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Simple Mailserver With Postfix, Dovecot, And Sieve On Debian 7

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 5, 2014
Debian Networking
Archived content

This article is outdated and may not work correctly for current operating systems or software.

The following tutorial describes how to set up a simple mailserver using Postfix as MTA, Dovecot as MDA and the awesome Sieve for sorting mails. The starting point is a freshly installed server with Debian on which you have got either access to the administrative user or sudo rights.


Installation Steps

First, install the necessary packages:

sudo apt-get install postfix dovecot-imapd dovecot-managesieved

During the installation process, you will be asked what sort of server you are running and how Postfix will receive send and receive mails. Select "Internet Site" here.

The first configuration step is to connect Dovecot with Postfix and setup up a postmaster address, this is the address that others will see when mail delivery failed, so they can contact you on eventual problems on your end. Open /etc/dovecot/conf.d/15-lda.conf and edit the following line:

postmaster_address = yourname@yourdomain.tld

In the same file, also activate the automatic creation and subscription to folders you generate via IMAP:

lda_mailbox_autocreate = yes

lda_mailbox_autosubscribe = yes

The next step is to configure the spot on the filesystem where the mails should be stored. Open /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-mail.conf and edit the following lines:

mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir

Make sure that every other mention of mail_location is commented out in this context. Now you can tell Postfix to hand over incoming mails to Dovecot by editing /etc/postfix/, adding the following line:

mailbox_command = /usr/lib/dovecot/deliver

After restarting both services ...

sudo service postfix restart

sudo service dovecot restart

... you can test if everything is working by issuing the following command:

echo "Testmail!" | mail -s "Testmail!" root@localhost

If everything is working properly you should find a message similar to the following one in /var/log/mail.log:

install postfix/local[10309]: A0B361DDA2: to=<root@localhost>, relay=local, delay=0.02, delays=0.01/0/0/0.01, dsn=2.0.0, status=sent (delivered to command: /usr/lib/dovecot/deliver

Now that the basic service is working, there are two important things left to set up. The internet is (sadly) not a friendly place, making encrypting as much as possible a necessity, in this case provided by SSL/TLS. Ideally you would have a certificate from a trusted CA - such as for example StartSSL where you can get a certificate for free - but for solely private usage a self-signed certificate is fine too. You can generate a self-signed certificate with the following command:

sudo mkdir /etc/dovecot/private

sudo openssl req -newkey rsa:4096 -sha512 -x509 -days 365 -nodes -keyout /etc/dovecot/private/mykey.key -out /etc/dovecot/mycert.pem

sudo chmod 600 /etc/dovecot/private/*

Depending on the speed of your server CPU, this will take a minute. After the generation process is complete, you can enable TLS-encryption for both Postfix and Dovecot. For Postfix, add the following lines to /etc/postfix/

smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/dovecot/private/mykey.pem

smtpd_tls_key_file = /etc/dovecot/private/mycert.pem

smtpd_use_tls = yes

For Dovecot, open /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-ssl.conf and edit the SSL-related lines:

ssl = yes

ssl_key = /etc/dovecot/private/mykey.pem

ssl_cert = /etc/dovecot/private/mycert.pem

Once again, restart both services:

sudo service postfix restart

sudo service dovecot restart

To verify that the setup is correct, you can test that the mailserver allows encrypted connections with the following command:

openssl s_client -starttls smtp -crlf -connect youripaddressoryourdomain:25

If the answer contains both certificate and connection information, then everything is working properly. The last step of this tutorial is the configuration of Sieve. It's pretty simple, open /etc/dovecot/conf.d/15-lda.conf with your favorite text editor and edit the following line:

mail_plugins = $mail_plugins sieve

A final restart of Dovecot finishes your setup:

sudo service dovecot restart

At this point, you may want to set up a another user since using root for sending mails is considered arrogant. Simply run:

 useradd -m yourusername

 passwd yourusername

Now you can log into your server as your freshly created user over a secure connection, send and receive mail over secure connections, and sort your mails with sieve over a secure connection.

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