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Setting up a local web server on OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"

Here is my definitive guide to getting a local web server running on OS X 10.11 “El Capitan”. This is meant to be a development platform so that you can build and test your sites locally, then deploy to an internet server. This User Tip only contains instructions for configuring the Apache server, PHP module, and Perl module. I have another User Tip for installing and configuring MySQL and email servers.


Note: This user tip is specific to OS X 10.11 “El Capitan”. Pay attention to your OS version.

Another note: These instructions apply to the client versions of OS X, not Server. Server does a few specific tricks really well and is a good choice for those. For things like database, web, and mail services, I have found it easier to just setup the client OS version manually.



  1. Basic understanding of and how to run command-line programs.
  2. Basic understanding of web servers.
  3. Basic usage of vi. You can substitute nano if you want.


  1. Xcode is required for adding PHP modules.


Lines in bold are what you will have to type in. Lines in bold courier should be typed at the Terminal.

Replace <your short user name> with your short user name.


Here goes... Enjoy!


To get started, edit the Apache configuration file as root:

sudo vi /etc/apache2/httpd.conf


Enable PHP by uncommenting line 169, changing:

#LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/


LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/

(If you aren't familiar with vi, go to line 169 by typing "169G" (without the quotes). Then just press 'x' over the '#' character to delete it. Then type ':w!' to save, or just 'ZZ' to save and quit. Don't do that yet though. More changes are still needed.)


OS X 10.10 “Yosemite” and later no longer include the mod_perl module. If you want to run Perl scripts, you will have to execute them using the Perl interpreter and a standard cgi wrapper. Those instructions are beyond the scope of this document.


Enable personal websites by uncommenting the following at line 166:

#LoadModule userdir_module libexec/apache2/


LoadModule userdir_module libexec/apache2/


and do the same at line 493:

#Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-userdir.conf


Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-userdir.conf

Now save and quit.


Open the file You just enabled above with:

sudo vi /etc/apache2/extra/httpd-userdir.conf

and uncomment the following at line 16:

#Include /private/etc/apache2/users/*.conf


Include /private/etc/apache2/users/*.conf

Save and exit.


Lion and later versions no longer create personal web sites by default. If you already had a Sites folder in Snow Leopard, it should still be there. To create one manually, enter the following:

mkdir ~/Sites

echo "<html><body><h1>My site works</h1></body></html>" > ~/Sites/index.html.en


While you are in /etc/apache2, double-check to make sure you have a user config file. It should exist at the path: /etc/apache2/users/<your short user name>.conf. That file may not exist and if you upgrade from an older version, you may still not have it. It does appear to be created when you create a new user. If that file doesn't exist, you will need to create it with:


sudo vi /etc/apache2/users/<your short user name>.conf


Use the following as the content:

<Directory "/Users/<your short user name>/Sites/">

    AddLanguage en .en

    Options Indexes MultiViews FollowSymLinks

    AllowOverride None

    Require host localhost



Now you are ready to turn on Apache itself. But first, do a sanity check. Sometimes copying and pasting from an internet forum can insert invisible, invalid characters into config files. Check your configuration by running the following command in the Terminal:

apachectl configtest


If this command returns "Syntax OK" then you are ready to go.


Turn on the Apache httpd service by running the following command in the Terminal:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.apache.httpd.plist


In Safari, navigate to your web site with the following address:



It should say:


It works!


Now try your user home directory:

http://localhost/~<your short user name>


It should say:


My site works


Now try PHP. Create a PHP info file with:

echo "<?php echo phpinfo(); ?>" > ~/Sites/info.php


And test it by entering the following into Safari's address bar:

http://localhost/~<your short user name>/info.php


You should see your PHP configuration information.


If you want to setup MySQL, see my User Tip on Installing MySQL.


If you want to add modules to PHP, I suggest the following site. I can't explain it any better.


If you want to make further changes to your Apache system or user config files, you will need to restart the Apache server with:

sudo apachectl graceful


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