Setting Up Neo4j 2.0 on an Ubuntu Server

Authored by Steven Hall

Neo4j 2.0 is an awesome release of Neo Technology’s great graph database.  There are some significant new features and some changes to the data model that, I think, make it more accessible.  You can install it locally to play around and do some testing, but I wanted to create a remote server that I could use as a back-end for data visualization projects.  Below are some notes on getting Neo4j installed on Ubuntu 12.04. 

There are some real gotchas that took some time to figure out, but if you follow this step-by-step procedure you should have the browser application bundled with Neo4j up and running in less than 15 minutes.

I should note that the Neo4j website has instructions for setting up on debian based systems, but those instructions, which are very helpful, are incomplete and in some cases just don’t work for Ubuntu 12.04 (at least at the time I am writing this post).

Start from Fresh Ubuntu 12.04 Install

Neo4j is a Java application and in order to run the 2.0 version of the db server you need to have Java 7 installed before installing Neo4j.  Ubuntu does not officially support Java 7 so this becomes at little bit of a headache.  To install it using apt-get you need to add a repository and, incredibly, the command for adding repositories was unintentionally left out the latest versions of Ubuntu, so we need to correct that first.

You can add “sudo” (e.g. sudo apt-get update) to the following commands as applicable.  In my case, I installed as the root user on the server.

Install Java 7

Add the “add-apt-repository” command (important):

apt-get update
apt-get install python-software-properties

Install Java 7:

add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/java
apt-get update
apt-get install oracle-java7-installer

Install Neo4j:

Note:  this largely the same as Neo4j recommends, but I had to change a few things.

wget -O – | apt-key add –
echo ‘deb stable/’ > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/neo4j.list
apt-get update
apt-get install neo4j

Start the Server:

/etc/init.d/neo4j-service start

Increasing Max Files

You’ll notice when you start the server that you get warning saying:

WARNING: Max 1024 open files allowed, minimum of 40 000 recommended.

Let’s correct that.  The instructions for handling this on the neo4j website did not work for me without a little modification.  Here’s what to do:

1. Edit /etc/security/limits.conf and add these two lines:
root   soft     nofile  40000
root   hard    nofile  40000

The neo4j recommends “neo4j” in place of “root” here.  That does not work.

2. Edit /etc/pam.d/su and uncomment or add the following line:
session    required

A restart is required for the settings to take effect.

Optionally Allow External Connections

If you want to be able to open the browser app and interact with the graph db on the remote server you need to allow remote connections.  Note that if you allow any IP address to connect then anyone can access your database, but if you just want to play around with the browser app this is what you do:

Edit /etc/neo4j/ and uncomment the following line:


That will allow connections from any IP address, but you can also specify your current IP to limit to just that one.  That will make it a little bit safer, but if your IP changes you need to update the file accordingly.

So now just restart the database server and open the browser application in your web browser by going to:



Removing All Data from Neo4j

A couple more quick notes.  If you are playing around with the neo4j database and just want to clear it out and start over again, there are two things you can do:

1. Run a cypher query like this:

match n
with n
optional match n-[r]-()
delete r,n

This will remove all the nodes and relations in the db. However, a lot of meta-data remains and, in my experience, if have a lot of data in the db it will fail or take a long time to run (or both).

2. Recreate the Data Directory

If you really want to get the job done, it’s better to wipe out the entire data directory and make a new one.  The default directory is set in the /etc/neo4j/ file to data/graph.db.  On Ubuntu this directory will be located at :


To wipe out the data the process would be:

/etc/init.d/neo4j-service stop         //Stop the Server
cd /var/lib/neo4j                           // Change to directory
rm -rf data                                    // Remove data/
mkdir data                                  // Make a new data/
chown neo4j data                     // Make sure neo4j can write to it
/etc/init.d/neo4j-service start    // Restart – Neo4j will make new graph.db etc

Hope that helps someone out there.