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Running a Python script from PHP

Posted by: admin February 25, 2020 Leave a comment


I’m trying to run a Python script from PHP using the following command:

exec('/usr/bin/python2.7 /srv/http/assets/py/switch.py arg1 arg2');

However, PHP simply doesn’t produce any output. Error reporting is set to E_ALL and display_errors is on.

Here’s what I’ve tried:

  • I used python2, /usr/bin/python2 and python2.7 instead of /usr/bin/python2.7
  • I also used a relative path instead of an absolute path which didn’t change anything either.
  • I tried using the commands exec, shell_exec, system.

However, if I run

if (exec('echo TEST') == 'TEST')
    echo 'exec works!';

it works perfectly fine while shutdown now doesn’t do anything.

PHP has the permissions to access and execute the file.

EDIT: Thanks to Alejandro, I was able to fix the problem. If you have the same problem, don’t forget that your webserver probably/hopefully doesn’t run as root. Try logging in as your webserver’s user or a user with similar permissions and try to run the commands yourself.

How to&Answers:

Tested on Ubuntu Server 10.04. I hope it helps you also on Arch Linux.

In PHP use shell_exec function:

Execute command via shell and return the complete output as a string.

It returns the output from the executed command or NULL if an error
occurred or the command produces no output.


$command = escapeshellcmd('/usr/custom/test.py');
$output = shell_exec($command);
echo $output;


In Python file test.py, verify this text in first line: (see shebang explain):

#!/usr/bin/env python

Also Python file must have correct privileges (execution for user www-data / apache if PHP script runs in browser or curl)
and/or must be “executable”. Also all commands into .py file must have correct privileges:

Taken from php manual:

Just a quick reminder for those trying to use shell_exec on a
unix-type platform and can’t seem to get it to work. PHP executes as
the web user on the system (generally www for Apache), so you need to
make sure that the web user has rights to whatever files or
directories that you are trying to use in the shell_exec command.
Other wise, it won’t appear to be doing anything.

To make executable a file on unix-type platforms:

chmod +x myscript.py


I recommend using passthru and handling the output buffer directly:

passthru('/usr/bin/python2.7 /srv/http/assets/py/switch.py arg1 arg2');
$output = ob_get_clean(); 


If you want to know the return status of the command and get the entire stdout output you can actually use exec:

$command = 'ls';
exec($command, $out, $status);

$out is an array of all lines. $status is the return status. Very useful for debugging.

If you also want to see the stderr output you can either play with proc_open or simply add 2>&1 to your $command. The latter is often sufficient to get things working and way faster to “implement”.


Alejandro nailed it, adding clarification to the exception (Ubuntu or Debian) – I don’t have the rep to add to the answer itself:

sudoers file:
sudo visudo

exception added:


To clarify which command to use based on the situation

exec() – Execute an external program

system() – Execute an external program and display the output

passthru() – Execute an external program and display raw output

Source: http://php.net/manual/en/function.exec.php


In my case I needed to create a new folder in the www directory called scripts. Within scripts I added a new file called test.py.

I then used sudo chown www-data:root scripts and sudo chown www-data:root test.py.

Then I went to the new scripts directory and used sudo chmod +x test.py.

My test.py file it looks like this. Note the different Python version:

#!/usr/bin/env python3.5
print("Hello World!")

From php I now do this:

$message = exec("/var/www/scripts/test.py 2>&1");

And you should see: Hello World!


The above methods seem to be complex. Use my method as a reference.

I have these two files:

  • run.php

  • mkdir.py

Here, I’ve created an HTML page which contains a GO button. Whenever you press this button a new folder will be created in directory whose path you have mentioned.



   <form method="post">

    <input type="submit" value="GO" name="GO">

		shell_exec("python /var/www/html/lab/mkdir.py");


#!/usr/bin/env python    
import os    


This is so trivial, but just wanted to help anyone who already followed along Alejandro’s suggestion but encountered this error:

sh: blabla.py: command not found

If anyone encountered that error, then a little change needs to be made to the php file by Alejandro:

$command = escapeshellcmd('python blabla.py');