Install MediaWiki

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MediaWiki is the most popular wiki package and is the open source software that powers Wikipedia, among a great many other sites. This article covers installing MediaWiki to a UNPM Server.

This article assumes that MediaWiki is to be installed to a sub-directory called /wiki/, though it can be installed to a sub-directory of any name or depth (additional sub-directories). Note that the WikiMedia Foundation recommends against installation to a site's root directory as this will break many aspects of the site.

Nginx configuration

Package-configs files

Create the package-configs files mediadwiki.conf and mediawiki_https.conf:

username@servername:~$ sudo nano /etc/nginx/package-configs/mediawiki.conf

Add to the new file:

location /wiki/ {
    rewrite ^/wiki/([^?]*)(?:\?(.*))? /wiki/index.php?title=$1&$2 last;

    location ~* ^/images/.*.(html|htm|shtml|php|js)$ {
        types { }
        default_type text/plain;

    location ~* \.(js|css|png|jpg|jpeg|gif|ico)$ {
        try_files $uri /wiki/index.php;
        expires max;
        log_not_found off;

    location ~ (index|load|api).*\.php$ {
        include global-configs/php.conf;

    location ~ /cache/ { deny all; }

    location ~ \.php$ { deny all; }
username@servername:~$ sudo nano /etc/nginx/package-configs/mediawiki_https.conf

Add to the new file:

location /wiki/ {
    rewrite ^/wiki/([^?]*)(?:\?(.*))? /wiki/index.php?title=$1&$2 last;

    location ~* ^/images/.*.(html|htm|shtml|php|js)$ {
        types { }
        default_type text/plain;

    location ~* \.(js|css|png|jpg|jpeg|gif|ico)$ {
        try_files $uri /wiki/index.php;
        expires max;
        log_not_found off;

    location ~ (index|load|api).*\.php$ {
        include global-configs/php_https.conf;

    location ~ /cache/ { deny all; }

    location ~ \.php$ { deny all; }

Sites-available file

Open the sites-available file for the domain:

username@servername:~$ sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/

In the HTTP server block, add:

    include package-configs/mediawiki.conf;

In the HTTPS server block, add:

    include package-configs/mediawiki_https.conf;

For the categories feature of MediaWiki to function properly, it is important require nginx to serve the domain as either only or only one subdomain, such as The sites-available file can be edited as discussed in the nginx installation article.

404 error_page

Note that if the error_page directive is being used to redirect 404 errors, be sure it is in the location / block:

location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
    error_page 404 /404.html;

If it is directly in the server block, MediaWiki will not attempt to create pages when a wrong page is requested.

Create MediaWiki database and database user

Create a MediaWiki database and database user:

username@servername:~$ sudo mysql -uroot -p
MariaDB [(none)]> create database databasename;
MariaDB [(none)]> grant all on databasename.* to 'databasenameusername'@'localhost' identified by 'databasenameusernamepassword';
MariaDB [(none)]> exit

Note that the databasename, databasenameusername and databasenameusernamepassword will be required for the MediaWiki configuration process.

Install Mediawiki

Mediawiki will require a few packages to be installed to run:

username@servername:~$ sudo aptitude install imagemagick php5.6-intl

Test nginx and restart services:

username@servername:~$ sudo nginx -t
nginx: the configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf syntax is ok
nginx: configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf test is successful
username@servername:~$ sudo service php5.6-fpm restart
username@servername:~$ sudo service nginx reload

The MediaWiki project offers two different release types: major releases every six months that are immediately retired upon the next release and LTS releases every 2 years, that are supported for an additional year after the next release. Currently the LTS version is 1.35, which will be supported until September, 2023.

Download Mediawiki:

username@servername:~$ wget
username@servername:~$ tar -xzf mediawiki-1.35.5.tar.gz
username@servername:~$ mv mediawiki-1.35.5/ /var/www/
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/ -type d | xargs -d '\n' chmod 775
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/ -type f | xargs -d '\n' chmod 664
username@servername:~$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/
username@servername:~$ rm mediawiki-1.35.5.tar.gz

Navigate to secure and complete the Mediawiki installation. Most admins will prefer to use the 'Authorized editors only' option under 'User rights profile:'. Select 'PHP object caching (APC, XCache or WinCache)' in the Advanced Configuration options and be sure to sign up for update notifications.


After completing the online setup, MediaWiki will prompt to download the LocalSettings.php file. This is the main configuration file for MediaWiki. It is easiest to open the file in a text editor and then copy and paste the contents into the LocalSettings.php file on the server. However, before doing that, the file still requires at least a few edits.

To support loading MediaWiki in non-secure sessions, but require secure session for logging in, change:

$wgserver = "//";

Enable $wgCacheDirectory:

$wgCacheDirectory = "$IP/cache";

To create a user rights management system better suited to smaller wikis, change:

$wgGroupPermissions['*']['createaccount'] = true;

Then, just below the permissions created by MediaWiki, add:

# The following permissions were added to allow user account creation without
# granting new users the ability to edit. The admin accounts may elevate new
# users to the added editor role to grant permission to edit
$wgGroupPermissions['*']['createtalk'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['*']['createpage'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['*']['writeapi'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['*']['edit'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['edit'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['createtalk'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['createpage'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['minoredit'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['move'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['movefile'] = false; 
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['move-subpages'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['move-rootuserpages'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['reupload-shared'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['reupload'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['purge'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['sendemail'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['upload'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['user']['writeapi'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor'] = $wgGroupPermissions['user'];
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['edit'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['createtalk'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['createpage'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['minoredit'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['move'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['move-subpages'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['upload'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['reupload'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['editor']['sendemail'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['sysop']['edit'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['sysop']['createpage'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['sysop']['createtalk'] = true;
$wgGroupPermissions['sysop']['minoredit'] = true;
$wgWikiEditorModules['toolbar']['global'] = true;
$wgWikiEditorModules['toolbar']['user'] = false;
$wgGroupPermissions['bureaucrat']['usermerge'] = true;

The * user group means all users, including anonymous users.

Below that, add:

# Enable requirement for secure login:
$wgSecureLogin = true;

# Enable pretty URLs
$wgUsePathInfo = true;
$wgArticlePath = "/wiki/$1";

Now paste the entire contents from the computer's text editor to the LocalSettings.php file on the server:

username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/

Note that depending on the operating system and editor used, the code may paste in without things such as returns between paragraphs. This does happen with Notepad++ in Windows 7, but can easily be fixed by first pasting into a new Notepad++ tab and copying from there.

Configuring MediaWiki

MediaWiki configuration is different from most of the popular PHP packages. Configuring is done through the LocalSettings.php file, extensions, which must be installed server-side with accompanied LocalSettings.php entries, and various different hard-to-find pages in the web interface. The MediaWiki Manual is an invaluable resource. Below are some simple and common extension and configuration settings.


To edit the MediaWiki Sidebar, while logged in with an admin account, simply navigate to

Disable page counts

By default, MediaWiki will display page counts at the bottom of every page. This can be disabled with the following:

username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/

Add to the bottom of the file:

# Disables page counters
$wgDisableCounters = true;

Change logo image

The logo image location is set in LocalSettings.php with the $wgLogo directive, for which the default is "$wgStylePath/common/images/wiki.png";. Replacing wiki.png with a different image while using the same name will be overwritten when updating MediaWiki, so it is better to use a file in a different location. MediaWiki updates generally ignore anything in the /images directory, so putting the logo there and setting $wgLogo = "$wgScriptPath/images/filename"; is a reasonable solution, though other locations may work just as well.

MobileFrontend extension

Although there are options to automatically detect mobile devices and display a mobile-friendly theme, the disadvantage of this feature is it requires disabling caching unless an additional domain is used, such as placing an m in the subdomain. A compromise is to install the MobileFrontend extension which creates a Mobile view link at the bottom of every page. It is important to check the extension page and verify the latest version.

username@servername:~$ wget
username@servername:~$ tar -xzf MobileFrontend-REL1_25-c193468.tar.gz
username@servername:~$ mv MobileFrontend/ /var/www/
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/ -type d | xargs -d '\n' chmod 775
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/ -type f | xargs -d '\n' chmod 664
username@servername:~$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/
username@servername:~$ rm MobileFrontend-REL1_25-c193468.tar.gz
username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/

Add to the bottom of the file:

# Enables MobileFrontend extension
require_once "$IP/extensions/MobileFrontend/MobileFrontend.php";
$wgMFAutodetectMobileView = false;

Tracking with Piwik

Piwik may be used by simply enabling and configuring the MediaWiki:Common.js feature or by installing the Piwik extension.


The easiest way to use Piwik to track users of the wiki is to simply use the Common.js feature of MediaWiki. Enable it in LocalSettings.php:

username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/

Add to the file:

# Use the site's JavaScript (MediaWiki:Common.js) 
$wgUseSiteJS = true;

Navigate to while logged in as an administrator and add the Piwik javascript code:

var _paq = _paq || [];
(function() {
  var u="//";
  _paq.push(['setTrackerUrl', u+'js/']);
  _paq.push(['setSiteId', 1]);
  var d=document, g=d.createElement('script'), s=d.getElementsByTagName('script')[0];
  g.type='text/javascript'; g.async=true; g.defer=true; g.src=u+'js/'; s.parentNode.insertBefore(g,s);

Refer to the Piwik article for an explanation of randomsymlinkname and js/ usage.

Piwik Integration extension

If more sophisticated tracking is required, such as ignoring certain users or user types, Using the Piwik extension may be preferable to the Common.js method. It is important to note that this extension may not support tracking while in Mobile view due to a bug.

Email notifications

If the server does not have any form of mail server installed, the $wgSMTP setting may be used to configure an SMTP server for sending email.

username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/

Add the following array:

$wgSMTP = array(
 'host'     => "", // could also be an IP address. Where the SMTP server is located
 'IDHost'   => "",      // Generally this will be the domain name of your website
 'port'     => 25,                 // Port to use when connecting to the SMTP server
 'auth'     => true,               // Should we use SMTP authentication (true or false)
 'username' => "my_user_name",     // Username to use for SMTP authentication (if being used)
 'password' => "my_password"       // Password to use for SMTP authentication (if being used)

Add the following PEAR packages so that PHP can support sending mail:

username@servername:~$ sudo pear install Mail
username@servername:~$ sudo pear install Net_SMTP

File upload extension management

Use $wgFileExtensions to add file extensions available for upload by adding the following, edited as desired, to LocalSettings.php:

# Add new types to the existing list from DefaultSettings.php
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'azw';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'azw3';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'doc';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'docx';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'epub';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'mobi';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'mpp';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'ods';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'odt';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'pdf';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'ppt';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'pptx';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'xls';
$wgFileExtensions[] = 'xlsx';

Note that there are also options available to permit all extensions except those blacklisted. More information on this and other features related to uploads is available at Mediawiki Manual:Configuring file uploads.

It will be necessary to tell nginx to serve these filetypes as files. Change the try_files block in both mediawiki.conf and mediawiki_https.conf to support the desired filetypes:

    location ~* \.(css|gif|ico|jpeg|jpg|js|png|azw|azw3|doc|docx|epub|mobi|mpp|ods|odt|pdf|ppt|pptx|xls|xlsx)$ {
        try_files $uri /wiki/index.php;
        expires max;
        log_not_found off;

Increase Mediawiki max file upload size

Mediawiki is set by default with a max upload file size of 100 MB, calculated as 1024*1024*100. To change this, in addition to necessary configuration changes in nginx.conf and php.ini, change the $wgMaxUploadSize parameter to other than default by adding the following to LocalSettings.php:

# Increase max upload file size to 200 MB
$wgMaxUploadSize = 209715200;


MediaWiki now installs with the ConfirmEdit extension that includes QuestyCaptcha, a configurable bot-checking tool that can be applied to specific pages, such as only the account creation page, or to every page. QustyCaptcha is still in Beta, but should work well on most installations. Questions can be applied to several MediaWiki actions and is by default enabled on createaccount. Here is a sample configuration:

// Enable QuestyCaptcha
// Questions will appear exactly as written and answers are case-insensitive
// For more info see
require_once( "$IP/extensions/ConfirmEdit/ConfirmEdit.php" );
require_once( "$IP/extensions/ConfirmEdit/QuestyCaptcha.php"); 
$wgCaptchaClass = 'QuestyCaptcha';
$arr = array (
	"What was Ben Kenobi also known as?" => array('obi wan','obi-wan','obi wan kenobi','obi-wan kenobi')
foreach ( $arr as $key => $value ) {
	$wgCaptchaQuestions[] = array( 'question' => $key, 'answer' => $value );


The SyntaxHighlight plugin is available by default but requires some configuring.

Add the following to LocalSettings.php:

wfLoadExtension( 'SyntaxHighlight_GeSHi' );

Make the pygmentize binary executable:

username@servername:~$ chmod a+x /var/www/

Upgrading MediaWiki

Upgrading MediaWiki is done through the command line. For minor version upgrades, a patch file may be made available, however, due to a longstanding bug, many installations will not support upgrade via patch, thus a complete reinstall from backup is essentially performed. The best way to find the locations of an update's files and options is from the announcement email, presumably subscribed to during the mediawiki setup process, also available by subscribing to @mediawiki or even the @unpm_org account, which only retweets official announcements, and also by simply browsing through

Maintenance mode

To prevent user edits to the wiki during upgrade, which might be saved to the old database, place the following statement at the bottom of LocalSettings.php.

username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/
# Use $wgReadOnly to prevent changes to the database.
# Text in "" maybe changed as desired
# The database will be locked from edits as long as the line below
# is uncommented.
$wgReadOnly="We are upgrading MediaWiki, please be patient. This wiki will be back shortly.";

Upgrade without patch

To upgrade to versions without a patch, near complete reinstallation is performed. Note that this procedure transfers current MediaWiki settings and sets up the new MediaWiki version on a copy of the working database. This is to facilitate easy recovery to the currently functioning wiki since no changes are made to the wiki or its database.

Install new version to new directory

The actual new version will depend on what version it is desired to upgrade to. All versions of MediaWiki may be found here.

username@servername:~$ wget
username@servername:~$ tar -xzf mediawiki-1.35.5.tar.gz -C /var/www/
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/ -type d | xargs -d '\n' chmod 775
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/ -type f | xargs -d '\n' chmod 664
username@servername:~$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/
username@servername:~$ cp -p /var/www/ /var/www/
username@servername:~$ cp -rpfu /var/www/* /var/www/
username@servername:~$ cp -rpfu /var/www/* /var/www/
username@servername:~$ cp -rpfu /var/www/* /var/www/

Note that any other additional files not a part of the MediaWiki package should also be copied to the new directory. Files that have been customized should be customized again using the file in the new installation.

Copy database to new database

Before copying the database, clear pending jobs:

username@servername:~$ php /var/www/

Log in to phpMyAdmin as the root MySQL user. Select the database used by MediaWiki and navigate to the Operations page. Enter the name of the new database in the Copy database to: field, leaving the default selections for copying and select Go

Navigate to phpMyAdmin home page and select User accounts. Click Edit privileges next to the user assigned to the original MediaWiki database. Under Database-specific privileges, select the new database in the Add privileges on the following database: drop-down menu. In the following page, click Check all, then uncheck GRANT and click Go.

Now update the name of the database in the new LocalSettings.php file:

username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/


$wgDBname = "newdatabasename";

Archive the original /wiki/ installation, install the new installation in its place and run the update script:

username@servername:~$ mkdir /var/www/
username@servername:~$ mv /var/www/ /var/www/
username@servername:~$ mv /var/www/ /var/www/
username@servername:~$ php /var/www/

Navigate to the wiki and verify it is functioning properly. If it is not functioning properly and the problem cannot repaired, then restore the archived version until the update can be successfully performed.

Text search broken

If the search function is broken, edit LocalSettings.php by adding the following to the bottom of the file:

# Enables backtrace for error details
$wgShowExceptionDetails = true;

Perform the search again and if it reports Error 1191: Can't find FULLTEXT index matching the column list (localhost), rebuild the index with the following command:

username@servername:~$ php /var/www/

Verify text search is now functioning properly then comment out $wgShowExceptionDetails = true;.

External links

Mediawiki release downloads

Mailinator provides a free, disposable email service that is very convenient for testing.

Send email via SMTP server by configuring $wgSMTP

Edit file extensions available for upload in MediaWiki


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