In /etc/msmtprc I added credentials for a gmail account and also specified a log file to use in /var/log/msmtp/msmtp.log

I also created the folder and file in /var/log/msmtp/msmtp.log

When I test it using: echo "This is a test e-mail from my server using msmtp!" | msmtp ******@gmail.com

I receive an email but in the terminal I also see an error message like so: msmtp: cannot log to /var/log/msmtp/msmtp.log: cannot open: Permission denied

The current permissions for /var/log/msmtp are:

drwxr-xr-x  2 root      root        4096 Jan 29 20:19 msmtp

What am I doing wrong? What do the permissions on the log file need to be for msmtp to be able to write to the file?


6 Answers 6


I had the same error message, and ultimately changing permissions, creating the log file, etc., didn't work. The problem in my case was caused by AppArmor: in my system, the file /etc/apparmor.d/usr.bin.msmtp only listed /var/log/msmtp as write permission in /var/log, so solution can be:

  • to use /var/log/msmtp as log in the configuration, instead of /var/log/msmtp.log
  • modify the rules in the msmtp apparmor profile to allow adding and locking the file we want.
  • 1
    Thanks! That was the case for me as well after upgrading from Debian 9 to Debian 10, where an apparmor config for msmtp was added. Apr 8, 2020 at 13:12
  • 2
    Had the same problem. Finally had to set the log to ~/.msmtp.log. Could not understand why AppArmor was not letting me use /var/log/msmtp or /var/log/msmtp/msmtop.log
    – codenoob
    May 24, 2020 at 14:16

After installing msmtp there is an msmtp user and group. If you change the ownership of the logfile to msmtp, and change rights to read/write for user and group, the logging works.

groups msmtp
sudo touch /var/log/msmtp
sudo chown msmtp:msmtp /var/log/msmtp
sudo chmod 660 /var/log/msmtp

I haven't tested it, but I suppose this works for /var/log/msmtp/msmtp.log as well, if you set the rights for the folder properly.

  • 1
    Very helpful and hard to find information. It seems to me that almost nobody knows this simple solution. Thank you. Sep 13, 2022 at 12:01

I prefer to have my email logs in /var/log/mail.log because that's the default in /etc/rsyslog.d/50-default.conf and I wanted to avoid modifying apparmor config if possible, so I removed logfile and added this to /etc/msmtprc:

# The logs will appear in /var/log/mail.log because of the rules in /etc/rsyslog.d/50-default.conf
syslog LOG_MAIL

On a laptop running Debian stable, I also had the permission denied error. I set the log to be ~/var/msmtp.log. It was caused by apparmor as well. To correct it, I found the log lines in /etc/apparmor.d/usr.bin.msmtp:

  owner @{HOME}/.msmtp*.log wk,
  /var/log/msmtp            wk,

I copied the first line above to the usr.bin.msmtp in /etc/apparmor.d/local and edited it to point to my log location:

  owner @{HOME}/var/msmtp*.log wk,

I rebooted because I didn't take the time to figure out how to get apparmor to read the updated files. Now it logs properly.


I tried with 0640 but it did not work, it workd only with 0770 (I chowned with user msmtp + 0640, but it did not work either)

# mkdir /var/log/msmtp
# chmod -R 0770 /var/log/msmtp
# [nano|vim] /etc/apparmor.d/usr.bin.msmtp
  owner /var/log/msmtp/msmtp.log wk,

# service apparmor restart
$ echo 'message test mail backup' | msmtp the.email

Running on Debian Bullseye, I have tried to pull together various solutions posted here and elsewhere which in themselves are both good practice and any one of which may solve the problem in some circumstances. I am hoping that with the addition of my discovery every instance of error should be covered.

First: Add users to "mail" group

sudo adduser nobody mail

Second: Set log & configuration file path and permissions.

sudo touch /var/log/msmtp
sudo chown -R root:mail /var/log/msmtp
sudo chmod -R 660 /var/log/msmtp
sudo chown root:msmtp /etc/msmtprc
sudo chmod 640 /etc/msmtprc

Finally: When I looked at my configuration file /etc/msmtprc I found that I had specified the log file path incorrectly:

logfile /var/log/msmtp.log

Once this was corrected to....

logfile /var/log/msmtp

and tested

echo 'message test mail backup' | msmtp the.email

The error message was finally gone. Sadly msmtp was sending emails to tell me about a degraded RAID array.

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