Fixing Permission Errors in /var/lib/nginx

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Table of Contents

This is a brief post so that I personally remember the solution as it has occurred multiple times for me.

The Problem

After migrating to a new server OS, I started receiving quite a few permission errors like the one below. These popped up for various different websites I'm serving via Nginx on this server, but did not prevent the website from loading.

I found the errors in the standard log file:

cat /var/log/nginx/error.log
2022/11/11 11:30:34 [crit] 8970#8970: *10 open() "/var/lib/nginx/tmp/proxy/3/00/0000000003" failed (13: Permission denied) while reading upstream, client:, server:, request: "GET /assets/main.css HTTP/2.0", upstream: "", host: "", referrer: ""

You can see that the error is 13: Permission denied and it occurs in the /var/lib/nginx/tmp/ directory. In my case, I had thousands of errors where Nginx was denied permission to read/write files in this directory.

So how do I fix it?

The Solution

In order to resolve the issue, I had to ensure the /var/lib/nginx directory is owned by Nginx. Mine was owned by the www user and Nginx was not able to read or write files within that directory. This prevented Nginx from caching temporary files.

# Alpine Linux
doas chown -R nginx:nginx /var/lib/nginx

# Other Distros
sudo chown -R nginx:nginx /var/lib/nginx

You may also be able to change the proxy_temp_path in your Nginx config, but I did not try this. Here's a suggestion I found online that may work if the above solution does not:

nano /etc/nginx/http.d/
server {

  # Set the proxy_temp_path to your preference, make sure it's owned by the
  # `nginx` user
  proxy_temp_path /tmp;


Finally, restart Nginx and your server should be able to cache temporary files again.

# Alpine Linux (OpenRC)
doas rc-service nginx restart

# Other Distros (systemd)
sudo systemctl restart nginx