How to configure Nginx for HTTPS

How to set up HTTPS on your Web Server using Let's Encrypt

I recently set up a VPS on DigitalOcean using the official Node.js droplet, which installs Ubuntu Linux with Node and Nginx as a reverse proxy, which means it’s a middleman between users and your Node.js apps.

By default the droplet is configured to use HTTP, but we want our apps to be served using HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP.

So we need to do a little procedure that involves using Certbot to obtain a SSL certificate through Let’s Encrypt, and configuring Nginx to use it.

These are the steps we’ll follow:

Install Certbot and the Certbot Nginx package

These instructions assume you are using Ubuntu, Debian or any other Linux distribution that uses apt-get to manage packages:

sudo apt-get install certbot python3-certbot-nginx

Set up Nginx

Edit /etc/nginx/sites-available/default to set the correct server name (essential for SSL)

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

find the line server_name and enter your domain name:


Now run

sudo systemctl reload nginx

to reload Nginx with the updated configuration.

The firewall should already be configured to accept HTTPS, find it out typing sudo ufw status. You should see Nginx Full in the list. If you only see Nginx HTTP, look up how to change that.

Generate the SSL certificate using Certbot

Now we can invoke Certbot to generate the certificate. You must run this as root:

sudo certbot --nginx -d

(of course, change to your domain name)

Enter your real email, as that will be used to communicate you any problem.

I also suggest to choose the option to redirect HTTP to HTTPS automatically.

That’s it!

SSL certificates are valid for 90 days, and Certbot is already set up for automated renewal. To simulate and test-drive the renewal process, run:

sudo certbot renew --dry-run

This should give you a successful message.

That’s it, now your Node apps should successfully run on HTTPS with no additional changes on your part.

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