Adjusting to QMail

By Blane Warrene
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While anyone involved in web administration, design and development spends most of their time focused on web apps, sites and the management of them, this by no means is the limit of responsibility.

If you host or are involved in hosting client sites, fate will have it to also wrestle with mail servers. Until this past year, for me that wrestling was almost exclusively with Postfix and Sendmail or corporate mail servers such as Domino or Exchange.

Recently I was faced with administering QMail — and had zero experience with it. I have since found it to be a very reliable and somewhat easy to use alternative and wanted to share some sites I have found useful in the process.

A notable feature of QMail is its speedy handling of mailing lists – of course important to web developers and hosts as many clients require or want this capability.

First in my bookmarks is the QMail home page (

More important perhaps is a resource site filled with help and contributed software to make managing the mail server a bit easier — Russell Nelson’s qmail home page ( Included are the author’s documentation and software, as well as links to commercial support, contributed scripts and more.

Please review the scripts carefully as some are extremely powerful and as the author notes – are sharp and may bite.

Finally, I wanted to suggest the use of Webmin ( for administering QMail. Webmin includes a robust module for the mail server as well as support for Postfix and Sendmail. This can be an introductory method to get under the hood with a mail server (or entire Unix server for that matter) via a GUI interface.

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  • Qmail is a very nice system. I’ve used it on several platforms with hardly an issue.

    Hardly because, while it’s certainly very nice if you only want POP3, but since it doesn’t conform to sendmail ‘standards’ as well as something like postfix, using qmail with IMAP servers is slightly more challanging. Theres usually some workaround that you have to find to make everything work properly… not impossible, but a minor pain. The benifits of qmail (secure, fast, simple) outweigh this pretty significantly though.

    Life with QMail ( is another incredible resource that tells nearly everything you could ever want to know (note it is not by the author, which in some cases is a good thing).

  • I have used sendmail, qmail and postfix..

    Sendmail -> qmail
    Qmail was like 5x quicker, easier to manage
    Qmail -> Postfix
    Postfix was like 2x quicker, a little harder to manage..

    Overall if your a small shop looking for good performance and easy to use I would suggest qmail.. If you need pure performance postfix is your friend.

  • xiberk

    For those looking to install a Qmail “Toaster” (complete email/webmail/antivirus/antispam/etc) system on FreeBSD, check out
    . It is a very mature, and robust open source installer with much community and for-pay support available.

  • datad

    Qmail is workable if you are willing to start a career in Qmail. If you want to get a mail server up and running without a lot of confusion, Postfix is better as it requires very little configuration to start working. Qmail has a host of utilities with such incredibly poor documentation that you really need a degree in astrophysics to make it work. The utilities are named poorly, described poorly and examples? Forget it. Go with Postfix, you’ll actually get things working.

  • Nice little tool I found for handling Qmail queues.


  • andre

    well you don’t really need a degree in astrophysics to get qmail to work…it’s just *different*

    in the same way that DJBDNS is different from BIND, qmail is different from sendmail and postfix

  • One of the issues that led me to select qmail as a mail server is security, which suprisingly was not mentioned in the article or anyones followup comments. This insistance on security is one of the issues that complicates the install and makes things different. Qmail’s author had a $500 bounty for anyone who could show a secuity bug in qmail. After 5 years or so, he recinded the offer and donated the prize to the FSF.

    I host qmail on Gentoo, and use Mozilla Thunderbird to access over secure IMAP. Works like a charm, and much simpler to get running and maintain than my earlier sendmail attempts.

    Here is a great link:

    Qmail comes highly recommended by me.

  • user42

    dovecot ( is quite a nice (and fast) imap server that works very well with qmail.

  • varad

    how to control individual users sending mails to an outside server