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I remember Debian automatically sending mail to users (to report a failed sudo authentication attempt, for example). On Ubuntu is mail of some kind automatically set up? I created a cron job, and nothing is appearing in /var/spool/mail. If there's a standard/obvious way to set up mail in Ubuntu, what is it?

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paracaudex, @msh210 My answer here might help: how-are-administrators-supposed-to-read-roots-mail. – user76204 Mar 19 '13 at 17:20
I had forgotten about this question. I ended up installing Postfix. – bsamek Mar 19 '13 at 18:00
up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you haven't done it yet you will need to install postfix (sudo apt-get install postfix) or sSMTP (sudo apt-get install ssmtp) to replicate the sendmail commands.

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Ubuntu has a policy of not listening on any network ports (not running any network services) by default. That means no mailserver. So, yes, you need to install one if you want one.

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You can set up postfix to do local mail delivery only.


sudo apt-get install postfix

After a moment, you'll be prompted to make some choices about how you want postfix installed. (If you make a mistake, you can get back here with sudo dpkg-reconfigure postfix).

When prompted, choose "Local only" as your general configuration. When prompted for a system mail name, you can enter your machine's hostname (e.g. gribble), its fully qualified domain name (e.g., or localhost. I suggest choosing the former or the latter.

With that done, do sudo postconf -e "home_mailbox = Maildir/" to tell postfix where to place users' mail. This appends home_mailbox = Maildir/ to the end of /etc/postfix/ sudo service postfix reload to tell postfix to reload the configuration file.

Now you can install a mail client that understands how to read mail out of your maildir, such as mutt: sudo apt-get install mutt

To configure mutt, create a file ~/.muttrc with something like the following in it:

set mbox_type=Maildir
set folder="~/Maildir"
set mask="!^\\.[^.]"
set mbox="~/Maildir"
set spoolfile="~/Maildir"

Run mutt and it will probably complain about your maildir not being there. This is fine -- postfix will create it as soon as we get some email.

In mutt, press m to compose an email. At the bottom of the screen, you'll be prompted for a recipient (you should be able to type user@hostname or just a user name) and subject, then your editor will pop up so you can type an email. Write something, save, exit, and press y to send. The user you sent to should have a Maildir appear in their home directory -- they can then use mutt (after creating a similar .muttrc) to read it!

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