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Using Postfix
A basic guide on configuring and installing the Postfix mail server.

By Alan P. Laudicina


Tired of the sendmail's cryptic configuration, or do you find yourself complaining about its speed? Well then, postfix could be the MTA for you. The Postfix website defines postfix as a MTA which "attempts to provide an alternative to the widely-used Sendmail program." If it's speed and security you're looking for, Postfix is a very nominal choice for a MTA. According to the project's web site, Postfix is up to three times faster than its closest competitor, boasting the capability to send up to 1,000,000 different messages in a day.

The MTA uses multiple layers of defense to protect the local system against intruders, as well as having the ability to run in a chroot jail. Installing on most operation systems is a trivial procedure, although in FreeBSD installation should be done differently to avoid the overwriting of the binaries when a make world is done. Another way to avoid this is to use a mail wrapper. (For more information on mail wrappers read the "Mail Wrappers" heading under the Installation section.)


All of the many configuration parameters can be found in the file, located in the ./conf directory in the postfix source. You need not change every parameter, as they are set to sensible defaults. Here are the details on some of the more important parameters, which will affect the performance of Postfix the most. Please note that if you change the file after installation, you must issue the postfix reload command. After installation, the file can be found in the /etc/postfix directory.

  • queue_directory - the location of the Postfix queue as well as the root dir of the postfix daemons that run chrooted. This field should be left with the default /var/spool/postfix
  • daemon_directory - the location of the daemon programs such as smptd, pickup, cleanup, etc.
  • mail_owner - the owner of Postfix's queue and most of the daemon processes. For this you must add a user to your machine, this has to be a user that owns no other files or processes (so using nobody here is a very bad idea for security reasons).
  • myorigin - the origin is set to $myhostname by default, which defaults to the local hostname of the machine. This should not be used unless you are running a very small site. Most people want to change myorigin to $mydomain which will default to the parent domain of the machine name (i.e. if the hostname is and you are using $myhostname, the origin will be On the other hand if you were using $mydomain, the origin will be
  • inet_interfaces - the inet_interfaces parameter defines which network interface addresses that the stmp daemon will listen on. By default this is set to all, which will listen on any active interface on the machine. This will control the delivery to users@.
  • mydestination - this parameter specifies the list of domains that the machine considers itself. The default of $myhostname and localhost.$mydomain should do here. Don't specify the virtual domains that are hosted on the machine here!
  • mailbox_command - this parameter defines the external command to use instead of local mailbox delivery. It is a completely optional parameter. If you're interested in having procmail to do your mail, this is where you set it.
  • mynetworks - mynetworks specifies a certain list of network addresses that are local to this machine. The list is used to distinguish lusers from strangers. The addresses go in the format of X.X.X.0/X and can be separated by a comma. By default the list of all of the networks attached to the machine is a complete class A network (X.0.0.0/8), a complete class B network (X.X.0.0/16), a complete class C network (X.X.X.0/24), and so on. You can also specify a path of a pattern file instead of listing the patterns here.


The compilation of Postfix is a very fast and easy task. In BSD, the only thing you will need to do is go to the main postfix directory and type make. Compiling Postfix is much faster on my machine then compiling sendmail, taking only a minute and fifty seconds (on a Pentium II 300 with 160mb of RAM). Sendmail takes approximately a minute more than compiling Postfix on the same machine.

Next Page: Installation, Mail Wrappers, Protecting your Maildrop directory, ssh and Replacing sendmail forever.

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