Home Directories for Virtual Users

Home directory is a per-user directory where Dovecot can save user-specific files.

  • Dovecot’s home directories have nothing to do with system users’ home directories.

  • It’s irrelevant if it’s under /home/ or /var/mail/ or wherever.

  • If you have trouble understanding this, mentally replace all occurrences of home directory with mail user’s private state directory.

And in particular:

  • Never configure your userdb to return the same home directory for multiple users!

  • Home directory must be an absolute path, don’t even try to use relative paths!

Some uses for home directory are:

  • By default Sieve scripts are in user’s home directory.

  • Duplicate mail check database is in user’s home directory. Suppression of duplicate rejects/vacations won’t work if home directory isn’t specified.

  • Debugging: If an imap or pop3 process crashes, the core file is written to the user’s home directory.

Home vs. mail directory

Home directory shouldn’t be the same as mail directory with mbox or Maildir formats (but with dbox/obox it’s fine). It’s possible to do that, but you might run into trouble with it sooner or later. Some problems with this are:

  • Non-mailbox files may show up as mailboxes.

  • If you see this with Maildir, maildir_stat_dirs=yes hides them.

  • Or user just might not be able to create mailbox with wanted name, because there already exists a conflicting file

  • e.g. with Maildir if you have .dovecot.sieve file, user can’t create a mailbox called dovecot.sieve (i.e. dovecot mailbox that has a sieve child)

  • And vice versa: If user creates dovecot.sieve mailbox, Dovecot will probably start logging all kinds of errors because the mailbox directory isn’t a valid Sieve script.

  • If you ever intend to migrate to another mailbox format, it’s much easier to do if you can have both old and new mail directories under the user’s home directory.

Ways to set up home directory

The directory layouts for home and mail directories could look like one of these (in the preferred order):

  1. Mail directory under home, for example: home= /var/vmail/domain/user/ mail= /var/vmail/domain/user/mail/

  2. Completely distinct home and mail directories: home= /home/virtual/domain/user/ mail= /var/vmail/domain/user/

  3. Home directory under mail, for example:

  • Maildir: home= /var/vmail/domain/user/home/ mail= /var/vmail/domain/user/

  • mbox: There’s really no good and safe way to do it.

  1. The home directory is the same as the mail directory.

If for example home= /var/vmail/domain/user/ mail= /var/vmail/domain/user/mail/ ,


mail_home = /var/vmail/%d/%n
mail_location = maildir:~/mail


LDAP with relative directory paths

If your LDAP database uses e.g. mailDirectory=domain/user/, you can use it as a base for home directory:

user_attrs = .., mailDirectory=home=/var/vmail/%$

Then just use mail_location=maildir:~/Maildir.