How To Install Mahara on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

Install Mahara on Ubuntu 20.04

In this tutorial, we will show you how to install Mahara on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. For those of you who didn’t know, Mahara is a free and open-source electronic portfolio management system written in PHP. Mahara is designed to provide users with the tools to create a personal and professional learning and development environment.

This article assumes you have at least basic knowledge of Linux, know how to use the shell, and most importantly, you host your site on your own VPS. The installation is quite simple and assumes you are running in the root account, if not you may need to add ‘sudo‘ to the commands to get root privileges. I will show you the step-by-step installation of Mahara on Ubuntu 20.04 (Focal Fossa). You can follow the same instructions for Ubuntu 18.04, 16.04, and any other Debian-based distribution like Linux Mint.


  • A server running one of the following operating systems: Ubuntu 20.04, and any other Debian-based distribution like Linux Mint.
  • It’s recommended that you use a fresh OS install to prevent any potential issues.
  • SSH access to the server (or just open Terminal if you’re on a desktop).
  • An active internet connection.
  • A non-root sudo user or access to the root user. We recommend acting as a non-root sudo user, however, as you can harm your system if you’re not careful when acting as the root.

Install Mahara on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Focal Fossa

Step 1. First, make sure that all your system packages are up-to-date by running the following apt commands in the terminal.

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Step 2. Installing the LAMP stack.

A Ubuntu 20.04 LAMP server is required. If you do not have LAMP installed, you can follow our guide here.

Step 3. Installing Mahara on Ubuntu 20.04.

Now we download the latest version of Mahara from the official page:

bunzip2 mahara-21.04.0.tar.bz2 
tar -xvf mahara-21.04.0.tar

Next, move the extracted directory to the Apache web root:

mv mahara-21.04.0 /var/www/html/mahara

After that, create a data directory for Mahara with the following command:

mkdir /var/www/html/mahara/data

We will need to change some folders permissions:

chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/mahara
chmod -R 755 /var/www/html/mahara

Next steps, change the directory to Mahara and generate a secret with the following command:

cd /var/www/html/mahara/htdocs
openssl rand -base64 32



Next, rename the default config.php and edit the file:

cp config-dist.php config.php
nano config.php

Add the following line:

$cfg->dbtype   = 'mysql';
$cfg->dbhost   = 'localhost';
$cfg->dbport   = null; // Change if you are using a non-standard port number for your database
$cfg->dbname   = 'maharadb';
$cfg->dbuser   = 'mahara';
$cfg->dbpass   = 'password';
$cfg->dataroot = '/var/www/html/mahara/data';
$cfg->passwordsaltmain = '8aU6HjHs6oD3tzFX1bysH6OwmNP/QnDsIM3iX0Yok=';
$cfg->urlsecret = 'my-supersecret';

Step 4. Configuring MariaDB for Mahara.

By default, MariaDB is not hardened. You can secure MariaDB using the mysql_secure_installation script. you should read and below each step carefully which will set a root password, remove anonymous users, disallow remote root login, and remove the test database and access to secure MariaDB:


Configure it like this:

- Set root password? [Y/n] y
- Remove anonymous users? [Y/n] y
- Disallow root login remotely? [Y/n] y
- Remove test database and access to it? [Y/n] y
- Reload privilege tables now? [Y/n] y

Next, we will need to log in to the MariaDB console and create a database for the Mahara. Run the following command:

mysql -u root -p

This will prompt you for a password, so enter your MariaDB root password and hit Enter. Once you are logged in to your database server you need to create a database for Mahara installation:

MariaDB [(none)]> create database maharadb character set utf8mb4;
MariaDB [(none)]> grant all on maharadb.* to 'mahara'@'localhost' identified by 'your-strong-password';
MariaDB [(none)]> flush privileges;
MariaDB [(none)]> exit;

Step 5. Configuring Apache for Mahara.

Now we create a new virtual host directive in Apache. For example, create a new Apache configuration file named ‘mahara.conf’ on your virtual server:

touch /etc/apache2/sites-available/mahara.conf
ln -s /etc/apache2/sites-available/mahara.conf /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/mahara.conf
nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/mahara.conf

Add the following lines:

<VirtualHost *:80>
DocumentRoot /var/www/html/mahara/htdocs/
<Directory /var/www/html/mahara/htdocs/>
Options FollowSymLinks
AllowOverride All
Order allow,deny
allow from all
ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/
CustomLog /var/log/apache2/ common

Now, we can restart the Apache webserver so that the changes take place:

sudo a2enmod rewrite
sudo a2ensite mahara.conf 
sudo systemctl restart apache2.service

Step 6. Set up a Cron Job.

Lastly, consider setting up a cron job to hit htdocs/lib/cron.php every minute. You can set up it with the following command:

crontab -e

Add the following line:

* * * * * php /var/www/html/mahara/htdocs/lib/cron.php

Step 7. Accessing Mahara Web Interface.

Mahara will be available on HTTP port 80 by default. Open your favorite browser and navigate to http://your-domain.comand complete the required steps to finish the installation. If you are using a firewall, please open port 80 to enable access to the control panel.

Congratulations! You have successfully installed Mahara. Thanks for using this tutorial for installing Mahara on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Focal Fossa system. For additional help or useful information, we recommend you check the official Mahara website.

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