons too numerous to write down here.

  • Hawk June 12, 2009, 4:09 am

    @nobody and @twit Friendly The “so slow perl” is probably due to your inability to program it properly. The only thing faster then perl is mod_perl! Why don’t you use PHP. It’s a dumbed down version of perl and might be more to your speed.

    Can anyone explain why it gives a 500 Internal Server Error?

  • Kilbane July 13, 2009, 12:02 pm

    Really easy and fin tutorial :)
    Works fine for me :)

  • Durand July 21, 2009, 10:52 pm

    Mostly worked well. In gentoo, I had to add this line to get it to work:
    include “mod_cgi.conf”

  • NK August 2, 2009, 9:02 pm

    I just installed lightppd on Mandriva Linux 2008, and added following to /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf, and restarted lighttpd:

    server.modules += ( “mod_cgi” )
    $HTTP[“host”] =~ “” {
    server.document-root = “/var/www/html”
    accesslog.filename = “/var/log/lighttpd/access.log”
    $HTTP[“url”] =~ “/cgi-bin” {
    cgi.assign = ( “.pl” => “/usr/bin/perl” )

    /var/www/cgi-bin/test.pl is 755.

    Clicking on gives “404 – Not Found”. Would you happen to know why? /var/log/lighttpd/error.log does not show anything, but /var/log/lighttpd/access.log has an entry: – [02/Aug/2009:13:53:29 -0700] “GET /cgi-bin/test.pl HTTP/1.1” 404 345 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv: Gecko/2009042315 Firefox/3.0.10”

    I have tried replacing with localhost in the line ‘$HTTP[“host”] =~ “” {‘, but that did not help either.

  • NK August 2, 2009, 9:47 pm

    I just turned ON the debug and noticed that it was trying to run /var/www/html/cgi-bin/test.pl, instead of /var/www/cgi-bin/test.pl. Changing server.document-root = “/var/www/html” to “/var/www” fixed it.

    • LCN September 4, 2010, 4:37 am

      I had this same problem, too. Indeed, the author’s configuration file should replace this entry:

      server.document-root = “/home/lighttpd/theos.in/http”

      with this one:

      server.document-root = “/home/lighttpd/theos.in”

  • john plumridge March 27, 2010, 3:51 pm

    I have lighttpd running fine with cgi scripts form localhost/cgi-bin.
    I would like to use however, cgi scripts from any directory (i.e. globally), a desire which echoes an earlier post. I can’t find informaton on this, and cannot figure it out.
    Any ideas?

  • nishu April 9, 2010, 8:35 am

    Hi All,

    Need ur help. I m new in this cgi stuff and faling again and again

  • john plumridge April 23, 2010, 10:54 pm

    CHeck wher eyour perl distribution is located from in your bash path, if on Unix or Linux:

    In terminal: type

    $ which perl

    Your path might not be usr/bin/perl

  • Luke June 6, 2010, 4:49 am

    If you have cgi programs that are written in C how do you set it up? I have a bunch of C based code that is directly executable and I want to be able to execute from the web.

  • g.. August 25, 2011, 7:40 pm

    It works when I access the perl with a browser on the server with http://localhost/….
    However when I try to access the perl with the external IP it get an 403 Forbidden message.
    How could I make it to work also from the outside?


  • none-101 October 18, 2011, 11:08 am

    Does not show how to specify the cgi-bin.

    e.g in Apache I have the cgi-bin located elsewhere (on a separate partition)
    DocumentRoot /www/admin.example.com/
    ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ /www/cgi-bin/admin.example.com/

  • adipa January 6, 2012, 7:43 am

    Sorry, I confused installing setup on cgi-bin folder for powersek program. please help me…

  • Razique May 24, 2013, 8:21 am

    Perfect tutorial!

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