I've just successfully installed lighttpd, but I've stumbled at the first stage when trying to create my own HTML file. I try to write to /var/www but I get permission denied. I've got a feeling it's to do with the ownership of /var (root:root), but I don't want to change this as there are plenty of other sub-directories in there besides www.

/var root:root
/var/www www-data:www-data

My user pi is also in the www-data group. How can I sort this out?


pi@Sun:~$ ls -la /var/www   
total 12   
drwxr-xr-x  2 www-data www-data 4096 Jul 20 19:23 .  
drwxr-xr-x 14 root     root     4096 Jul 20 19:23 ..  
-rw-r--r--  1 www-data www-data 3585 Jul 20 19:23 index.lighttpd.html  
  • I've left mine as they are, and use sudo to edit files where necessary. Can see that that might be a pain if you're actually coding a site though. Jul 20, 2012 at 23:06
  • 2
    serverfault.com/questions/6895/… summarizes it very well.
    – user13
    Jul 21, 2012 at 11:28
  • Added output from ls -la. Jul 27, 2012 at 22:40

1 Answer 1


So, www-data is the owner and owning group of /var/www. That doesn't mean anyone in the www-data group can write to /var/www.

You still need to give them write access:

sudo chmod g+w /var/www
  • Is www-data a user or a group? Jul 21, 2012 at 14:00
  • @AlexChamberlain: Both. Jul 21, 2012 at 14:03
  • Users are groups - can you add another user to a group which is a user? Jul 21, 2012 at 14:04
  • @AlexChamberlain: "Users are groups"? This is news to me, or I'm misunderstanding. Jul 21, 2012 at 14:42
  • Can you explain what g+w does? Jul 24, 2012 at 10:36

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