D. J. Bernstein
Internet mail


Frequently asked questions
The qmail security guarantee

Moving large sendmail sites to qmail
Installing mini-qmail
Building a POP toaster
The qmail pictures

Who's using qmail
Changes in recent versions
The future of qmail

Precompiled var-qmail packages
Information for distributors

qmail is discussed on the qmail mailing list. New versions are announced on the qmailannounce mailing list.

The latest published qmail package is qmail-1.03.tar.gz, available from

Related packages:

If you're interested in what qmail can do for you, read on. See www.qmail.org for more qmail-related utilities and information about commercial support.

There are quite a few books on qmail. Out of those I've read, the best is The qmail handbook by Dave Sill. The newest book is Qmail Quickstarter by Kyle Wheeler.

What is it?

qmail is a secure, reliable, efficient, simple message transfer agent. It is designed for typical Internet-connected UNIX hosts. As of October 2001, qmail is the second most common SMTP server on the Internet, and has by far the fastest growth of any SMTP server.

Secure: Security isn't just a goal, but an absolute requirement. Mail delivery is critical for users; it cannot be turned off, so it must be completely secure. (This is why I started writing qmail: I was sick of the security holes in sendmail and other MTAs.)

Reliable: qmail's straight-paper-path philosophy guarantees that a message, once accepted into the system, will never be lost. qmail also optionally supports maildir, a new, super-reliable user mailbox format. Maildirs, unlike mbox files and mh folders, won't be corrupted if the system crashes during delivery. Even better, not only can a user safely read his mail over NFS, but any number of NFS clients can deliver mail to him at the same time.

Efficient: On a Pentium under BSD/OS, qmail can easily sustain 200000 local messages per day---that's separate messages injected and delivered to mailboxes in a real test! Although remote deliveries are inherently limited by the slowness of DNS and SMTP, qmail overlaps 20 simultaneous deliveries by default, so it zooms quickly through mailing lists. (This is why I finished qmail: I had to get a big mailing list set up.)

Simple: qmail is vastly smaller than any other Internet MTA. Some reasons why: (1) Other MTAs have separate forwarding, aliasing, and mailing list mechanisms. qmail has one simple forwarding mechanism that lets users handle their own mailing lists. (2) Other MTAs offer a spectrum of delivery modes, from fast+unsafe to slow+queued. qmail-send is instantly triggered by new items in the queue, so the qmail system has just one delivery mode: fast+queued. (3) Other MTAs include, in effect, a specialized version of inetd that watches the load average. qmail's design inherently limits the machine load, so qmail-smtpd can safely run from your system's inetd.

Replacement for sendmail: qmail supports host and user masquerading, full host hiding, virtual domains, null clients, list-owner rewriting, relay control, double-bounce recording, arbitrary RFC 822 address lists, cross-host mailing list loop detection, per-recipient checkpointing, downed host backoffs, independent message retry schedules, etc. qmail also includes a drop-in ``sendmail'' wrapper so that it will be used transparently by your current UAs.

Why you'll love mailing lists under qmail

Mailing list management is one of qmail's strengths. Notable features:


qmail's modular, lightweight design and sensible queue management make it the fastest available message transfer agent. Here's how it stacks up against the competition in five different speed measurements.

Feature list

Setup: Security: Message construction (qmail-inject): SMTP service (qmail-smtpd): Queue management (qmail-send): Bounces (qmail-send): Routing by domain (qmail-send): SMTP delivery (qmail-remote): Forwarding and mailing lists (qmail-local): Local delivery (qmail-local): POP3 service (qmail-popup, qmail-pop3d):