There is a new version of this tutorial available for Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander).

Virtual Users And Domains With Postfix, Courier And MySQL (Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft)

This tutorial is Copyright (c) 2007 by Falko Timme. It is derived from a tutorial from Christoph Haas which you can find at You are free to use this tutorial under the Creative Commons license 2.5 or any later version.

This document describes how to install a mail server based on Postfix that is based on virtual users and domains, i.e. users and domains that are in a MySQL database. I'll also demonstrate the installation and configuration of Courier (Courier-POP3, Courier-IMAP), so that Courier can authenticate against the same MySQL database Postfix uses.

The resulting Postfix server is capable of SMTP-AUTH and TLS and quota (quota is not built into Postfix by default, I'll show how to patch your Postfix appropriately). Passwords are stored in encrypted form in the database (most documents I found were dealing with plain text passwords which is a security risk). In addition to that, this tutorial covers the installation of Amavisd, SpamAssassin and ClamAV so that emails will be scanned for spam and viruses.

The advantage of such a "virtual" setup (virtual users and domains in a MySQL database) is that it is far more performant than a setup that is based on "real" system users. With this virtual setup your mail server can handle thousands of domains and users. Besides, it is easier to administrate because you only have to deal with the MySQL database when you add new users/domains or edit existing ones. No more postmap commands to create db files, no more reloading of Postfix, etc. For the administration of the MySQL database you can use web based tools like phpMyAdmin which will also be installed in this howto. The third advantage is that users have an email address as user name (instead of a user name + an email address) which is easier to understand and keep in mind.

This howto is meant as a practical guide; it does not cover the theoretical backgrounds. They are treated in a lot of other documents in the web.

This document comes without warranty of any kind! I want to say that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

This tutorial is based on Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), so you should set up a basic Ubuntu installation before you continue with this tutorial. The system should have a static IP address. I use as my IP address in this tutorial and as the hostname.

I prefer to do all the steps here as the root user. So if you haven't already created a root login, you should do so now:

sudo passwd root

Afterwards, log in as root:


If you would like to work as a normal user instead of root, remember to put sudo in front of all the commands shown in this tutorial. So when I run

apt-get update

you should run

sudo apt-get update

instead, etc.


2 Install Postfix, Courier, Saslauthd, MySQL, phpMyAdmin

Before we install these packages, we need to modify /etc/apt/sources.list and enable the universe repository, so make sure you have the following lines enabled:

vi /etc/apt/sources.list


deb edgy universe

deb-src edgy universe


Then run

apt-get update

to update your packages database.

To install Postfix, Courier, Saslauthd, MySQL, and phpMyAdmin, we simply run

apt-get install postfix postfix-mysql postfix-doc mysql-client mysql-server courier-authdaemon courier-authlib-mysql courier-pop courier-pop-ssl courier-imap courier-imap-ssl postfix-tls libsasl2 libsasl2-modules libsasl2-modules-sql sasl2-bin libpam-mysql openssl phpmyadmin apache2 libapache2-mod-php5 php5 php5-mysql

You will be asked a few questions:

Create directories for web-based administration ? <-- No
General type of configuration? <-- Internet Site
Mail name? <--
SSL certificate required <-- Ok


3 Apply The Quota Patch To Postfix

We have to get the Postfix sources, patch it with the quota patch, build new Postfix .deb packages and install those .deb packages:

apt-get install build-essential dpkg-dev fakeroot debhelper libgdbm-dev libldap2-dev libpcre3-dev libssl-dev libsasl2-dev postgresql-dev po-debconf dpatch libdb4.3-dev libmysqlclient15-dev

cd /usr/src
apt-get source postfix

(Make sure you use the correct Postfix version in the following commands. I have Postfix 2.3.3 installed. You can find out your Postfix version by running

postconf -d | grep mail_version


gunzip postfix-2.3.3-vda.patch.gz
cd postfix-2.3.3
patch -p1 < ../postfix-2.3.3-vda.patch
cd ..
dpkg -i postfix_2.3.3-1_i386.deb
dpkg -i postfix-mysql_2.3.3-1_i386.deb

Falko Timme

About Falko Timme

Falko Timme is an experienced Linux administrator and founder of Timme Hosting, a leading nginx business hosting company in Germany. He is one of the most active authors on HowtoForge since 2005 and one of the core developers of ISPConfig since 2000. He has also contributed to the O'Reilly book "Linux System Administration".

Share this page:

Suggested articles

2 Comment(s)

Add comment



page 1

debian etch uses a different postfix version so you ll find the patch for this version on the blow url

for compiling this newer postfix version you need to get a few more libraries

apt-get install lsb-release libcdb-dev

page 3






and add these lines to the end of the file (PARAMS has been changed to OPTIONS)

OPTIONS="-m /var/spool/postfix/var/run/saslauthd -r"

close file and run

dpkg-statoverride --add root sasl 710 /var/spool/postfix/var/run/saslauthd
adduser postfix sasl

page 4

NotifyClamd /etc/clamav/clamd.conf
already ok


Followed Falko's The Perfect Server - Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon (Ubuntu 7.10) tutorial (which is excellent and very timely), but for postfix and apache, substituted the procedures in here.

The only part that did not work at all was the Postfix patch for quotas. Gutsy installed Postfix-2.4.5; I found what may be the updated quota patch here:

but was unable to build the .deb package; there were some issues with libdb4.3-dev among others. If someone would care to elaborate, it would be a great service.

I also skipped the spam/virus portions since I already use a hosted service for this.

Postfix / courier seem to be up and running as described.

 -- DrJohn

Some other quick notes on the installs:

 2. Install Postfix, Courier, Saslauthd, MySQL, phpMyAdmin


To install Postfix, Courier, Saslauthd, MySQL, and phpMyAdmin, we simply run:

<changed libsasl2 to libsasl2-2>

apt-get install postfix postfix-mysql postfix-doc mysql-client mysql-server courier-authdaemon courier-authlib-mysql courier-pop courier-pop-ssl courier-imap courier-imap-ssl postfix-tls libsasl2-2 libsasl2-modules libsasl2-modules-sql sasl2-bin libpam-mysql openssl phpmyadmin apache2 libapache2-mod-php5 php5 php5-mysql

extra qestion appears re phpMyAdmin:

ââââââââââââââââââââââââ⤠Configuring phpmyadmin âââââââââââââââââââââââââ
   â phpMyAdmin supports any web server that PHP does, but this automatic   â
   â configuration process only supports Apache.                            â
   â                                                                        â
   â Web server to reconfigure automatically:                               â
   â                                                                        â
   â    [*] apache2                                                         â
   â    [ ] apache                                                          â
   â    [ ] apache-ssl                                                      â
   â    [ ] apache-perl                                                     â
   â                                                                        â
   â                                                                        â
   â                                 <Ok>                                   â
   â                                                                        â

create the SSL certificate that is needed for TLS:

<questions asked are different than the tutorial>

[email protected]/etc/postfix# openssl req -new -outform PEM -out smtpd.cert -newkey rsa:2048 -nodes -keyout smtpd.key -keyform PEM -days 365 -x509
Generating a 2048 bit RSA private key
writing new private key to 'smtpd.key'
You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]:US
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:MyState
Locality Name (eg, city) []:MyCity
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:MyCompany
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:.
Common Name (eg, YOUR name) []:Postmaster
Email Address []:[email protected]
[email protected]/etc/postfix#