Install Discourse on Ubuntu for Development

:warning: This guide covers installation instructions in development environment, for a production guide see: Install Discourse in production with the official, supported instructions

So you want to set up Discourse on Ubuntu to hack on and develop with?

We’ll assume that you don’t have Ruby/Rails/Postgres/Redis installed on your Ubuntu system. Let’s begin!

Although this guide assumes that you are using Ubuntu, but the set-up instructions will work fine for any Debian based distribution.

This guide has been confirmed to be working without the use of any additional steps on Ubuntu 18.

:exclamation: Depending on what version of Ubuntu/Debian you’re using to install Discourse, you may want to review the following:

Notes about Installing Discourse on Ubuntu 20.04 or later

By default, Ubuntu version 20.04 comes preinstalled with OpenSSL 3.0.2. You’ll likely want to compile an earlier version of OpenSSL from source (we recommend OpenSSL-1.1.1n). You’ll also want to check what version of Ruby you’re using with ruby --version Discourse still uses Ruby 2, so if you’re using Ruby 3.x or later you’ll need to use an earlier version. We recommend using a version manager for Ruby here, and we’ve found that Ruby 2.7.6 is currently the best version to use with Discourse. See Notes about Installing Discourse on Ubuntu 20.04 for more details about this.

Ubuntu 22.04 Warning for Early Adopters

This section added by @pfaffman 22.05.16 and should one day be wrong and the suggestion unnecessary.

NOTE: This won’t work for Ubuntu 22.04 just yet. If you are forced to use 22.04 (I was using Pop! OS), see Failed to build ruby 2.7.5 on ubuntu 22.04 · Discussion #1940 · rbenv/ruby-build · GitHub for how to compile a compatible version of openssl.

End of @pfaffman additions.

Install Discourse Dependencies

As regular user run this script in terminal, to setup Rails development environment:-

bash <(wget -qO-

This will install following new packages on your system:

In case you have any of this package pre-installed and don’t want to run entire script, see the script and pick the packages you don’t have currently installed. The script is fine-tuned for Discourse, and includes all the packages required for Discourse installation.

Now that we have installed Discourse dependencies, let’s move on to install Discourse itself.

Clone Discourse

Clone the Discourse repository in ~/discourse folder:

git clone ~/discourse

~ indicates home folder, so Discourse source code will be available in your home folder.

Setup Database

Create role with the same name as your ubuntu system username:

sudo -u postgres createuser -s "$USER"

Bootstrap Discourse

Switch to your Discourse folder:

cd ~/discourse

Install the needed gems

source ~/.bashrc
bundle install

Install the JS dependencies

yarn install

Now that you have successfully installed gems, run these commands:

bundle exec rake db:create 
bundle exec rake db:migrate
RAILS_ENV=test bundle exec rake db:create db:migrate

Try running the specs:

bundle exec rake autospec

All the tests should pass.

Start rails server:

bundle exec rails server

You should now be able to connect with your Discourse app on http://localhost:3000 - try it out!

Starting with Discourse 2.5+ EmberCLI is required in development and these additional steps will be required:

In a separate terminal instance, navigate to your discourse folder (cd ~/discourse) and run:


You should now be able to navigate to http://localhost:4200 to see your local Discourse installation.

Create New Admin

To create a new admin, run the following command:

RAILS_ENV=development bundle exec rake admin:create

Follow the prompts, and a new admin account will be created.

Configure Mail

Run MailHog:


Congratulations! You are now the admin of your own Discourse installation!

Happy hacking! And to get started with that, see Beginner’s Guide to Creating Discourse Plugins.

Last Reviewed by @AlexDev on 2022-05-26T19:00:00Z

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I’ve just installed Discourse for development on Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS (on Windows 11 with WSL2) without doing these steps. Maybe they’re not relevant anymore?

1 Like

Which steps exactly did you not need to do?

Here’re the steps I’m talking about:

1 Like

I set up a dev environment on 22.04 like a week or so ago and had the issues described. Actually opted to just downgrade to 18.whatever because it was easier.

Not sure what the difference is.

1 Like

Discourse <2.5 was a long time ago. Maybe it’s time to remove this part? I won’t do it myself since it’s I’m not competent in this subject. :slight_smile: