Opened 2 years ago

Closed 2 years ago

#1233 closed defect (invalid)

Stale 200 Served even when backend sets 404 with new proxy_cache_background_update directive

Reported by: Owned by:
Priority: major Milestone:
Component: nginx-core Version: 1.11.x
Keywords: proxy_cache_background_update, proxy cache Cc:
uname -a: Darwin 14.3.0 Darwin Kernel Version 14.3.0: Mon Mar 23 11:59:05 PDT 2015; root:xnu-2782.20.48~5/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64
nginx -V: nginx version: nginx/1.11.10


Hi there,

We have recently enabled proxy_cache_background_update and what a great feature it is.

However, we have noticed a bug. Hopefully it's just a mis-config on our part but I thought I'd post it as I can't seem to find out why this is happening.

We run a backend server that sets X-Accel-Expires headers at 3600 seconds.

The problem we had was when we enabled proxy_cache_background_update, if we deleted a page on the origin server that was previously cached it would continuously serve the old stale 200 page even though the backend was returning a 404 - even after 3600 seconds.

The 200 response was always "STALE" and never updated as a 404. To fix this, we had to disable proxy_cache_background_update. Once that was disabled, a correct 404 page was sent to the client.

Our config (in http context):

proxy_cache_use_stale  updating;
proxy_cache_background_update on;

As you can see, we are not using "proxy_cache_use_stale error;" or anything like that; just "updating".

Our proxy cache config:

proxy_cache_path /cache levels=1:2 keys_zone=one:256m max_size=128g inactive=14d;
proxy_cache_key $scheme$host$request_uri;

Our config for the site in question:

server {

        proxy_cache one;
    listen ssl http2;

    ssl_certificate           /certificates/;
    ssl_certificate_key       /certificates/;

    ssl on;
    ssl_session_cache  builtin:1000  shared:SSL:10m;
    ssl_dhparam /certificates/dhparams.pem;

ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
    ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;

#ssl_stapling on;
#ssl_stapling_verify on;
#ssl_trusted_certificate /certificates/thawte.cer;
    resolver valid=300s;
    resolver_timeout 10s;

location / {

set $wordpress_auth "";
    if ($http_cookie ~* "wordpress_logged_in_[^=]*=([^%]+)%7C") {
        set $wordpress_auth wordpress_logged_in_$1;
        proxy_cache_bypass $wordpress_auth;
        proxy_no_cache $wordpress_auth;
        #add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000";
        add_header X-Cache $upstream_cache_status;
        proxy_set_header        Host $host;
        proxy_set_header        X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header        X-Forwarded-For $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header        X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;
        proxy_read_timeout  180s;

Hopefully somebody can shed some light?

Change History (8)

comment:1 Changed 2 years ago by


The original page had the X-Accel-Expires header set at 3600 seconds but the new 404 on the same URL had no X-Accel-Expires headers set at all with an expires header set at: Wed, 11 Jan 1984 05:00:00 GMT.

comment:2 Changed 2 years ago by arut

The background cache updater receives an uncacheable response (expires in the past) and ignores it. What behaviour did you expect?

comment:3 Changed 2 years ago by

But that's not the case when proxy_cache_background_update is disabled. When proxy_cache_background_update is disabled, the correct 404 page is sent to the client and the cache entry is removed - as expected when 3600 seconds have expired.

I would expect the STALE page to be removed and to forward on the correct 404.

Version 1, edited 2 years ago by (previous) (next) (diff)

comment:4 Changed 2 years ago by arut

When proxy_cache_background_update is disabled, there's a client, which receives the 404 response (which is not cached anyway). In the background subrequest there's no client to send 404 to. Why would nginx cache an already expired response? In a way, it's even "more stale" than the old one.

comment:5 Changed 2 years ago by

Thank you for your reply.

In that case, how do we configure nginx to drop the cache entry when the background updater receives a 404? Otherwise, nginx would never forward the 404 for URLs that have been removed (but were once previously cached)?

Last edited 2 years ago by (previous) (diff)

comment:6 Changed 2 years ago by arut

What you can do is disable getting cache time from the response using the "proxy_ignore_headers" directive. And instead set it directly with "proxy_cache_valid".

proxy_ignore_headers Expires;
proxy_cache_valid 404 1s;

comment:7 Changed 2 years ago by

That's interesting, and thank you for suggesting that.

However, we also cache image/video files from the origin server and deliver them from the nginx cache direct to the client. These have expires headers of 3 months set on the origin server. We don't want to set 3 months on all "200" codes so how could we work around that?

Last edited 2 years ago by (previous) (diff)

comment:8 Changed 2 years ago by mdounin

  • Resolution set to invalid
  • Status changed from new to closed

Closing this, observed behaviour is as intended and not a bug. It is also not really related to proxy_cache_background_update, but rather a result of proxy_cache_use_stale used. Background updates just make the behaviour more obvious and easier to observe.

There are two basic options to resolve this:

  • Make sure that resources cached do not return uncacheable results to revalidation requests, as suggested by Roman.
  • Avoid using proxy_cache_use_stale updating for infinite time, but use Cache-Control: stale-while-revalidate=<seconds> header instead. This allows to specify maximum time after which a stale response will be removed.
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