Raspberry Pi Email Server Part 2: Dovecot

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This is the second part of a five part tutorial that will show you how to install a full featured email server on your Raspberry Pi. This tutorial covers Dovecot, which provides SASL authentication and IMAP capabilities. The parts are:

The Introduction & Contents Page (read first)
Raspberry Pi Email Server Part 1: Postfix
Raspberry Pi Email Server Part 2: Dovecot
Raspberry Pi Email Server Part 3: Squirrelmail
Raspberry Pi Email Server Part 4: Spam Detection with Spamassassin
Raspberry Pi Email Server Part 5: Spam Sorting with LMTP & Sieve

Fixing the errors that appeared during dovecot installation

In part 1, when you installed Dovecot I mentioned that you might see some errors like this:

Creating config file /etc/dovecot/conf.d/20-imap.conf with new version
[....] Restarting IMAP/POP3 mail server: dovecotError: socket() failed: Address family not supported by protocol
Error: service(imap-login): listen(::, 143) failed: Address family not supported by protocol
Error: socket() failed: Address family not supported by protocol
Error: service(imap-login): listen(::, 993) failed: Address family not supported by protocol
Fatal: Failed to start listeners
invoke-rc.d: initscript dovecot, action "restart" failed.
dpkg: error processing dovecot-imapd (--configure):
 subprocess installed post-installation script returned error exit status 1
Setting up dovecot-ldap (1:2.1.7-7) ...

These errors are caused by the lack of IPv6 support, which I mentioned in the previous tutorial. To remove the errors, open the main dovecot configuration file (/etc/dovecot/dovecot.conf) and find this line:

listen = *, ::

And change it to:

listen = *

The * means “all IPv4 addresses”, the :: means “all IPv6 addresses”. Now restart Dovecot, and you shouldn’t get any errors:

sudo service dovecot restart

Note: since I wrote this tutorial, there have been a few small changes to the default configuration file - you may find that the line is commented (with a # at the start of the line). If so, remember to uncomment it when you make your changes!

Tell Dovecot where your Mailbox is

Open /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-mail.conf and find this line:

mail_location = mbox:~/mail:INBOX=/var/mail/%u

Change it to this:

mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir

Instruct Postfix to use Dovecot SASL

Now we need to tell Postfix that we would like to use Dovecot for SASL authentication. Open /etc/postfix/main.cf and add these lines:

smtpd_sasl_type = dovecot
smtpd_sasl_path = private/auth
smtpd_sasl_auth_enable = yes

Now tell Dovecot to listen for SASL authentication requests from Postfix. Open /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-master.conf and comment out the current block that begins with service auth (place a # at the start of each line). Replace it with this:

service auth {
        unix_listener /var/spool/postfix/private/auth {
                mode = 0660
                user = postfix
                group = postfix

Now you want to enable plain text logins. Do it by adding these two lines to /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-auth.conf. Make sure they are not already present in the file, or your settings may be overwritten with the default ones if the default is declared later in the file than the lines you add. If the parameters are already present, you can either modify the existing lines or comment them out and add these new ones:

disable_plaintext_auth = no
auth_mechanisms = plain login

Note that although the logins are in plain text, we will be setting Postfix up later so that it only allows you to use plaintext logins from within SSL/TLS. This means that your login and password will sent in an encrypted session - you wouldn't see them in plain text if you used a packet sniffer, for example. For now, we’re allowing unencrypted plain text logins so that we can test logging in with Telnet. Since the connection is local (from the Pi to the Pi), your password isn’t being sent over any insecure networks so this is fine.

Testing SASL

Creating a new user for testing purposes is a good idea. Let’s call this temporary user testmail and give it the password test1234 Use this command to add the user, and follow the prompts including setting a password.

sudo adduser testmail

Now restart Postfix and Dovecot:

sudo service postfix restart
sudo service dovecot restart

We’re now going to try and send an email after authenticating with SASL. The server is expecting to see a base64 encoded version of your username and password, so we have to convert it first. There are three ways of doing this, so I've given examples below using the testmail username and test1234 password:

#Method No.1
echo -ne '\000testmail\000test1234' | openssl base64

#Method No.2
perl -MMIME::Base64 -e 'print encode_base64("\0testmail\0test1234");'

#Method No.3
printf '\0%s\0%s' 'testmail' 'test1234' | openssl base64

I have discovered that if your password starts with a number, methods 1 and 2 don’t work. Assuming the username and password are testmail and test1234, the commands produce this:


WARNING: If you’re having problems with authentication and you paste examples to forums or mailing lists, be aware that it is really easy to convert this back into your username and password (hence the creation of a test user). If you're using your real username and password to test, redact it before posting!

Now, still logged into the Pi via SSH, you can telnet port 25 to test whether or not SASL is working. There’s only one extra step, which is the AUTH PLAIN command that comes after ehlo but before mail from. For testing, the permit_mynetworks parameter should be commented out under your postfix smtpd_recipient_restrictions block in /etc/postfix/main.cf. If you’re following on from Raspberry Pi Email Server Part 1: Postfix then this should already be the case. If you have to change it, remember to reload postfix (sudo service postfix reload) after you change the value. Here’s an example:

telnet localhost 25
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
220 samhobbs ESMTP Postfix (Debian/GNU)
ehlo facebook.com
250-SIZE 10240000
250 DSN
235 2.7.0 Authentication successful
mail from:testmail
250 2.1.0 Ok
rcpt to:me@externalemail.com
250 2.1.5 Ok
354 End data with .
Subject: This is my first email that has been authenticated with Dovecot SASL
Woop woop
250 2.0.0 Ok: queued as B87133F768
221 2.0.0 Bye
Connection closed by foreign host.

Now try again but enter the username/password incorrectly (base64 encode something random) – you should get an error message and the email won’t send. If everything went to plan, then SASL is working properly!

You can now uncomment permit_mynetworks again.

Separating Incoming email (unauthenticated) from Outgoing Email (SASL authenticated)

It’s probably a good idea to have a dedicated port for sending outgoing email…here’s why: Port 25 doesn’t require (but does offer) SSL/TLS encryption. If you mess up configuring your mail client you could end up letting it authenticate with SASL over insecure connections. Using a different port that only accepts SSL/TLS connections removes the risk that a poorly configured email client could be sending your password unencrypted over dodgy networks. There are two ports you can use for this:

  1. 465: SMTP over SSL
  2. 587: Email submission

587 is the “official” port for email clients (like K9 mail, Thunderbird and Outlook) to use when submitting messages to the Mail Submission Agent (your email server) – the submission may be encrypted or unencrypted depending on the server configuration. 465 was a port that was assigned for SMTP with SSL/TLS before the STARTTLS protocol was introduced, back in the days when you chose your port and that decided on the type of connection you were going to get (encrypted or unencrypted).

STARTTLS changed things because it allows you to connect with an unencrypted connection (like the one you get with Telnet), and then upgrade to an encrypted connection without changing port… so when STARTTLS was introduced, SMTPS on port 465 was removed from the standard because you could do the same thing with a single port (25).

However, I think there is some value in specifying a port for submission that only accepts SSL/TLS encrypted connections, and won’t work if the connection isn’t encrypted. This means that if you misconfigure your email client it just won’t work, instead of working and sending your password in an unencrypted format. So, anyway… Here’s how to set up Postfix to listen on port 465 for encrypted connections. The first step is telling Postfix to listen on port 465, so open /etc/postfix/master.cf and uncomment the line:

smtps     inet  n       -       -       -       -       smtpd

Now restart Postfix:

sudo service postfix restart

Test whether Postfix is listening on port 465:

telnet localhost 465
Connected to localhost.                                                                       
Escape character is '^]'.
220 samhobbs.co.uk ESMTP Postfix (Debian/GNU)
ehlo samhobbs.co.uk
250-SIZE 10240000
250 DSN
221 2.0.0 Bye
Connection closed by foreign host.

OK, so now it’s listening on the right port, but it’s allowing unencrypted connections. Here’s how you force TLS on port 465: open /etc/postfix/master.cf and find the line you uncommented earlier. Below it are some options, you want to edit them so that they look like this (i.e. uncomment lines 2 and 3):

smtps     inet  n       -       -       -       -       smtpd
  -o syslog_name=postfix/smtps
  -o smtpd_tls_wrappermode=yes

Line 3 is forcing TLS on port 465, and line 2 means that connections to port 465 have a different label in the logs, which can be useful for debugging.

sudo service postfix restart

Now try connecting with Telnet again… you should be able to establish a connection, but not receive any prompts from the server:

telnet localhost 465                                            
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
Connection closed by foreign host.

Now try openssl:

openssl s_client -connect localhost:465 -quiet
depth=0 CN = samhobbs
verify error:num=18:self signed certificate
verify return:1
depth=0 CN = samhobbs
verify return:1
220 samhobbs.co.uk ESMTP Postfix (Debian/GNU)
221 2.0.0 Bye

Good: we are able to start a TLS encrypted connection. We got some errors because the certificate is self-signed (it's not signed by a certificate that is in the trusted root store on the server) but this is OK because we're just using the certificate for testing for now. When you come back later to set up a proper certificate, you can use this command to verify it. The -CApath option tells openssl where the trusted certificates are stored on your system:

openssl s_client -connect localhost:465 -quiet -CApath /etc/ssl/certs

Successful validation looks something like this:

sam@samhobbs:~$ openssl s_client -connect localhost:465 -quiet -CApath /etc/ssl/certs
depth=3 C = SE, O = AddTrust AB, OU = AddTrust External TTP Network, CN = AddTrust External CA Root
verify return:1                                                                              
depth=2 C = GB, ST = Greater Manchester, L = Salford, O = COMODO CA Limited, CN = COMODO RSA Certification Authority
verify return:1                                                                              
depth=1 C = GB, ST = Greater Manchester, L = Salford, O = COMODO CA Limited, CN = COMODO RSA Domain Validation Secure Server CA
verify return:1                                                                              
depth=0 OU = Domain Control Validated, OU = PositiveSSL, CN = samhobbs.co.uk                 
verify return:1                                                                              
220 samhobbs.co.uk ESMTP Postfix (Ubuntu)                                                    
221 2.0.0 Bye

There are a couple more changes we want to make here: first, tell Postfix to only advertise SASL authentication over encrypted connections (so that you don’t accidentally send your password in the clear). Open /etc/postfix/main.cf and add this line:

smtpd_tls_auth_only = yes
sudo service postfix reload

Now connect to port 25 and you shouldn’t see AUTH advertised:

telnet localhost 25
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
220 samhobbs.co.uk ESMTP Postfix (Debian/GNU)
ehlo samhobbs.co.uk
250-SIZE 10240000
250 DSN

Lastly, we want to override the smtp_recipient_restrictions for port 465 so that it doesn't accept incoming messages from unauthenticated users.

At first, I didn't make this change and I noticed that some spam emails were coming in on port 465 and bypassing my spam filter, which I configured to scan all incoming email on port 25, but not 465 because I only expected it to be used for outgoing email. We can do this by overriding the smtp_recipient_restrictions list for port 465 in /etc/postfix/master.cf. Open master.cf and find the smtps line. Add a new recipient restrictions list option like this:

smtps     inet  n       -       -       -       -       smtpd
  -o syslog_name=postfix/smtps
  -o smtpd_tls_wrappermode=yes
  -o smtpd_recipient_restrictions=permit_sasl_authenticated,reject

Now reload postfix:

sudo service postfix reload

Perfect! Postfix configuration is now complete.

Testing IMAP

There are two main protocols for fetching mail: POP and IMAP. The main difference between them is what they do with emails when they collect them: a POP client will fetch email from your server and remove it from the server when it’s done. This is inconvenient if you want to connect with two or more devices (like a phone and a computer) and have complete copies of all your emails on both. IMAP, on the other hand, makes a copy of the emails on the server and leaves the originals there. For this reason, I think IMAP is much more useful than POP and I didn’t even bother to set up POP on my server. We can now test the IMAP server with Telnet in a similar way to SMTP & SASL testing earlier. This time, we’ll be using port 143, the standard port for IMAP. The stages are:

  1. establish a connection with telnet localhost 143
  2. log in with a login "USERNAME" "PASSWORD"" (not base64 encoded this time)
  3. select inbox to see messages inside b select inbox
  4. logout with c logout

In case you're wondering, the "a b c" thing is done because a client can send multiple commands to the server at once, and they might not come back in the same order depending on what they are. So, the responses have the same letter as the commands they are responding to so that the client doesn't get muddled.

Here’s an example, using the testmail user we created earlier:

telnet localhost 143
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
a login "testmail" "test1234"
b select inbox
* FLAGS (\Answered \Flagged \Deleted \Seen \Draft)
* OK [PERMANENTFLAGS (\Answered \Flagged \Deleted \Seen \Draft \*)] Flags permitted.
* OK [UNSEEN 1] First unseen.
* OK [UIDVALIDITY 1385217480] UIDs valid
* OK [UIDNEXT 2] Predicted next UID
* OK [NOMODSEQ] No permanent modsequences
b OK [READ-WRITE] Select completed.
c logout
* BYE Logging out
c OK Logout completed.
Connection closed by foreign host.

Adding TLS support

Now that we know IMAP is working, we need to enable IMAPS (imap with SSL/TLS). The standard port for this is 993.

Many other tutorials that were written for older versions of dovecot will tell you to do this in different ways that won’t work, I tried 3 different methods before I ended up with a working one.

First, edit /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-master.conf, find the “service imap-login” block and uncomment the port and SSL lines so that it looks like this:

service imap-login {
  inet_listener imap {
    port = 143
  inet_listener imaps {
    port = 993
    ssl = yes

Edit 14/10/2015: the default dovecot configuration files changed recently after Jessie became the new stable distribution of Debian, which caused some users problems; TLS on port 993 used to be enabled by default but now it isn't. We need to re-enable it.

In /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-ssl.conf, find ssl = no and change it to:

ssl = yes

There have been some security vulnerabilities discovered in older versions of the SSL protocol in recent times. SSLv2 is disabled by default, but it doesn't harm to explicitly disable it again. SSLv3 is vulnerable to an attack called POODLE, so we will disable it too. In the same file, find the ssl_protocols parameter line, uncomment it and add !SSLv3 to the end, like this:

ssl_protocols = !SSLv2 !SSLv3

Edit 02/09/2017: if you're using Debian Stretch or later, or one of its derivatives, then you will need to edit that line to match the following. The SSLv2 option is no longer recognised as an option for ssl_protocols because it has been removed entirely:

ssl_protocols = !SSLv3

For some bizarre reason, the Dovecot package for Raspberry Pi (and possibly newer versions of Ubuntu) does not create a self-signed certificate during installation like it used to. So, we have to create one manually. If you look in /usr/share/dovecot/ you will find the script that used to be used to generate the certificate; we can use it ourselves to simplify the process.

The script is located at /usr/share/dovecot/mkcert.sh and looks like this:


# Generates a self-signed certificate.
# Edit dovecot-openssl.cnf before running this.




if [ ! -d $CERTDIR ]; then
  echo "$SSLDIR/certs directory doesn't exist"
  exit 1

if [ ! -d $KEYDIR ]; then
  echo "$SSLDIR/private directory doesn't exist"
  exit 1

if [ -f $CERTFILE ]; then
  echo "$CERTFILE already exists, won't overwrite"
  exit 1

if [ -f $KEYFILE ]; then
  echo "$KEYFILE already exists, won't overwrite"
  exit 1

$OPENSSL req -new -x509 -nodes -config $OPENSSLCONFIG -out $CERTFILE -keyout $KEYFILE -days 365 || exit 2
chmod 0600 $KEYFILE
$OPENSSL x509 -subject -fingerprint -noout -in $CERTFILE || exit 2

If you were going to use this certificate for any significant length of time, it would be worth editing the parameters in the config file it uses (/usr/share/dovecot/dovecot-openssl.cnf) to set the proper common name and contact details on the certificate. However, I suggest you leave the defaults as they are, use this certificate just for testing, and then come back later and generate a new cert when everything is working (more on that later).

You must be in the same folder as the configuration file when you run the script, or it will not find the config and the certificate generation will fail. The following two commands will change to the right folder and then execute the script:

cd /usr/share/dovecot
sudo ./mkcert.sh

You should see a message "writing new private key to '/etc/dovecot/private/dovecot.pem'" and then some details about the certificate.

Next, find the following two lines in /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-ssl.conf and uncomment them:

#ssl_cert = </etc/dovecot/dovecot.pem
#ssl_key = </etc/dovecot/private/dovecot.pem

Now reload dovecot to apply the changes:

sudo service dovecot reload

Since IMAPS is a connection over SSL/TLS, we can’t use Telnet to test it. Instead, we use openssl to create a secure connection. There are two versions of the command, one will show you LOADS of information about the certificate used to encrypt the connection, and the other will suppress this info. I recommend trying the long version out of interest, but both will work the same for the test:

For full information:

openssl s_client -connect localhost:993

For minimal information:

openssl s_client -connect localhost:993 -quiet

I won’t print the output of the first command, because it’s ridiculously long. Here’s an example of the second, including a login test:

admin@samhobbs /etc/dovecot/conf.d $ openssl s_client -connect localhost:993 -quiet
depth=0 O = Dovecot mail server, OU = samhobbs, CN = samhobbs, emailAddress = root@samhobbs.co.uk
verify error:num=18:self signed certificate
verify return:1
depth=0 O = Dovecot mail server, OU = samhobbs, CN = samhobbs, emailAddress = root@samhobbs.co.uk
verify return:1
a login "testmail" "test1234"
b logout
* BYE Logging out
b OK Logout completed.
Connection closed by foreign host.

Good stuff: SSL/TLS is working on port 993, and you can log in successfully.

Note that by default Dovecot uses a “snakeoil” self-signed certificate. SSL/TLS certificates are used for two purposes: encryption and verification. The “snakeoil” certificate will encrypt your content but it won’t verify that you’re talking to your server – you could be talking to someone imitating your server (anyone can create a self-signed certificate claiming to be any website).

If you’d like to get your certificate signed without forking out loads of money to a cert signing authority, I’d recommend CAcert. I've written a tutorial explaining how to generate your own cert and get it signed here. If you opt for a commercial certificate, you can use the CAcert tutorial to generate the certificate and then this tutorial will explain the differences in the installation/configuration of commercial certificates once you have it signed.

If you're testing a proper certificate, use this command to tell openssl where the trusted root certificates are stored:

openssl s_client -connect localhost:993 -quiet -CApath /etc/ssl/certs

Tidying up and enabling WAN access

Before opening the ports on your router to the world, it’s a good idea to delete that test user because the password is so easy to guess.

sudo userdel testmail

Also, if you still use the "pi" login, for goodness' sake change the password from "raspberry"! You can do this using the passwd command when logged in as pi:


Or you can achieve the same thing when logged in as another user by using sudo to gain root privileges:

sudo passwd pi

Now you can open a few ports on your router’s firewall. Make sure your Pi has a static LAN IP address and then forward these ports from WAN to its LAN IP address:

  • Port 25 for SMTP (used for receiving emails)
  • Port 465 for secure SMTP (used for sending emails after SASL authentication)
  • Port 993 for IMAPS (used to receive emails on your phone/tablet/computer)

Here’s an example on my router, running OpenWrt:


Setting up IMAP Email Clients

I’m now going to run through setting up IMAP email clients quickly, using K9 Mail on Android and Thunderbird on GNU/Linux as examples. The setup for Thunderbird on Windows and Mac OSX should be very similar.

The basics are this:

  • Select an IMAP connection
  • Your login is your username only (omit @yourdomain.com), and you password is…your password!
  • For incoming emails: select use SSL/TLS always and the program should automatically select port 993
  • For outgoing emails: select SSL/TLS always. The program may suggest port 587, but you want port 465

K9 Mail

Open K9 Mail and select add new account. Type in your account information (you@yourdomain.com and password) and then select manual setup. Select IMAP and then enter your information as follows…

Incoming email:

K9 Incoming Email Settings

Outgoing email:

K9 Outgoing Email Settings


Open Thunderbird, and then click Account Actions –> Add Mail Account.

Fill in your password and email address, which is your username followed by your fully qualified domain name (FQDN), i.e. username@yourdomain.com:

Thunderbird Step 1: Mail Account Setup

Thunderbird will try to auto-detect settings and fail. Don’t worry, this is normal. Select “manual config”:

 Thunderbird Step 2: TB will try to autodetect settings, and fail. Select “Manual Config"

Now edit the settings as appropriate. I had to remove a period (.) from in front of my “server hostname”, and edit the SSL and Authentication settings. If you select “SSL/TLS” for both incoming and outgoing, ports 993 and 465 are automatically selected:

Thunderbird Step 3: Edit the settings so that they match these (but change them to match your username and domain name!)

Now try emailing yourself from your external email address, and see if your email gets through. If you are having problems, be sure to check you’ve set up an MX record as well as a DNS A record.

Stuck in spam filters?

A few people have contacted me recently to say that their email server is working fine but their emails are getting sent to Gmail's spam folder.

If you are experiencing problems like this (or even if you're not), try setting up an SPF and/or PTR record as explained in my DNS basics tutorial.

You might also want to check if your domain name or IP address are on any blacklists. There's a handy website called MX toolbox that lets you do this (choose blacklist check from the dropdown menu).

Almost done…

Good news! If you’ve reached this far and everything is working, then you’re almost done. The next step (Webmail with Squirrelmail) is optional but by far the easiest of the three steps.

If you’ve hit a rut, please post a comment and I’ll try and help you out.

If not… continue to Raspberry Pi Email Server Part 3: Squirrelmail



I just added a few new users, and it worked! I sent it from this user to the original user and it was received! I then retried the michael user and that worked! I have no idea why, but at least it does!

Thanks for all you help :D

I just connected it directly to the super hub and changed the ports to suit it, but still no luck. Am I right in assuming the users before the @mydomain.co.uk are set up by creating users on the pi? Even if that's the case, I tried setting up using pi@mydomain.co.uk and the suitable password, still resulting in the same verification error. I did all the Telnet/OpenSSL tests you have wrote about, and all of them succeeded (in the end).

Correct. If your "mydomains" statement contained yourdomain1.com and yourdomain2.com, and you have a system user called "admin" then the server would accept emails to "admin@yourdomain1.com" and "admin@yourdomain2.com" and deliver them both to the admin user's Maildir (at /home/admin/Maildir ).

Could you check which connection settings you are using, just to confirm?

Thanks for the fast response, my mistake I placed "mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir" in the wrong location within /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-mail.conf.

Everything thing seem to be fine, except I can't send via port 645 have tried using a number of different clients.. they just time out.

When do you get the time out? Between the client and server, or between your server and another SMTP server (e.g. Gmail)?

If it's a problem between the client and server, you may have forgotten to open port 465 on your router.

If you are on your laptop and you do

openssl s_client -connect yourdomain.com:465 -quiet

what do you get?

Try that again but with localhost when logged in to the Pi with SSH. If it's successful on localhost then that means there's a firewall problem, if you get an error on localhost you've probably made a typo in the config somewhere.



I am having the same trouble.

I have checked the mail location and it is correct

If add the user to mail group the problem is resolved?

I cannot send or receive email even though I've set it up correctly. If anyone could help that would be great!


If you can answer these questions that will help.

What kind of IP address do you have, static or dynamic? If dynamic, how are you doing dynamic DNS?

What's your domain name?

Have you set up an MX record?

Have you forwarded the relevant ports on your router to your Pi?

Type this command and then post what you see when you try to send mail:

tail -f /var/log/mail.log



Thanks for a great tutorial. I have everything up and working as it should, I think.

Is there any way to easy add aliases and multiple domains without doing everything differently?

Sure, add the domain to "mydestinations" in your postfix configuration. The default value was produced by the postfix setup script.

Do you just want email to root, webmaster, postmaster to go to your user etc? You can create this type of alias by editing /etc/aliases, adding one alias per line like this:

webmaster: yourusername
postmaster: yourusername

...and then running the command

sudo newaliases

And finally, reload postfix:

sudo service postfix reload

Now email to those usernames should be delivered to your inbox.

Hope that helps!



What seems to be the issue here? First I thought it was the MX record but now I don't know anymore...
Receiving mail is working fine but sending mails don't work to anyone except to my ISP haha?

SMTP Reverse DNS Mismatch Warning - Reverse DNS does not match SMTP Banner

220 flipside.nu ESMTP Postfix (Debian/GNU) [764 ms]
EHLO MXTB-PWS3.mxtoolbox.com
250-SIZE 10240000
250 DSN [780 ms]
250 2.1.0 Ok [780 ms]
554 5.7.1 : Relay access denied [780 ms]

MXTB-PWS3v2 4415ms


As well as DNS A and MX records, there is something called a PTR record.

A DNS A record matches a domain name to an IP address, but a PTR record matches an IP address to a domain name.

Looks like the server you are sending email to is very strict, and is doing a reverse DNS lookup on your IP address to see if the common name on the PTR record matches the domain name your email server announced itself with when it connected (or, that the MX record for the common name on the PTR maps to your IP address). Since the two do not match (your PTR record probably says something like, the server has rejected the email.

You can look up your PTR record using dig:

dig -x

where is your IP address.

Unfortunately, the PTR record is not controlled by your domain name registrar (unless they happen to be your ISP, too) so you can't change it easily. It is controlled by the owner of the IP address, your ISP, and they very rarely let you change it (the one exception I know of is PlusNet, who let me change it for free!).

When you relay email through your ISP, the server you are sending to receives a connection from your ISP's server with a properly configured PTR record, which is why it's accepted.

My email server wouldn't reject you, by the way! ;)


No worries!

Just don't leave your ISP on the assumption that a different one would allow you to set up a PTR record, because that's not necessarily true.


Great tutorial!
I only can't receive any mails in thunderbird - only sending works.
Any thoughts on this?
Thanks in advance.

Hi Eric,

Double check your IMAP settings (sometimes clients add a period in front of your domain name automatically, or change the port settings) and if that's all clear then check /var/log/mail.log and post back with anything that looks unusual.


He Sam,

Thanks for your response. What do you mean by changing the port settings? I've forwarded 465 and 993 in my router. I've also changed the relayhost = smtp.ziggo.nl cause my ISP is blocking port 25. IMAP setting in thunderbird seem to work - only I get an warning the certificate is not valid. But when accepting them I can successfully send a mail only when I try to replay it seems they aren't delivered.

Thanks for your reply. IMAP settings seems to work. I've forwarded ports 465, 993 in my router. I needed to change the smtp_relay to my ISP cause they are blocking port 25.

My settings are accepted by thunderbird (client) and the mails I've sent are loading in the correct folder. Only I'm not receiving any messages. My log seems ok. And I'm not getting any message of a failed delivery. Thanks again

Sorry, but your descriptions of the problem have left me a little confused. Here's my summary of what I think you mean, could you let me know if I have it correctly, and we'll go from there...

You can log in to your Pi from Thunderbird (TB) with IMAP, and see the messages in your inbox. You can send emails from TB through your Pi to an external email address like Gmail, and the emails arrive fine. However, if you reply to the email from Gmail, it does not reach your Pi.


If so, it sounds like you probably have a problem with your MX record, so Gmail doesn't know where to send your message. What's the domain name you're using, so I can look up your MX record?


Hi Sam,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. Sorry about not being clear to you.

I can login (TB) but I don't see any messages in my inbox and I'm able to send messages to a external mail adres (gmail).
I'm now receiving a lot of mail from Google that bounced:

[(10) eric-geurts.nl. []:25: Connection timed out]
[(10) eric-geurts.nl. []:25: Connection refused]

You could be right about the mx records. I'm using the PI for my mail-server and VPS to host my site (apache) so there are 2 IP's in my DNS.

Send a message to yourself (to the pi, from the pi) just to make sure there should be a message in your inbox, which will help you determine if IMAP is working.

If your Pi is on a different WAN IP to your website host then create a subdomain called "mail" in your DNS records that points to your Pi's IP address, and make sure your MX record points to mail.yourdomain.com instead of yourdomain.com.


I've changed the DNS settings to:
eric-geurts.nl MX mail.eric-geurts.nl 7200
mail.eric-geurts.nl A 7200 <- IP raspberry

Now I can receive messages from Pi to Pi. But stil not receiving any when I try to send from my gmail-account.

DNS records have a Time to Live (TTL), which is 7200s in your case. If you have just changed them, you may have to wait 7200 seconds (2 hours) for the new DNS records to circulate, as Gmail may be using an old record.



Thanks for your help. It works! I can send and receive my mail on all my mail-clients including my phone/tablet. Big thanks for taking the time to help :)



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