Finding Your Mail

Before configuring Dovecot, you’ll need to know where your mails are located. You should already have an SMTP server installed and configured to deliver mails somewhere, so the easiest way to make Dovecot work is to just use the same location. Otherwise you could create a ~/Maildir directory and configure your SMTP server to use the Maildir format.

First send a test mail to yourself (as your own non-root user):

echo "Hello me" | mail -s "Dovecot test" $USER

Now, find where the mail went. Here’s a simple script which checks the most common locations:

for mbox in /var/mail/$USER /var/spool/mail/$USER ~/mbox ~/mail/* ~/*; do
  grep -q "Dovecot test" "$mbox" && echo "mbox: $mbox"
grep -q "Dovecot test" ~/Maildir/new/* 2>/dev/null && echo "Maildir: ~/Maildir"


In most installations your mail went to /var/mail/username file. This file is called INBOX in IMAP world. Since IMAP supports multiple mailboxes, you’ll also have to have a directory for them as well. Usually ~/mail is a good choice for this. For installation such as this, the mail location is specified with (typically in conf.d/10-mail.conf):

mail_location = mbox:~/mail:INBOX=/var/mail/%u

Where %u is replaced with the username that logs in. Similarly if your INBOX is in ~/mbox, use:

mail_location = mbox:~/mail:INBOX=~/mbox


Maildir exists almost always in ~/Maildir directory. The mail location is specified with (typically in conf.d/10-mail.conf):

mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir


If you can’t find the mail, you should check your SMTP server logs and configuration to see where it went or what went wrong.

If you can find the mail, but it’s in more exotic location, see if Mail Location Settings can help you to configure it.