How do Nginx Master and Worker Processes work?

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One of the key architectural components of Nginx is the division of labor between master and worker processes. In this article, we will dive into the technical details of Nginx master and worker processes, exploring their roles and functionalities.

Master Process

The master process in Nginx is the initial process that is responsible for managing the overall operation of the server. Its primary tasks include:

  • Reading Configuration: The master process reads the configuration files and initiates the server based on the specified settings. It interprets directives and prepares the environment for the worker processes.
  • Creating Worker Processes: After reading the configuration, the master process spawns one or more worker processes to handle incoming connections and requests.
  1. Signal Handling: The master process manages signal handling. It can gracefully restart or stop the server, enabling seamless updates or configuration changes without disrupting active connections.

Worker Processes

Worker processes are spawned by the master process and are responsible for handling client requests. Key characteristics of worker processes include:

  • Handling Connections: Worker processes are dedicated to handling incoming connections. Each process is capable of serving multiple clients concurrently, making Nginx highly scalable.
   events {
       worker_connections 1024;
  • Processing Requests: Worker processes execute the main task of processing client requests. They perform tasks such as proxying, load balancing, SSL termination, and serving static content.
   location / {
       proxy_pass http://backend_server;
  • Isolation: Worker processes operate independently, ensuring that a failure in one process does not impact the entire server. This isolation enhances stability and reliability.
   worker_processes auto;

Communication Between Master and Worker Processes

Communication between the master and worker processes is essential for coordination. Some mechanisms include:

  • Shared Memory: Nginx utilizes shared memory to facilitate communication between the master and worker processes. This allows them to exchange information about the server’s status.
   worker_rlimit_nofile 8192;
  • Signaling: The master process can signal worker processes to perform specific actions, such as reloading the configuration or gracefully shutting down.
nginx -s reload


Understanding the roles and interactions of master and worker processes in Nginx is crucial for optimizing server performance and ensuring reliable operation. The master process orchestrates the configuration and management, while worker processes handle the heavy lifting of serving client requests.

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