apache2-mpm-itk on Ubuntu 10.04 with Virtualmin running PHP 5.3 and PHP 5.2 side-by-side

CC-BY-4.0 by Peter Molnar () at

Run PHP 5.2 and 5.3 on the same apache, on a production hosting server, with security? Possible, but ugly.

The case:

  • an Ubuntu 8.04 server, with Virtualmin, needed to be upgraded to 10.04
  • 10.04 runs PHP 5.3 as mod_php with apache2, and most of my sites will die with fatal errors
  • Virtualmin would allow to run PHP with SuExec and FCGID, but I’d like to stay with mpm-itk, because it will run everything under the user permissions, even mod_passenger

I need to be able to run PHP 5.2 and PHP 5.3 side-by-side on the same server, under Ubuntu 10.04, with Virtualmin and under Apache2 MPM ITK. Nice.

Of course, my first intention was to run mod_php and FastCGI (or FCGID). After trying to achieve a single phpinfo for hours, I gave up, and searched for running PHP as CGI. For my surprise, I some forums mention, that because mpm itk is a preforked version of apache - instead of worker, that is usually for fastcgi-setups -, the plain old CGI will run lot faster than FastCGI with it.

Setting up PHP to run as CGI is nearly the same as setting it up for FastCGI:

  1. compile PHP
  • download the needed code from php.net1
  • untar the code into a directory, for example /usr/local/php-5.2/
  • cd to the directory /usr/local/php-5.2/
  • compile the code ( I used the following options ):
./configure --prefix=/opt/php-5.2.15 --with-config-file-path=/usr/local/php-5.2 --with-mcrypt --with-pgsql --with-mysqli --with-mysql --with-curl --with-gd --with-jpeg --with-jpeg-dir --enable-cli --enable-fastcgi --enable-discard-path --enable-force-cgi-redirect --with-zlib


make test
sudo make install
  • it is possible, that it will fail, needing some libs; install them with apt-get.
  • you’ll have your PHP compled at /usr/local/php-5.2/bin/ directory.
  1. enable CGI handler in the Apache2 VirtualHost

Add the following into the virtualhost conf:

# PHP 5.3 disable
<ifmodule mod_php5.c>
php_admin_value engine off

# PHP 5.2, as CGI
<ifmodule mod_cgid.c>
<filesmatch ".ph(p3?|tml)$">
SetHandler application/x-httpd-php52
Action application/x-httpd-php52 "/cgi-bin/php-5.2.12.cgi"
  • this needs a script, with x (run) permissions on it, placed inside the VirtualHost’s home/cgi-bin
  • it also need the user to be the owner, because of mpm-itk
  • the content of the script:

export PHPRC
exec /usr/local/php-5.2/bin/php-cgi

And that’s all.

  1. http://php.net/downloads.php