Customizing PHP Safe Mode Published: Aug 26, 2004
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We'll guide you through using PHP safe_mode and how-to enable it and to customize it for certain sites on your server. If a client needs it turned off for just one site and you have it turned on for the entire server what can you do?

Customizing PHP Safe Mode

We’ll guide you through using PHP safe_mode and how-to enable it and to customize it for certain sites on your server. When using PHP as an Apache module, you can also change the configuration settings using directives in Apache configuration files (e.g. httpd.conf) and .htaccess files. PHP safe_mode is very important to in terms of server security because it restricts and disables the dangerous functions in PHP from the scripts like PHP Shell that can otherwise cause damages to your server and client sites.

Using PHP Safe_Mode

First of all we’ll take care of the files that you will edit, and make sure to have copy or backup .

Activate Safe Mode Globally

It is very simple to active safe mode on the entire server. All you need to do is just edit the php.ini file. If you can’t find where php.ini is or have multiple copies on your server the best thing to do is run phpinfo() to find it. Open up Notepad or your favorite HTML editor and paste in the following from this file.

Save it as phpinfo.php and upload it to a website that you want to test on your server. Type in the URL and you’ll get a PHP configuration page telling you exactly where php.ini is located and all kinds of other useful information about the sites and servers configuration settings.

A few lines down you’ll see this:
Configuration File (php.ini) Path: /usr/local/Zend/etc/php.ini
Now that we know the location of php.ini we can proceed to edit it.

1) Open up php.ini in your shell with your favorite editing program.
pico /path to php/php.ini (replace with the path to your php.ini file)

2) Find the following line: safe_mode
Ctrl + W and type in: safe_mode

3) Turning safe mode on or off.
safe_mode = Off

You may active it by or turn it off by changing it to either On OR Off.
safe_mode = On

Good! Now save the file by ctrl + x  then y

4) Restart the Apache web server by
/etc/init.d/httpd restart

Now safe_mode is active on all your server accounts.

Activate Safe Mode Using Per Site Basis

Now if you have scripts that require safe mode off like Modernbill or any script doesn't work well with safe_mode on what you will do? Disable safe_mode on the entire server just for these scripts? This isn’t very practical when you can disable php safe mode per user account/site basis.

Let’s do it!
1) SSH to your server and login as root.

2) Then find the httpd.conf, normally it’s in /etc/httpd/conf/  or  /usr/local/apache/conf/
If it’s not in either of those places try search for it: locate httpd.conf

3) Then find the site you wish to edit.
Ctrl+W and type in the domain name

You should see something like this

<VirtualHost ***.***.***.***>
ServerAdmin [email protected]
DocumentRoot /home/domain/public_html
BytesLog domlogs/
User domain
Group domain
CustomLog domlogs/ combined
ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ /home/domain/public_html/cgi-bin/

4) Now add this line:

php_admin_flag safe_mode Off

We have also found that the following works as well if the above does not but DO NOT USE BOTH, pick one!

php_admin_value safe_mode 0

to be like this :

<VirtualHost ***.***.***.***>
ServerAdmin [email protected]
DocumentRoot /home/domain/public_html
php_admin_flag safe_mode Off
BytesLog domlogs/
User domain
Group domain
CustomLog domlogs/ combined
ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ /home/domain/public_html/cgi-bin/

5) Good :) Now save the changes.
Ctrl + X then Y

6) Restart the Apache web server by
/etc/init.d/httpd restart

Final Words

PHP Safe mode should be on by default on all your servers for added security. However there are some scripts that are not compatible with it on so you have to make an exception to some client sites. Make sure you know why they’re requesting to have it turned off because it is much more secure for everyone to have it on.

If you run into trouble after editing httpd.conf you can run the apachectl configtest
in shell. This will test the Apache configuration for errors and report them back to you if you can’t start it, very handy indeed!
More PHP customizing commands here:

Contributed by ReRoot, edited by Ramprage

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Comments (12)

  • Gravatar - MooDa
    MooDa 18:29, January 16, 2006
    now when i activate safe mode some functions do not work successfully in my code like chmode for directory and copy function<br />
    how i can solve these problems?<br />
    answer me on my mail
  • Gravatar - coolkid
    coolkid 15:00, April 13, 2007<br />
    this link is not working. Plz, change it
  • Gravatar - wt
    wt 10:26, May 24, 2007
    a most-simply-made phpinfo() script could be:<br />
    <?php<br />
    phpinfo();<br />
    ?> <br />
    you can put these lines as phpinfo.php to your server.
  • Gravatar - Sharda
    Sharda 07:59, June 4, 2007
    hello, i want to turn on the register_globals flag in the /usr/local/Zend/etc/php.ini file, but not able to do that.<br />
    <br />
    please guide me.<br />
    <br />
    ur way of describing the process is excellent.
  • Gravatar - ahmad
    ahmad 20:06, August 24, 2007
    hello <br />
    how are you <br />
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>><br />
    i have free account in and i should turn off php safe mode because i want install flash chat on >>> can i make it off ???<br />
  • Gravatar - Ahmed
    Ahmed 16:56, February 21, 2008
    I think this is an old article cause I tried it on Apache 2.2 and it doesn't work with me :(<br />
  • Gravatar - Tester
    Tester 16:01, April 3, 2008
    View all script variables may be<br />
    <?php<br />
    echo '<pre>';<br />
    print_r(get_defined_vars());<br />
    echo '</pre>';<br />
  • Gravatar - Mick
    Mick 19:02, May 13, 2008
    PHP's safe_mode is a flawed system and will not be availble in PHP6. Secure your code first time, every time. Thats my two cents. Enjoy your false sense of security whilst you can.
  • Gravatar - dee
    dee 15:00, August 22, 2008
    Hi. I have a account with big company that own the server. Is possible to turn the save-mode off for my website? Tried to locate php.ini but couldn't find it.
  • Gravatar - Isaac Flores
    Isaac Flores 22:30, July 26, 2010
    Great post!
    thank you very much :)
  • Gravatar - Nabil L.
    Nabil L. 18:42, March 11, 2011
    Should we (shared host users) wait for PHP6?
    Or move to dedicated host? Still expensive yet...

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