How to Convert .htaccess Rules to NGINX Directives

How to Convert .htaccess Rules to NGINX Directives

NGINX is a webserver that is becoming an increasingly popular option for webhosting because it can serve content faster. But NGINX does not support .htaccess rules, so developers must convert those rules to NGINX directives. This tutorial will demonstrate common examples.

NGINX is a web server that is becoming an increasingly popular option for web hosting, as sixteen percent of all sites on the internet are utilizing NGINX. This percentage is constantly increasing as clients require a web server that can serve content faster. It can also be used for proxies, reverse proxies, load balancing, and more depending on what modules you load onto NGINX. One of the significant differences between Apache (a popular webserver) and NGINX is the way each system handles access rules. If you are familiar with using .htaccess rules in Apache, then the method that NGINX uses of including directives in the server’s vhost block will be a substantial change.

We will be showing how to convert .htaccess rewrite rules to NGINX rewrite directives. The NGINX rewrite directives will also need to be placed within the server block. Many server configurations include this server block information in the vhosts file, while some use a separate NGINX configuration file (for more information about the NGINX configuration file, see Redirecting URLs Using NGINX). To complete this task, you will need to understand some basic NGINX directives I will be discussing in the next session.

Introduction to NGINX Rewrite and Return Directives

The most commonly used directives with NGINX are the return and rewrite directives. When using an NGINX directive, a client visiting a page can be directed to a different directory or a different landing page. Requests can also be redirected to an application depending on the directives you specify. For example, clients visiting the page from a smartphone can be forwarded to a script that is coded specifically for phone browsers. Another example would be to forward a client based on IP or geographical location, making your site region-specific and tailored to the visitor based on location.

NGINX Return Directive

The return directive is a bit less complicated than the rewrite directive. The best practice is to use this directive over the rewrite directive whenever possible. You will typically include the return in a server context that specifies the domains to be rewritten. I have included a common example below. Clients visiting the site will be redirected to the domain specified after the 301 status code. Using this directive will forward the client that visits to

server {
 listen 80;
 return 301 $scheme://$request_uri;

NGINX Rewrite Directive

The rewrite directive is somewhat different than the rewrite rules in .htaccess. It needs to be placed in a specific location or server block to rewrite the URL. The rewrite directive is usually used to perform smaller tedious tasks. For example, it is used in some cases to capture elements in the original URL or change elements in the path. The NGINX rewrite directive can get very complicated but once you understand the basic syntax it can be a lot less intimidating. I have included the basic syntax for an NGINX rewrite directive below.

rewrite regex URL [flag];

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