Having the default Apache document root to /etc/www can be sometimes annoying because of permissions. I strongly recommend to use a folder into your home folder.

For the sake of this post, I will use the folder Sites (that I created under my personal folder /home/shprink/Sites/).

PS: The Apache version used for this post is: 2.4.10 (Ubuntu), you can see yours using apache2 -v command.

Changing apache2 document root

The default document root is set in the 000-default.conf file that is under /etc/apache2/sites-available folder.

$ cd /etc/apache2/sites-available
$ sudo nano 000-default.conf

While the file is opened change DocumentRoot /var/www/ with your new folder e.g DocumentRoot /home/shprink/Sites/

Set the right Apache configuration

The configuration of the /etc/www folder is under /etc/apache2/apache2.conf. Edit this file to add the configuration of your new document root.

$ sudo nano /etc/apache2/apache2.conf

Copy the following:

<Directory /var/www/>
       Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
       AllowOverride None
       Require all granted

and change the directory path:

<Directory /home/shprink/Sites/>
       Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
       AllowOverride None
       Require all granted

Restart Apache

$ sudo service apache2 restart

Set the right permission

All of your document root parent folders must be executable by everyone. To know if it is the case you can use the utility namei that list the permissions along each component of the path:

$ namei -m /home/shprink/Sites/
f: /home/shprink/Sites/
 drwxr-xr-x /
 drwxr-xr-x home
 drwx------ shprink
 drwx------ Sites

Here as you can see that shprink and Sites permissions are not set properly.

Open http://localhost/ in your browser, you should get the following message:

Forbidden You don’t have permission to access / on this server.

Open the apache error log to see the exact error code e.g AH00035. It might help you to get more information.

$ sudo tail -f /var/log/apache2/error.log
[Mon Apr 06 09:04:26.518260 2015] [core:error] [pid 22139] (13)Permission denied: [client] AH00035: access to / denied (filesystem path '/home/shprink/Sites') because search permissions are missing on a component of the path

To fix the permission problem for good, using chmod +755 should be enough.

$ chmod +755 /home/shprink/
$ chmod +755 /home/shprink/Sites/

Re run namei to make sure everything is ok.

$ namei -m ~/Sites/
f: /home/shprink/Sites/
 drwxr-xr-x /
 drwxr-xr-x home
 drwxr-xr-x shprink
 drwxr-xr-x Sites

Now opening http://localhost/ should work as expected. If you are having trouble please leave a comment.