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Configure Xdebug and PhpStorm for a Vagrant project in 5 minutes

Yann Jacquot4 min read

Warning: this article concerns php5 version. If your PHP version is different, replace php5 by php/X.Y in paths (X.Y is your PHP version) and phpX.Y in command. For example :

I love debuggers. They allow me to understand deep down in my code why something doesn’t work, and are even more useful when I work on legacy projects.
When I work on the client side, the browser already provides me all the tools I need to dig deeper than some console.log() scattered semi-randomly in the source code.
However, I struggled to configure my workspace when I worked on a PHP Symfony2 project hosted in a Vagrant virtual machine.

Step1: Install Xdebug on your Vagrant virtual machine

That may seem obvious, but you need to have Xdebug installed on your virtual machine to benefit  from its services.

sudo apt-get install php5-xdebug

Then, configure it:

sudo vim /etc/php5/mods-available/xdebug.ini

with the following lines:


Finally, if you use php5-fpm, you need to restart it:

sudo service php5-fpm restart
# or with
sudo /etc/init.d/php5-fpm restart

If you use Ansible to provision your virtual machine, you can also use a ready-to-action Xdebug role.

Step2: Configure PhpStorm

First, select the “Edit configurations” item in the “Run” menu.

Edit configurations

Then, add a new “PHP Remote Debug” configuration.

PHP Remote Debug

We will use the IDE key configured in your Vagrant and in your browser.
To fully configure this debugger configuration, you will need to create what PhpStorm calls a server.

PhpStorm server

Path mapping

Step3: Configure Xdebug

Use Xdebug to debug your web application on Chrome

Now that Vagrant with Xdebug is up and running, let’s configure Xdebug Chrome extension.

First, we need to install it from Chrome Web Store

Make sure that the extension is enabled on your browser’s extensions list page.

enable Xdebug plugin

Now, you should see on the right side of the address bar the extension’s symbol.

enabled Xdebug plugin

Right-click on it, then click on the “Options” sub-menu.

Xdebug plugin configuration

You have to use the IDE key previously set.

IDEkey selection

Xdebug plugin also exists for other browsers.

Finally, in your browser click on the bug in your address bar to switch to the “Debug” mode


Use Xdebug to debug your APIs route with Postman

Once your Xdebug configuration is added, you need to add ?XDEBUG_SESSION_START=_<XDEBUG_KEYNAME>_ at the end of your route. And that’s all!

XDebug config for Postman

Use Xdebug to debug commands or unit tests

To use Xdebug for debugging commands or unit tests, first, you need to add xdebug.remote_autostart=true in XDebug configuration file of your Vagrant xdebug.ini.

Then, you need to specify the xdebug.remote_host (IP address of your local from your Vagrant) when launching the command from the virtual machine’s terminal.

ifconfig local output

php -d xdebug.remote_host= your_command

For instance, if you want to debug your unit tests in a Symfony project, you can run:

php -d xdebug.remote_host= ./bin/phpunit -c app/

Step4: Enjoy!

Now, in PhpStorm you:



You should now be able to break on the exact line you selected in your IDE.

Bonus: Performance

You need to know that enabling Xdebug slows down your app (x2), the fastest way to disable it is to run the following command: php5dismod xdebug

Use php5enmod xdebug to enable it back. Each time you’ll also need to restart php-fpm or apache.

Troubleshooting: I did the tutorial but Xdebug doesn’t work

It’s probably because a symbolic link is missing in your php conf.

If you have no response, it means Xdebug is not set correctly

ln -s /etc/php5/mods-available/xdebug.ini /etc/php5/fpm/conf.d/20-xdebug.ini
ln -s /etc/php5/mods-available/xdebug.ini /etc/php5/cli/conf.d/20-xdebug.ini

php -v vagrant output

I hope you’ve made your way through the process and that it will improve your efficiency as much as it does for me. If you have other ways to configure your debugger, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

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