Apache2::Reload - Reload Perl Modules when Changed on Disk


  # Monitor and reload all modules in %INC:
  # httpd.conf:
  PerlModule Apache2::Reload
  PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload
  # when working with protocols and connection filters
  # PerlPreConnectionHandler Apache2::Reload
  # Reload groups of modules:
  # httpd.conf:
  PerlModule Apache2::Reload
  PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload
  PerlSetVar ReloadAll Off
  PerlSetVar ReloadModules "ModPerl::* Apache2::*"
  #PerlSetVar ReloadDebug On
  # Reload a single module from within itself:
  package My::Apache2::Module;
  use Apache2::Reload;
  sub handler { ... }


Apache2::Reload reloads modules that change on the disk.

When Perl pulls a file via require, it stores the filename in the global hash %INC. The next time Perl tries to require the same file, it sees the file in %INC and does not reload from disk. This module's handler can be configured to iterate over the modules in %INC and reload those that have changed on disk or only specific modules that have registered themselves with Apache2::Reload. It can also do the check for modified modules, when a special touch-file has been modified.

Note that Apache2::Reload operates on the current context of @INC. Which means, when called as a Perl*Handler it will not see @INC paths added or removed by ModPerl::Registry scripts, as the value of @INC is saved on server startup and restored to that value after each request. In other words, if you want Apache2::Reload to work with modules that live in custom @INC paths, you should modify @INC when the server is started. Besides, 'use lib' in the startup script, you can also set the PERL5LIB variable in the httpd's environment to include any non-standard 'lib' directories that you choose. For example, to accomplish that you can include a line:

  PERL5LIB=/home/httpd/perl/extra; export PERL5LIB

in the script that starts Apache. Alternatively, you can set this environment variable in httpd.conf:

  PerlSetEnv PERL5LIB /home/httpd/perl/extra

Monitor All Modules in %INC

To monitor and reload all modules in %INC at the beginning of request's processing, simply add the following configuration to your httpd.conf:

  PerlModule Apache2::Reload
  PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload

When working with connection filters and protocol modules Apache2::Reload should be invoked in the pre_connection stage:

  PerlPreConnectionHandler Apache2::Reload

See also the discussion on PerlPreConnectionHandler|docs::2.0::user::handlers::protocols/PerlPreConnectionHandler.

Register Modules Implicitly

To only reload modules that have registered with Apache2::Reload, add the following to the httpd.conf:

  PerlModule Apache2::Reload
  PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload
  PerlSetVar ReloadAll Off
  # ReloadAll defaults to On

Then any modules with the line:

  use Apache2::Reload;

Will be reloaded when they change.

Register Modules Explicitly

You can also register modules explicitly in your httpd.conf file that you want to be reloaded on change:

  PerlModule Apache2::Reload
  PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload
  PerlSetVar ReloadAll Off
  PerlSetVar ReloadModules "My::Foo My::Bar Foo::Bar::Test"

Note that these are split on whitespace, but the module list must be in quotes, otherwise Apache tries to parse the parameter list.

The * wild character can be used to register groups of files under the same namespace. For example the setting:

  PerlSetVar ReloadModules "ModPerl::* Apache2::*"

will monitor all modules under the namespaces ModPerl:: and Apache2::.

Monitor Only Certain Sub Directories

To reload modules only in certain directories (and their subdirectories) add the following to the httpd.conf:

  PerlModule Apache2::Reload
  PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload
  PerlSetVar ReloadDirectories "/tmp/project1 /tmp/project2"

You can further narrow the list of modules to be reloaded from the chosen directories with ReloadModules as in:

  PerlModule Apache2::Reload
  PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload
  PerlSetVar ReloadDirectories "/tmp/project1 /tmp/project2"
  PerlSetVar ReloadAll Off
  PerlSetVar ReloadModules "MyApache2::*"

In this configuration example only modules from the namespace MyApache2:: found in the directories /tmp/project1/ and /tmp/project2/ (and their subdirectories) will be reloaded.

Special ``Touch'' File

You can also declare a file, which when gets touch(1)ed, causes the reloads to be performed. For example if you set:

  PerlSetVar ReloadTouchFile /tmp/reload_modules

and don't touch(1) the file /tmp/reload_modules, the reloads won't happen until you go to the command line and type:

  % touch /tmp/reload_modules

When you do that, the modules that have been changed, will be magically reloaded on the next request. This option works with any mode described before.

Unregistering a module

In some cases, it might be necessary to explicitely stop reloading a module.


But be carefull, since unregistering a module in this way will only do so for the current interpreter. This feature should be used with care.

Performance Issues

This module is perfectly suited for a development environment. Though it's possible that you would like to use it in a production environment, since with Apache2::Reload you don't have to restart the server in order to reload changed modules during software updates. Though this convenience comes at a price:

Therefore doing a full server stop and restart is probably a better solution.


If you aren't sure whether the modules that are supposed to be reloaded, are actually getting reloaded, turn the debug mode on:

  PerlSetVar ReloadDebug On


Problems With Reloading Modules Which Do Not Declare Their Package Name

If you modify modules, which don't declare their package, and rely on Apache2::Reload to reload them, you may encounter problems: i.e., it'll appear as if the module wasn't reloaded when in fact it was. This happens because when Apache2::Reload require()s such a module all the global symbols end up in the Apache2::Reload namespace! So the module does get reloaded and you see the compile time errors if there are any, but the symbols don't get imported to the right namespace. Therefore the old version of the code is running.

Failing to Find a File to Reload

Apache2::Reload uses %INC to find the files on the filesystem. If an entry for a certain filepath in %INC is relative, Apache2::Reload will use @INC to try to resolve that relative path. Now remember that mod_perl freezes the value of @INC at the server startup, and you can modify it only for the duration of one request when you need to load some module which is not in on of the @INC directories. So a module gets loaded, and registered in %INC with a relative path. Now when Apache2::Reload tries to find that module to check whether it has been modified, it can't find since its directory is not in @INC. So Apache2::Reload will silently skip that module.

You can enable the Debug|/Debug mode to see what Apache2::Reload does behind the scenes.

Problems with Scripts Running with Registry Handlers that Cache the Code

The following problem is relevant only to registry handlers that cache the compiled script. For example it concerns ModPerl::Registry|docs::2.0::api::ModPerl::Registry but not ModPerl::PerlRun|docs::2.0::api::ModPerl::PerlRun.

The Problem

Let's say that there is a module My::Utils:

  package My::Utils;
  BEGIN { warn __PACKAGE__ , " was reloaded\n" }
  use base qw(Exporter);
  @EXPORT = qw(colour);
  sub colour { "white" }

And a registry script
  use My::Utils;
  print "Content-type: text/plain\n\n";
  print "the color is " . colour();

Assuming that the server is running in a single mode, we request the script for the first time and we get the response:

  the color is white

Now we change My/

  -  sub colour { "white" }
  +  sub colour { "red" }

And issue the request again. Apache2::Reload does its job and we can see that My::Utils was reloaded (look in the error_log file). However the script still returns:

  the color is white

The Explanation

Even though My/ was reloaded, ModPerl::Registry's cached code won't run 'use My::Utils;' again (since it happens only once, i.e. during the compile time). Therefore the script doesn't know that the subroutine reference has been changed.

This is easy to verify. Let's change the script to be:
  use My::Utils;
  print "Content-type: text/plain\n\n";
  my $sub_int = \&colour;
  my $sub_ext = \&My::Utils::colour;
  print "int $sub_int\n";
  print "ext $sub_ext\n";

Issue a request, you will see something similar to:

  int CODE(0x8510af8)
  ext CODE(0x8510af8)

As you can see both point to the same CODE reference (meaning that it's the same symbol). After modifying My/ again:

  -  sub colour { "red" }
  +  sub colour { "blue" }

and calling the script on the secondnd time, we get:

  int CODE(0x8510af8)
  ext CODE(0x851112c)

You can see that the internal CODE reference is not the same as the external one.

The Solution

There are two solutions to this problem:

Solution 1: replace use() with an explicit require() + import().

 - use My::Utils;
 + require My::Utils; My::Utils->import();

now the changed functions will be reimported on every request.

Solution 2: remember to touch the script itself every time you change the module that it requires.

Threaded MPM and Multiple Perl Interpreters

If you use Apache2::Reload with a threaded MPM and multiple Perl interpreters, the modules will be reloaded by each interpreter as they are used, not every interpreters at once. Similar to mod_perl 1.0 where each child has its own Perl interpreter, the modules are reloaded as each child is hit with a request.

If a module is loaded at startup, the syntax tree of each subroutine is shared between interpreters (big win), but each subroutine has its own padlist (where lexical my variables are stored). Once Apache2::Reload reloads a module, this sharing goes away and each Perl interpreter will have its own copy of the syntax tree for the reloaded subroutines.


The short summary of this is: Don't use pseudo-hashes. They are deprecated since Perl 5.8 and are removed in 5.9.

Use an array with constant indexes. Its faster in the general case, its more guaranteed, and generally, it works.

The long summary is that some work has been done to get this module working with modules that use pseudo-hashes, but it's still broken in the case of a single module that contains multiple packages that all use pseudo-hashes.

So don't do that.


mod_perl 2.0 and its core modules are copyrighted under The Apache Software License, Version 2.0.


Matt Sergeant,

Stas Bekman (porting to mod_perl 2.0)

A few concepts borrowed from Stonehenge::Reload by Randal Schwartz and Apache::StatINC (mod_perl 1.x) by Doug MacEachern and Ask Bjoern Hansen.