Red Hat Linux includes two primary MTAs, Sendmail and Postfix. Sendmail is
configured as the default MTA, although it is easy to switch the default
MTA to Postfix.
For information about how to switch the default MTA from Sendmail to
Postfix, see the chapter called Mail Transport Agent (MTA)
Configuration in the Red Hat Linux Customization Guide.
Red Hat Linux also includes a special purpose MTA called Fetchmail, which is
used to deliver email from a remote MTA to a local MTA.
This section details Sendmail and Fetchmail.
Sendmail's core purpose, like other MTAs, is to safely transfer email
among hosts, usually using the SMTP protocol. However, Sendmail is
highly configurable, allowing control over almost every aspect of how
email is handled, including the protocol used. Many system
administrators elect to use Sendmail as their MTA due to its power and
126.96.36.199. Purpose and Limitations
It is important to be aware of what Sendmail is and what it can do as
opposed to what it is not. In these days of monolithic applications
that fulfill multiple roles, Sendmail may seem like the only
application needed to run an email server within an
organization. Technically, this is true, as Sendmail can spool mail to
each users' directory and deliver outbound mail for users. However,
most users actually require much more than simple email delivery. They
usually want to interact with their email using an MUA, that uses POP
or IMAP, to download their messages to their local machine. Or, they
may prefer a Web interface to gain access to their mailbox. These
other applications can work in conjunction with Sendmail, but they
actually exist for different reasons and can operate separately from
It is beyond the scope of this section to go into all that Sendmail
should or could be configured to do. With literally hundreds of
different options and rule sets, entire volumes have been dedicated
to helping explain everything that can be done and how to fix things
that go wrong. Refer to the Section 11.6 Additional Resources for a list of Sendmail
This section reviews the files installed with Sendmail by default
and reviews basic configuration changes, including how to stop
unwanted email (spam) and how to extend Sendmail with the
Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).
188.8.131.52. The Default Sendmail Installation
The Sendmail executable is /usr/sbin/sendmail.
Sendmail's lengthy and detailed configuration file is
/etc/mail/sendmail.cf. Avoid editing the
sendmail.cf file directly. Instead, to make
configuration changes to Sendmail, edit the
/etc/mail/sendmail.mc file, back up the
original /etc/mail/sendmail.cf, and then use
the included m4 macro processor to create a new
/etc/mail/sendmail.cf. More information on
configuring Sendmail can be found in Section 184.108.40.206 Common Sendmail Configuration Changes.
Various Sendmail configuration files are installed in
the /etc/mail/ directory including:
access — Specifies which systems can
use Sendmail for outbound email.
domaintable — Specifies domain name mapping.
local-host-names — Specifies
aliases for the host.
mailertable — Specifies instructions that
override routing for particular domains.
virtusertable — Specifies a
domain-specific form of aliasing, allowing multiple virtual
domains to be hosted on one machine.
Several of the configuration files in /etc/mail/,
such as access, domaintable,
virtusertable, must actually store their
information in database files before Sendmail can use any
configuration changes. To include any changes made to these
configurations in their database files, run the command:
makemap hash /etc/mail/<name> < /etc/mail/<name>
Where <name> is replaced with the
name of the configuration file to convert.
For example, to have all emails addressed to the
example.com domain delivered to
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, add the following line to the
To finalize the change, the virtusertable.db file
must be updated using the following command as root:
This creates a new virtusertable.db file
containing the new configuration.
220.127.116.11. Common Sendmail Configuration Changes
When altering the Sendmail configuration file, it is best generate an
entirely new /etc/mail/sendmail.cf file instead
of editing an existing one.
Before changing the sendmail.cf file, it is a
good idea to backup a working version of the file.
To add the desired functionality to Sendmail, edit the
/etc/mail/sendmail.mc file. When finished, use
the m4 macro processor to generate a new
sendmail.cf by executing the m4
/etc/mail/sendmail.mc > /etc/mail/sendmail.cf command.
After creating a new /etc/mail/sendmail.cf file,
restart Sendmail to make it take effect. The easiest way to do this is
to type the /sbin/service sendmail restart command
By default, the m4 macro processor is installed
with Sendmail but is part of the m4
The default sendmail.cf file does not allow Sendmail
to accept network connections from any host other than the local
computer. To configure Sendmail as a server for other clients, edit
/etc/mail/sendmail.mc and change
DAEMON_OPTIONS to also listen on
network devices or comment out this option all together. Then
regenerate /etc/mail/sendmail.cf by running:
m4 /etc/mail/sendmail.mc > /etc/mail/sendmail.cf
This configuration should work for most SMTP-only sites. It will
not work for UUCP (UNIX to UNIX Copy) sites; you
must generate a new sendmail.cf if using UUCP
Consult the /usr/share/sendmail-cf/README file
before editing any files in the directories under the
/usr/share/sendmail-cf directory, as they can
affect the future configuration of
One common Sendmail configuration is to have a single machine act as
a mail gateway for all machines on the network. For instance, a
company may want to have a machine called
mail.bigcorp.com that handles all of their
email and assigns a consistent return address to all out going mail.
In this situation, the Sendmail server must masquerade the machine
names on the company network so that their return address is
email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org.
To do this, add the following lines to
After generating a new sendmail.cf using
m4, this configuration will make all mail from
inside the network appear as if it were sent from
18.104.22.168. Stopping Spam
Email spam can be defined as unnecessary and unwanted email received
by a user who never requested the communication. It is a disruptive,
costly, and widespread abuse of Internet communication standards.
Sendmail makes it relatively easy to block new spamming techniques
being employed to send junk email. It even blocks many of the more
usual spamming methods by default.
For example, forwarding of SMTP messages, also called relaying, has
been disabled by default since Sendmail version 8.9. Before this
change occurred, Sendmail would direct the mail host
(x.org) to accept messages from one party
(y.com) and send them to a different party
(z.net). Now, however, Sendmail must be
configured to permit any domain to relay mail through the server. To
configure relay domains, edit the
/etc/mail/relay-domains file and restart
However, many times users are bombarded with spam from other servers
throughout the Internet. In these instances, Sendmail's access control
features available through the /etc/mail/access
file can be used to prevent connections from unwanted hosts. The
following example illustrates how this file can be used to both block
and specifically allow access to the Sendmail server:
badspammer.com ERROR:550 "Go away and do not spam us anymore"
This example states that any email sent from
badspammer.com is blocked with a 550 RFC-821
compliant error code, with a message sent back to the spammer. Email
sent from the tux.badspammer.com sub-domain,
which would be accepted. The last line shows that any email sent
from the 10.0.*.* network can be relayed through the mail server.
Because /etc/mail/access.db is a database, use
makemap to activate any changes. Do this using the
following command as root:
makemap hash /etc/mail/access < /etc/mail/access
This example only scratches the surface of what Sendmail can do in
terms of allowing or blocking access. See the
/usr/share/doc/sendmail/README.cf for more
information and examples.
Since Sendmail calls the Procmail MDA when delivering mail, it is also
possible to use a spam filtering program, such as SpamAssassin to
identify and file spam for users. Refer to Section 22.214.171.124 Spam Filters for
more about using SpamAssassin.
126.96.36.199. Using Sendmail with LDAP
Using the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol
(LDAP) is a very quick and powerful way to find specific
information about a particular user from a much larger group. For
example, an LDAP server can be used to look up a particular email
address from a common corporate directory by the user's last
name. In this kind of implementation, LDAP is largely separate from
Sendmail, with LDAP storing the hierarchical user information and
Sendmail only being given the result of LDAP queries in
pre-addressed email messages.
However, Sendmail supports a much greater integration with LDAP,
where it uses LDAP to replace separately maintained files, such as
virtusertables, on different mail servers that
work together to support a medium- to enterprise-level
organization. In short, LDAP abstracts the mail routing level from
Sendmail and its separate configuration files to a powerful LDAP
cluster that can be leveraged by many different applications.
The current version of Sendmail contains support for LDAP. To extend
the Sendmail server using LDAP, first get an LDAP server, such as
OpenLDAP, running and properly
configured. Then edit the /etc/mail/sendmail.mc
to include the following:
This is only for a very basic configuration of Sendmail with
LDAP. Your configuration should differ greatly from this depending on
the implementation of LDAP, especially when configuring several
Sendmail machines to use a common LDAP server.
Consult /usr/share/doc/sendmail/README.cf for
detailed LDAP routing configuration instructions and examples.
Fetchmail is an MTA which retrieves email from remote servers and
delivers it to the local MTA. Many users appreciate the ability to
separate the process of downloading their messages located on a remote
server from the process of reading and organizing their email in an
MUA. Designed with the needs of dial-up users in mind, Fetchmail
connects and quickly downloads all of the email messages to the mail
spool file using any number of protocols, including the POP3 and
IMAP. It can even forward email messages to an SMTP server, if
Fetchmail is configured for each user through the use of a
.fetchmailrc file in the user's home directory.
Using preferences in the .fetchmailrc file,
Fetchmail checks for email on a remote server and pulls it off. It then
attempts to deliver it to port 25 on the local machine, using the local
MTA to place the email in the correct user's spool file. If Procmail is
available, it can then be used to filter the email and place it in a
mailbox so that it can be read by an MUA.
188.8.131.52. Fetchmail Configuration Options
Although it is possible to pass all necessary options on the command
line to check for email on a remote server when executing Fetchmail,
using a .fetchmailrc file is much easier. All of
the configuration options go in the .fetchmailrc
file and it is possible to override them at the time Fetchmail is run
by specifying that option on the command line.
A user's .fetchmailrc file is divided into three
particular types of configuration options:
global options — Gives Fetchmail
instructions that control the operation of the program or provide
settings for every connection that checks for email.
server options — Specifies
necessary information about the server being polled, such as the
hostname, as well as preferences for a specific email server, such
as the port to check or number of seconds to wait before timing
out. These options affect every user option used with that server.
user options — Contains information,
such as username and password, necessary to authenticate and check
for email using a particular email server.
Global options appear at the top of the
.fetchmailrc file, followed by one or more server
options, each of which designate a different email server that
Fetchmail should check. User options follow server options for each
user account checking that email server. Like server options, multiple
user options may be specified for use with a particular server as well
as to check multiple email accounts on the same server.
Server options are called into service in the
.fetchmailrc file by the use of a special option
verb, poll or skip, that precedes
any of the server information. The poll action tells
Fetchmail to use this server option when it is run, which actually
checks it for email using the various user options. Any server options
after a skip action, however, are not checked unless
this server's hostname is specified when Fetchmail is invoked. The
skip option sets up test configurations in
.fetchmailrc and only checks that server
when specifically desired, without affecting any currently working
A sample .fetchmailrc file looks like this:
set postmaster "user1"
poll pop.domain.com proto pop3
user 'user1' there with password 'secret' is user1 here
user 'user5' there with password 'secret2' is user1 here
user 'user7' there with password 'secret3' is user1 here
In this example, the global are options set so the user is sent email
as a last resort (postmaster option) and all email
errors are sent to the postmaster instead of the sender
(bouncemail option). The set action
tells Fetchmail that this line contains a global option. Then, two
email servers are specified, one set to check using POP3, the
other for trying various protocols to find one that works. Two users
are checked using the second server option, but all email found for
any user is sent to user1's mail spool. This allows multiple
mailboxes to be checked on multiple servers, while appearing in a
single MUA inbox. Each user's specific information begins with the
Users are not required to place their password in the
.fetchmailrc file. Omitting the with
section causes Fetchmail to ask for a password when it is launched.
Fetchmail contains many different global, server, and local
options. Many of these options are rarely used or only apply to very
specific situations. The fetchmail man page
explains each option in detail, but the most common ones are
184.108.40.206. Global Options
Each global option should be placed on a single line after a
Specifies daemon-mode, where Fetchmail stays in the background
and polls for mail at the interval specified.
postmaster — Specifies a local user
to send mail to in case of delivery problems.
syslog — Specifies the log file for
errors and status messages. By default, this is
220.127.116.11. Server Options
Server options must be placed on their own line in
.fetchmailrc after a poll or
Specifies the type of authentication to be used. By default,
password authentication is used, but some
protocols support other types of authentication, including
kerberos_v5, kerberos_v4, and
ssh. If the any authentication
type is used, Fetchmail first tries methods that do not require
a password, then methods that mask the password, and finally
attempts to send the password unencrypted to authenticate to the
<number> — Polls
the specified server every
times that it checks for email on all configured servers. This
option is generally used for email servers where the user rarely
Overrides the default port number for a specified protocol.
Specifies a specific protocol, such as pop3 or
imap, to check for messages on this server.
Specifies the interval of server inactivity after which
Fetchmail gives up on a connection attempt. If this value is
not set, a default of 300 seconds is assumed.
18.104.22.168. User Options
User options may be placed on their own lines beneath a server
option or on the same line as the server option. In either case, the
defined options must follow the user option
fetchall — Orders Fetchmail to download
all messages in the queue, including messages that have already
been viewed. By default, Fetchmail only pulls down new messages.
<number> — Only
allows a certain number of messages to be retrieved before
flush — Tells Fetchmail to delete all
previously viewed messages in the queue before retrieving
— Specifies that only messages below a particular size may
be retrieved. This option is useful with slow network links,
when a large message takes too long to download.
Specifies the password to be used for this user.
Executes the specified command before
retrieving messages for this user.
Executes the specified command after
retrieving messages for this user.
ssl — Activates SSL encryption.
Sets the username used by Fetchmail to retrieve
messages. This option should be listed before any
other user options.
22.214.171.124. Fetchmail Command Options
Most Fetchmail options that may be used on the command line, when
executing the fetchmail command, mirror the
.fetchmailrc configuration options. This is done
so that Fetchmail may be used with or without a configuration
file. Most users will not use these options on the command line, as it
is easier to leave them in the .fetchmailrc file
to be used whenever Fetchmail is run.
However, there may be times when it is desirable to run the
fetchmail command with other options for a
particular purpose. It is possible to issue command
options to temporarily override a .fetchmailrc
setting that is causing an error, as any options specified at the command line
override configuration file options.
126.96.36.199. Informational or Debugging Options
Certain options used after the fetchmail command
can supply important information.
--configdump — Displays every possible
option based on information from
.fetchmailrc and Fetchmail defaults. No
email is retrieved for any users when using this option.
-s — Executes Fetchmail in silent mode,
preventing any messages, other than errors, from appearing after
the fetchmail command.
-v — Executes Fetchmail in verbose mode,
displaying every communication between Fetchmail and the remote
-V — Displays detailed version
information, lists its global options, and shows settings to be
used with each user, including the email protocol and
authentication method. No email is retrieved for any users when
using this option.
188.8.131.52. Special Options
These options are occasionally useful for overriding defaults often
found in the .fetchmailrc file.
-a — Tells Fetchmail to download all
messages from the remote email server, whether new or previously
viewed. By default, Fetchmail only downloads new messages.
-k — Causes Fetchmail to leave the
messages on the remote email server after downloading them. This
option overrides the default behavior of deleting messages after
— Tells Fetchmail to not download any messages over a
particular size and to leave them on the remote email server.
--quit — Quits the Fetchmail daemon
More commands and .fetchmailrc options can be
found in the fetchmail man page.