Install/Update LetsEncrypt certificates (no-root, apache2, debian)

It seems that the certbot, the recommended script to install and update the LetsEncrypt certificates requires root permissions. Well, I found several tutorials and forums where people claimed that they ran it without root permissions but they all said they needed root permissions to do something else for certbot to work and then I ran this simple command:

and decided to give up and search for an alternative method. πŸ™‚

So, here’s what I finally did (Disclaimer: I am not really into security or system administration so, I don’t know if this method is the best or the most secure out there but I’ve found it quite simple and I liked that it doesn’t require weird package installations, root permissions, systemd or any other “easy”, “automated” params that create paths and files everywhere. At the end you will end up with only one directory where you can find your certificates and copy them where you like.):

Step 1: downloaded the

I cloned the script from github:

Step 2: issued the certificates

I issued my certificates using the script:

  • domain is the domain name for the site (for example for this site it could be if I wanted to use the certificates on my vhost or if I wanted to use it everywhere)
  • path is the path to the site content (it could be ~/public_html for example)

Then the script created a directory ~/ with the following contents:

Step 3: certificates installation

I’ve created a certificates/ directory in my home folder and ran the following command to install the certificates in ~/certificates/:

I ended up having these 3 files:

Step 4: apache configuration

The Apache webserver has a sites-enabled/website file in /etc/apache2 where I had a VirtualHost configuration similar to this one:

I enabled ssl and the mod_headers (the command must have been something like: a2enmod mod_ssl mod_headers) and I added a second virtualhost for 443:

I symlinked the ~/certificates/*.pem to /etc/apache2/certificates (that’s why the path is not ~/certificates above, you should use the path to your certificates directory)

Restarted Apache!

Step 5: how I renew the certificates

I have my apache2 certificates in a directory ~/certificates and I have a symlink to each one in /etc2/apache2/certificates/.

I’ve written a script:

(well I could had used the command directly)

and put it in a cronjob (as a user) that runs every month, the first day at 6:00 am:

Then I added another cronjob in /etc/crontab to reload the apache configuration files 1 hr later:

And problem solved. πŸ™‚

[UPDATE 2021]: acme-v1 API stopped being updated!

Around the end of 2021 the acme-v1 API stopped being updated. As a result my certificates weren’t automatically updated and my attempts to manually renew the certificates resulted in errors. My workaround:

  • I modified the configuration files to use v02 instead of v01. In my ~/<domain>/ directory there was a file: <domain>.conf (for example: In that file I replaced all references to v01 with v02, so that url: becomes
  • I updated the script by pulling the most recent version of master and then running: ./ --upgrade.
  • I set the default CA to be letsencrypt by running: ./ --set-default-ca --server letsencrypt. I also edited the file and added this extra line: DEFAULT_CA=''
    (I am not sure the second was required).
  • As I was persistently getting the curl error 60 ( The remote server’s SSL certificate or SSH md5 fingerprint was deemed not OK. This error code has been unified with CURLE_SSL_CACERT since 7.62.0. Its previous value was 51.) I decided to run with the option --use-wget and I’ve modified the script as follows:

After those changes I ran: ./ --renew-all --force --use-wget and my certificates were renewed without errors. As a last step I restarted Apache and checked that when I visit my blog with chromium, or firefox the connection appears to be secure (valid certificates).

1 thought on “Install/Update LetsEncrypt certificates (no-root, apache2, debian)”

  1. Hi, i just find this tutorial about
    My question is: what if:
    – a want to use another default port than 80 and 443
    – i have document root at /var/www but my cgi script is another directory..
    Thnx in advance

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