How to Configure Let’s Encrypt SSL on Nginx (Ubuntu 16.04 / 17.10)

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In this guide we will configure Let’s Encrypt SSL on Nginx (Ubuntu 16.04 / 17.10).


You should already have your domain(s) configured and working on Nginx and accessible in the browser. If you haven’t configured Nginx yet, please see Guide: Installing Nginx on Ubuntu 16.04 / 17.10

Cloudflare Users: Note that you don’t need Let’s Encrypt and can instead use Cloudflare’s own shared Universal SSL certificate and an Origin CA. If you want to keep Cloudflare and also use Let’s Encrypt, you must Pause Cloudflare now, otherwise it will interfere with certificate deployment. Once the Let’s Encrypt cert is deployed, you must unpause and set SSL to Full (Strict) in the Cloudflare crypto settings, otherwise you will get a redirect loop error.

1. Install Let’s Encrypt client (Certbot)

UPDATE FEB 2019: This article has been updated to reflect Let’s Encrypt’s end of TLS-SNI-01 support.

Let’s begin by updating the package lists and installing software-properties-common. Commands separated by && will run in succession.

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install software-properties-common

Now add the repositories universe and certbot.

sudo add-apt-repository universe && sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot

Press ENTER if prompted.

Update the package lists again and install certbot for Nginx. This is the Let’s Encrypt client.

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install certbot python-certbot-nginx

Press y and ENTER when prompted to continue.

2. Configure the Firewall

If you haven’t already done so, it is recommended that you enable the ufw firewall and add a rule for Nginx. Before enabling ufw firewall, make sure you add a rule for SSH, otherwise you may get locked out of your server if you are logged in remotely.

sudo ufw allow OpenSSH

Now add the “Nginx Full” profile and then delete the redundant “Nginx HTTP” profile if it exists.

sudo ufw allow 'Nginx Full'
sudo ufw delete allow 'Nginx HTTP'

You can check the current firewall rules with:

sudo ufw status

We should now see our SSH and Nginx rules:

Status: active

To                         Action      From
--                         ------      ----
OpenSSH                    ALLOW       Anywhere
Nginx Full                 ALLOW       Anywhere
OpenSSH (v6)               ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)
Nginx Full (v6)            ALLOW       Anywhere (v6) 

3. Get an SSL Certificate

We will now obtain a cert for our test domain Certbot has an Nginx plugin, which automates the certificate installation.

sudo certbot --nginx
Enter email address (used for urgent renewal and security notices) (Enter 'c' to

Enter an email address where you can be contacted in case of urgent renewal and security notices.

Please read the Terms of Service at You must
agree in order to register with the ACME server at

Press a and ENTER to agree to the Terms of Service.

Would you be willing to share your email address with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a founding partner of the Let's Encrypt project and the non-profit
organization that develops Certbot? We'd like to send you email about EFF and
our work to encrypt the web, protect its users and defend digital rights.

Press n and ENTER to not share your email address with EFF.

Which names would you like to activate HTTPS for?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Select the appropriate numbers separated by commas and/or spaces, or leave input
blank to select all options shown (Enter 'c' to cancel):

If you have multiple domains already configured on your server, you will see a list of them here. In this example, we only have one domain and its www. prefix.

Select option 1 if you don’t want to use the www. prefix in your website address, otherwise select option 2.

Obtaining a new certificate
Performing the following challenges:
http-01 challenge for
Waiting for verification...
Cleaning up challenges
Deploying Certificate to VirtualHost /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

Please choose whether or not to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS, removing HTTP access.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1: No redirect - Make no further changes to the webserver configuration.
2: Redirect - Make all requests redirect to secure HTTPS access. Choose this for
new sites, or if you're confident your site works on HTTPS. You can undo this
change by editing your web server's configuration.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Select the appropriate number [1-2] then [enter] (press 'c' to cancel):

Press 2 and ENTER to redirect all traffic to HTTPS.

Congratulations! You have successfully enabled

You should test your configuration at:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

You’re done!

4. Test SSL

You can now go to and run an SSL test on your domain.

A successful test should receive an A rating.

5. Auto Renewal

As Let’s Encrypt certs expire after 90 days, they need to be checked for renewal periodically. Certbot will automatically run twice a day and renew any certificate that is within thirty days of expiration.

To test that this renewal process is working correctly, you can run:

sudo certbot renew --dry-run

Cloudflare Users

Please ensure your Cloudflare SSL settings are correct. Log in to Cloudflare, go to Crypto and make sure SSL is set to Full (Strict)

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    1. Do you have Cloudflare enabled for that domain? If so, log in to Cloudflare, go to Crypto and make sure SSL is set to Full (Strict)

  1. OK, it all works fine until I run certbot renew --dry-run

    Running post-hook command: systemctl start nginx
    Hook command “systemctl start nginx” returned error code 1
    Error output from systemctl:
    Job for nginx.service failed because the control process exited with error code. See “systemctl status nginx.service” and “journalctl -xe” for details.

    I check service status with sudo systemctl status nginx.service

    “Failed to start A high performance web server and a reverse proxy server.”

    I try restart Nginx: sudo systemctl restart nginx

    “Job for nginx.service failed because the control process exited with error code. See “systemctl status nginx.service” and “journalctl -xe” for details.”

    The things is, the site is still up and working. Just getting these errors.

    1. This appears to be a bug with Certbot. You will need to force Nginx to restart.

      sudo reboot

      Edit the renewal config. Its filename with depend on your domain. Check this folder

      ls /etc/letsencrypt/renewal/

      Then open the file you have in there. e.g.

      sudo nano /etc/letsencrypt/renewal/

      Then comment out the line installer = nginx so it looks like

      # installer = nginx

      Save and close.

      Now try running certbot renew --dry-run again.

  2. I can’t get it to install the cert 🙁 “Client with the currently selected authenticator does not support any combination of challenges that will satisfy the CA.”