How To Cache Content on Nginx

Cache Content on Nginx

Nginx, a high-performance web server and reverse proxy, is a cornerstone of modern web infrastructure. Its versatility extends beyond serving web pages, playing a crucial role in load balancing, HTTP caching, and more. This article delves into one of Nginx’s most potent features: content caching. By caching content, Nginx can significantly enhance web application performance, reduce server load, and improve user experience. We‘ll explore both static and dynamic content caching, providing a comprehensive guide for intermediate to advanced users.

Understanding Caching in Nginx

Caching is a technique used to store copies of frequently accessed data in a location close to the client. This process reduces the time taken to serve the data, enhancing the overall performance of the web server. Nginx excels in caching both static and dynamic content, offering a robust set of directives for fine-tuning cache behavior.

Static content, such as images, CSS, and JavaScript files, are straightforward to cache as they rarely change. Dynamic content, on the other hand, is generated on the fly for each request, making it more challenging to cache. However, Nginx’s sophisticated caching mechanisms can handle even this complex task efficiently.

Cache keys play a pivotal role in caching. They are unique identifiers that Nginx uses to store and retrieve cached content. The choice of cache key can significantly impact the effectiveness of your caching strategy.

Setting Up Nginx for Caching

Before you can leverage Nginx’s caching capabilities, you need to have Nginx installed on your server. Once Nginx is up and running, you can enable caching by including specific directives in your configuration file.

The proxy_cache_path directive is crucial for setting up Nginx caching. This directive defines the local filesystem path where Nginx will store cached content. It should be included in the top-level http {} context of your configuration file.

Here’s an example of how to use the proxy_cache_path directive:

http {
    proxy_cache_path /path/to/cache levels=1:2 keys_zone=my_cache:10m max_size=1g inactive=60m use_temp_path=off;

In this example, /path/to/cache is the location where Nginx will store cached content. The levels parameter defines the hierarchy levels of the cache. keys_zone creates a shared memory zone named my_cache to store cache keys and metadata. max_size sets the maximum size of the cache, inactive defines how long Nginx will store data that is not accessed, and use_temp_path tells Nginx whether to use a temporary path for storing files.

Configuring Nginx for Content Caching

Once you’ve set up your cache path, you can configure Nginx to cache content from specific locations. This is done using the proxy_cache directive, which should be included in the location {} context.

Here’s an example of how to use the proxy_cache directive:

server {
    listen 80;

    location / {
        proxy_pass http://localhost:8000;
        proxy_cache my_cache;
        proxy_cache_valid 200 302 60m;
        proxy_cache_valid 404 1m;

In this example, Nginx will cache responses from the proxied server at http://localhost:8000. The proxy_cache directive tells Nginx to store these responses in the my_cache cache zone. The proxy_cache_valid directive sets the cache time for different response codes.

Advanced Caching Techniques in Nginx

Nginx supports several advanced caching techniques that can further optimize your server’s performance. One such technique is micro-caching, which involves caching dynamic content for a short period. This can significantly reduce the load on your server and improve the time to the first byte (TTFB).

Another advanced technique is serving stale content while revalidating in the background. This allows Nginx to serve cached content even if it’s expired, while it fetches a fresh copy from the origin server. This can be particularly useful for ensuring a smooth user experience during peak traffic periods or when the origin server is slow to respond.

Fine-Tuning Nginx Caching

Nginx provides several directives that allow you to fine-tune your caching configuration. For instance, you can adjust the cache validity period using the proxy_cache_valid directive. This directive allows you to set different cache times for different response codes.

You can also bypass the cache for certain endpoints using the proxy_cache_bypass directive. This can be useful for endpoints that should always serve fresh content, such as login or checkout pages.

If you’re dealing with authenticated requests, you can include a unique identifier in the cache key to ensure that each user gets the correct content. This can be done using the proxy_cache_key directive.

Troubleshooting Common Nginx Caching Issues

Despite your best efforts, you may encounter issues with Nginx caching. One common issue is that Nginx is not caching content as expected. To troubleshoot this, you can check the X-Proxy-Cache header in the response. A value of HIT indicates that the content was served from the cache, while a value of MISS indicates that the content was fetched from the origin server.

Another common issue is serving stale content. If you notice that Nginx is serving expired content, you may need to adjust your cache validity settings or implement a cache revalidation strategy.


Caching in Nginx is a powerful feature that can significantly improve the performance of your web applications. By understanding how Nginx caching works and how to configure it, you can optimize your applications to deliver content faster and reduce the load on your servers. As with any technology, continuous learning and optimization are key to getting the most out of Nginx caching. Whether you’re a seasoned system administrator or a developer looking to optimize your application, mastering Nginx caching can be a valuable addition to your skill set.


r00t is a seasoned Linux system administrator with a wealth of experience in the field. Known for his contributions to, r00t has authored numerous tutorials and guides, helping users navigate the complexities of Linux systems. His expertise spans across various Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian. r00t's work is characterized by his ability to simplify complex concepts, making Linux more accessible to users of all skill levels. His dedication to the Linux community and his commitment to sharing knowledge makes him a respected figure in the field.
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