· certbot nginx systemd

Let's encrypt with Nginx and systemd timers for renewal

Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open certificate authority utilizing the ACME protocol.

We’ll use certbot, the official client and systemd timers to automate the renewal of our Let’s Encrypt certificates.

Cerbot installation:

If you are using CentOS/RHEL 7, Certbot is available in EPEL (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux). In order to use Certbot, we must first enable the EPEL repository:

# yum install -y epel-release

Next, install Certbot itself:

# yum install -y certbot


Create webroot directory:

# mkdir -p /var/www/letsencrypt

Add this location to Nginx configuration file for your domain:


location ^~ /.well-known/acme-challenge/ {
        root /var/www/letsencrypt;
        default_type "text/plain";
        try_files $uri =404;

Creating certificate with Certbot:

When using the webroot method the Certbot client places a challenge response inside /var/www/letsencrypt/.well-known/acme-challenge/ which is used for validation. That’s why we’ve created this Nginx location above so it’s accessible via HTTP.

(You can use --dry-run switch to test the configuration first)

# certbot certonly --webroot -w /var/www/letsencrypt -d example.com -d www.example.com

If the certificate was created successfully you can update Nginx configuration:


server {
        server_name example.com www.exmaple.com;
        listen 80;
	root /var/empty;
	return 301 https://example.com$request_uri;

server {
        server_name example.com www.exmaple.com;
	listen 443 ssl http2;
	root /var/www/example.com;
	index index.html index.htm;

        ssl_protocols TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
        ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
        ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
        ssl_stapling on;
        ssl_stapling_verify on;
	ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem;
	ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem;
  	ssl_trusted_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/chain.pem;

location ^~ /.well-known/acme-challenge/ {
	root /var/www/letsencrypt;
	default_type "text/plain";
	try_files $uri =404;



We’ll use certbot --renew-hook option to reload Nginx only if certificate is renewed successfully.

There is also a comment for systemd switch to do the same thing but it will reload Nginx every time certbot runs.


Description=Renew Let's Encrypt certificates

ExecStart=/usr/bin/certbot renew --renew-hook "/bin/systemctl --no-block reload nginx" --quiet --agree-tos
#ExecStopPost=/bin/systemctl --no-block reload nginx

Add a timer to renew the certificates daily, including a randomized delay so that requests for renewal are spread over the day.


Description=Daily renewal of Let's Encrypt's certificates



Activate and enable the timer:

# systemctl daemon-reload
# systemctl start certbot.timer
# systemctl enable certbot.timer

You can verify that the timer has been started with this command:

# systemctl list-timers certbot.timer
NEXT                         LEFT       LAST                         PASSED       UNIT          ACTIVATES
Tue 2017-02-21 14:08:16 GMT  47min left Mon 2017-02-20 10:04:01 GMT  1 day 3h ago certbot.timer certbot.service

1 timers listed.
Pass --all to see loaded but inactive timers, too.

By default certificates should be renewed 30 days before the expiry date, you can change this option in the config file, for instance:


renew_before_expiry = 10 days