Renewal error - UnicodeDecodeError: 'ascii'

my automatic renewal with cron job is not working any more. Also manual starting the bot gives me the error. Performing the command:

grep -r -P ‘[^\x00-\x7f]’ /etc/apache2 /etc/letsencrypt /etc/nginx
listed three files:
/etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-apache.conf:# TLSv1 -TLSv1.1 hinzugefügt zu SSLProtocol

The first 2 ones were not readable and the content was like this:
+^F^A^D^A*^B^Q^A^A^E^@^D�^D쓎hܓȓQ^[�^VѤ ^O�䤎$ݲ"^U��ﲎ k鲎!jVE�tg貎��ϲ^E?*òv�̦��F�^?�>}�=�ZYΦ+�/�ez߳س)�V.���^��T� ^[R�L��^^^Ff6ɳ/>|���^H���nL�@���ٳ�8��^O$

My domain is:

I ran this command:
sudo /usr/local/bin/certbot-auto --apache
It produced this output:
An unexpected error occurred:
UnicodeDecodeError: ‘ascii’ codec can’t decode byte 0xc3 in position 411: ordinal not in range(128)

And this is the log:

2020-01-23 20:23:06,913:DEBUG:certbot._internal.log:Exiting abnormally:
Traceback (most recent call last):
File “/opt/”, line 11, in
File “/opt/”, line 15, in main
return internal_main.main(cli_args)
File “/opt/”, line 1351, in main
return config.func(config, plugins)
File “/opt/”, line 1212, in certonly
installer, auth = plug_sel.choose_configurator_plugins(config, plugins, “certonly”)
File “/opt/”, line 224, in choose_configurator_plugins
installer = pick_installer(config, req_inst, plugins, installer_question)
File “/opt/”, line 31, in pick_installer
config, default, plugins, question, (interfaces.IInstaller,))
File “/opt/”, line 104, in pick_plugin
File “/opt/”, line 250, in prepare
return [plugin_ep.prepare() for plugin_ep in six.itervalues(self._plugins)]
File “/opt/”, line 128, in prepare
File “/opt/”, line 259, in prepare
File “/opt/”, line 2335, in install_ssl_options_conf
self.option(“MOD_SSL_CONF_SRC”), constants.ALL_SSL_OPTIONS_HASHES)
File “/opt/”, line 374, in install_version_controlled_file
active_file_digest = crypto_util.sha256sum(dest_path)
File “/opt/”, line 478, in sha256sum
UnicodeDecodeError: ‘ascii’ codec can’t decode byte 0xc3 in position 411: ordinal not in range(128)

My web server is (include version):
Server version: Apache/2.4.10 (Debian)
Server built: Sep 30 2019 19:32:08

The operating system my web server runs on is (include version):
Description: Debian GNU/Linux 8.11 (jessie

My hosting provider, if applicable, is:

I can login to a root shell on my machine (yes or no, or I don’t know):

I’m using a control panel to manage my site (no, or provide the name and version of the control panel):

The version of my client is (e.g. output of certbot --version or certbot-auto --version if you’re using Certbot):
certbot 1.1.0

Any help or hints are appreciated. Thanks

1 Like

I just found the error. There was a non ASCII charakter in /etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-apache.conf
as a comment. When it was deleted, certbot worked as expected.
Issue solved.
Thread can be closed.


Thanks for following up to share your solution :tada:


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