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Apache has a graceful option which can scan for modification in http.conf without restarting Apache. What about nginx?

nginx supports the following signals :

TERM, INT - Quick shutdown
QUIT - Graceful shutdown
HUP - Configuration reload: Start the new worker processes with a new configuration, Gracefully shutdown the old worker processes
USR1 - Reopen the log files
USR2 - Upgrade Executable on the fly
WINCH - Gracefully shutdown the worker processes

HUP is what you are looking for, so sudo kill -HUP pid (nginx pid)

source : http://nginx.org/en/docs/control.html

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