What is stopping Apache Server from Starting?

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In this guide, we will explore various potential roadblocks that can hinder Apache’s startup process and how to fix them.

Configuration Errors

Configuration errors can prevent Apache from starting because the web server relies on its configuration files to function correctly. These configuration files, such as httpd.conf or apache2.conf, contain directives that govern how Apache operates, including settings for ports, virtual hosts, security, and module configurations. When there are syntax errors, typos, or misconfigurations in these files, Apache cannot interpret the instructions properly, leading to startup failures. Here’s how configuration errors can stop Apache from starting:

Syntax Errors

If there are syntax errors in the configuration files, Apache cannot parse the instructions correctly. Even a small typo or missing punctuation can render the entire file invalid. Apache performs a syntax check during startup, and if errors are found, it will refuse to start.

RECOMMENDED READING: How to test the Apache server for Syntax errors

Invalid Directives

Configuration files contain various directives that define server behavior. If you use an incorrect or unrecognized directive, Apache will encounter an error and fail to start. This could be due to misspelling a directive, using an obsolete directive, or using a directive in the wrong context.

RECOMMENDED READING: A Beginner’s Guide to Apache Configuration Files

Mismatched Tags or Brackets

Apache configuration files often use tags or brackets to enclose blocks of configuration settings. If these tags are mismatched, not properly closed, or nested incorrectly, Apache won’t be able to interpret the file structure, leading to startup issues.

Missing Files

If the main configuration file (e.g., httpd.conf) references additional configuration files or includes that are missing or located in the wrong directory, Apache will encounter errors during startup. It needs all the necessary files to be present and accessible to function correctly.

Ensure that the main Apache configuration file (httpd.conf or apache2.conf) and any included configuration files (conf.d/*.conf or sites-available/*.conf) exist in the correct paths.

Use the following command to verify the syntax of the configuration files without restarting Apache:

apachectl configtest

You will need to fix any syntax errors reported during the configuration test.

Port Binding Issues

Port binding issues can prevent Apache from starting because the web server requires a specific port (usually port 80 for HTTP) to listen for incoming connections. If another application is already using that port, Apache won’t be able to bind to it, leading to startup failure. Here’s how port binding issues can occur and how to fix them:

Port already in Use

This happens of another process or service is using the same port (e.g., port 80) that Apache is configured to listen on. You can run the following command to identify the service running on the defined port (port 80) for Apache:

sudo netstat -tuln | grep 80

The output of running the above command will list all TCP and UDP ports that are currently listening on port 80, along with the process ID (PID) of the process listening on each port.

For example, the following output shows that the Apache HTTP Server (PID 1914) is listening on TCP port 80:

tcp6       0      0 :::80       :::*        LISTEN      1914/apache2

If you are running multiple processes that are listening on port 80, the output of the command will show all of them. You can use the PID to identify the process that is listening on a particular port, and then use the kill command to terminate the process if necessary.

Here is an example of the output of the command if multiple processes are listening on port 80:

tcp6       0      0 :::80       :::*        LISTEN      1914/apache2
tcp6       0      0 :::80       :::*        LISTEN      12418/www-data

In this example, the Apache HTTP Server (PID 1914) and the www-data process (PID 12418) are both listening on TCP port 80.

If you want to use a different port other than port 80 for Apache, find the Listen directive. This directive specifies the port that Apache will listen on. It looks as follows in the Apache configuration file;

Listen 80

This tells Apache to listen on port 80. To change the port to 8080, you would change the line to:

Listen 8080

Once you have changed the port number, you will need to restart Apache for the changes to take effect. You can typically do this by running the following command:

apachectl restart

Once Apache has restarted, you will be able to access your website at the new port number. For example, if you changed the port to 8080, you would access your website at http://localhost:8080/.

RECOMMENDED READING: How to configure Apache Server to listen on a Custom port?

Permission Issues with Ports Below 1024

In Unix-based Systems, Ports below 1024 are considered privileged ports, and binding to these ports typically requires superuser privileges. If Apache is configured to listen on a privileged port and the process does not have the necessary permissions, it won’t be able to start.

To fix this problem, you will need to run Apache with superuser privileges using sudo. However, this is not recommended for security reasons. Alternatively, you can use a non-privileged port (port number above 1024 or use a reverse proxy like Nginx or HAProxy to forward traffic from a privileged port to a non-privileged port that Apache is listening on.

IPv6 and IPv4 Binding Conflict

Apache might be configured to listen on both IPv6 and IPv4 addresses, and there might be conflicts between these configurations.

Modify the Apache configuration file to specify whether to listen on IPv4, IPv6, or both. For example, to listen on all available IPv4 addresses, use:


For IPv6, use:

Listen [::]:80

To listen on specific addresses, replace and [::] with the appropriate IP addresses.

Firewall Blocking the Port

A firewall might be blocking incoming connections to the port that Apache is trying to bind to. Check the server’s firewall settings to ensure that traffic on the Apache port is allowed. Use the appropriate command to allow traffic on the desired port (e.g., port 80 for HTTP):

sudo ufw allow 80/tcp


sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --add-port=80/tcp sudo firewall-cmd --reload</

By addressing these port-binding issues and ensuring that Apache has the necessary permissions and is not conflict with other services, you can resolve the problem and allow Apache to start successfully.

RECOMMENDED READING: How to configure iptables to secure Apache server on Ubuntu

Insufficient Permissions

Apache might lack the necessary permissions to access its configuration files, web content, or log files.

Ensure that the Apache user (commonly, ‘www-data’ or ‘apache’) has appropriate read and execute permissions for its configuration files and web directories. Use the chown and chmod commands to adjust ownership and permissions.

For example, to add the appropriate permissions to the /var/www directory using chmod, you can use the following command:

sudo chmod -R 775 /var/www

This will give the www-data group read, write, and execute permissions to the directory and all of its subdirectories and files.

To add the appropriate permissions to a specific directory or file, you can use the following command:

sudo chmod 775 <directory_or_file_path>

For example, to give the www-data group read, write, and execute permissions to the /var/www/html/index.php file, you would use the following command:

sudo chmod 775 /var/www/html/index.php

Resource Limitations

Apache may fail to start if the server is low on memory, CPU, or other system resources. Monitor system resources using tools like top or htop. Consider optimizing Apache’s configuration, upgrading hardware, or optimizing other software running on the server.

Modules Conflicts

Incompatible or conflicting modules might prevent Apache from starting. Disable all third-party modules and enable them one by one to identify the problematic module. Check Apache’s error log for any module-related error messages.

DNS Resolution Issues

If Apache relies on hostnames that cannot be resolved, it might fail to start. Ensure that all hostnames used in Apache’s configuration files can be resolved. Check DNS configuration and hosts file (/etc/hosts) for correct entries.

Corrupted Installation or Files

Apache installation files or libraries might be corrupted, leading to startup failures. Reinstall Apache or replace the corrupted files from a backup or a fresh installation package.

System Updates

Updates or changes to the operating system might introduce conflicts with Apache configurations. Check system update logs for any changes that might affect Apache. Update Apache configurations accordingly to adapt to new system requirements.

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