FreeBSD email server - Part 2: Mailing with Postfix

#tutorial #freebsd #email #postfix

Welcome to the second part of my FreeBSD email server series. In this series, I will guide you through setting up your own email service. Be sure to done the preparations from part 1 of this series.

This part will guide you through setting up email service on your machine using Postfix. Basic installation is pretty straightforward, but there is a lot to configure. If you are not sure what some configuration options do, please read up on them. There is a lot to do wrong with a mail server, and doing things wrong will likely get you on a blacklist which will make other servers stop processing the mail you are trying to send out.

Setting up Postfix is one of the harder parts of configuring a mail server. If you have questions after reading the full guide, please find me on IRC. You can find details on how to do so on my homepage.

Installing Postfix

Installation procedures on FreeBSD are pretty straightforward. Unlike certbot from the previous part, we will need to compile Postfix from source in order to use PostgreSQL as a database back-end. Thanks to FreeBSD’s ports, this is not difficult either. If this is your first port to compile, you probably need to get the ports tree first. You can download and extract this using the following command.

portsnap fetch extract

Once that has finished running, go into the directory containing the build instructions for Postfix, and start the installation process.

cd /usr/ports/mail/postfix
make configure install

This will open a pop up with a number of options you can enable or disable. The enabled defaults are fine, but you will have to enable the PGSQL option. This will allow you to use the configuration tables created in part 1.

Enabling Postfix

Enable the Postfix service for rcinit. This allows you to use service postfix start once configuration is done, and will auto start the service on system boot. In addition, the default mailer on FreeBSD, sendmail should be disabled so nothing is in Postfix’s way when trying to deal with processing email traffic.

# disable the default sendmail system
echo 'daily_clean_hoststat_enable="NO"' >> /etc/periodic.conf.local
echo 'daily_status_mail_rejects_enable="NO"' >> /etc/periodic.conf.local
echo 'daily_status_include_submit_mailq="NO"' >> /etc/periodic.conf.local
echo 'daily_submit_queuerun="NO"' >> /etc/periodic.conf.local
echo 'sendmail_enable="NONE"' >> /etc/rc.conf.local

# enable postfix
echo 'postfix_enable="YES"' >> /etc/rc.conf.local

Configuring Postfix

There is a ton to configure for Postfix. This configuration happens in two files, and Additionally, as some data is in the PostgreSQL database, three files with information on how to query for this information are needed. All of these files are in /usr/local/etc/postfix.

The guide has a comment line for most blocks. It is advised that if you decide to just copy and paste the contents, you copy that along so you have some sort of indication of what is where. This could help you out if you ever need to change anything later on.


The configuration file starts off by setting the compatibility level. If postfix updates the configuration scheme and deprecates certain options, you will be notified of this in the logs.

# compatibility
compatibility_level = 2

Directory paths

These options indicate where Postfix will look and keep certain files required for correct operation.

# directory paths
queue_directory = /var/spool/postfix
command_directory = /usr/local/sbin
daemon_directory = /usr/local/libexec/postfix
data_directory = /var/db/postfix

Domain configuration

The domain configuration instruct the server of the domain(s) it should serve for. Use your FQDN without sub domains for mydomain. You can use a sub domain for myhostname, but you are not required to. The most common setting is using a mail sub domain for all mail related activities, which would result in something like this.

# domain configuration
myhostname = mail.domain.tld
mydomain = domain.tld
myorigin = $mydomain

Listening directives

All internet devices it should listen on, and all domains this server should consider itself the endpoint for, should be listed here. The defaults in the example block are good enough, as we put some of our data in the PostgreSQL database instead.

# listening directives
inet_interfaces = all
mydestination = $myhostname, localhost.$mydomain, localhost

Reject unknown recipients

How to deal with messages sent to an email address whose domain points to your server’s address, but have no actual mailbox. A code of 550 means to inform the remote server that delivery is not possible and will not be possible. This should stop the remote server from trying it again.

# reject unknown recipients
unknown_local_recipient_reject_code = 550


# trust
mynetworks_style = host

Address extensions

This block is optional. It allows you to use email address extensions. These are addresses with an additional character in them that will drop the email in the non extended address’ mailbox, but allows you to quickly filter on them as the sent-to address contains the extension.

# address extensions
recipient_delimiter = +

Virtual domain directives

This part is where things get important. Virtual domains allow you to handle mail for a large number of domains that are different from the actual server’s domain. This is where the database configuration comes in to play. It is important to note the static:125 values. The 125 should map to the UID of the postfix user account on your system.

# virtual domain directives
virtual_mailbox_base = /srv/mail
virtual_mailbox_domains = pgsql:/usr/local/etc/postfix/
virtual_mailbox_maps = pgsql:/usr/local/etc/postfix/
virtual_alias_maps = pgsql:/usr/local/etc/postfix/
virtual_uid_maps = static:125
virtual_gid_maps = static:125
virtual_transport = lmtp:unix:private/dovecot-lmtp

TLS setup

The TLS setup configures your server to use secure connections. The keys used here have been generated in the previous part of this series.

# TLS setup
smtpd_tls_cert_file = /usr/local/etc/letsencrypt/live/domain.tld/fullchain.pem
smtpd_tls_key_file = /usr/local/etc/letsencrypt/live/domain.tld/privkey.pem
smtpd_use_tls = yes
smtpd_tls_auth_only = yes

SASL setup

SASL deals with the authentication of the users to your email server.

# SASL setup
smtpd_sasl_type = dovecot
smtpd_sasl_path = private/auth
smtpd_sasl_auth_enable = yes
smtpd_recipient_restrictions =
smtpd_relay_restrictions =


The debugging options are generally useful in case things break. If you have little traffic, you could leave them on forever in case you want to debug something later on. Once your server is working as intended, you should turn these options off. The postfix logs get pretty big in a short amount of time.

# debugging
debug_peer_level = 2
debugger_command =
    ddd $daemon_directory/$process_name $process_id & sleep 5

Installation time defaults

These options should not be touched, but are very important to have for your server.

# install-time defaults
sendmail_path = /usr/local/sbin/sendmail
newaliases_path = /usr/local/bin/newaliases
mailq_path = /usr/local/bin/mailq
setgid_group = maildrop
html_directory = /usr/local/share/doc/postfix
manpage_directory = /usr/local/man
sample_directory = /usr/local/etc/postfix
readme_directory = /usr/local/share/doc/postfix
inet_protocols = ipv4
meta_directory = /usr/local/libexec/postfix
shlib_directory = /usr/local/lib/postfix

For the file, you can use the following configuration block.

submission    inet  n       -       n       -       -       smtpd
  -o syslog_name=postfix/submission
  -o smtpd_tls_security_level=encrypt
  -o smtpd_sasl_auth_enable=yes
  -o smtpd_reject_unlisted_recipient=no
  -o smtpd_recipient_restrictions=permit_sasl_authenticated,reject
  -o milter_macro_daemon_name=ORIGINATING
pickup        unix  n       -       n       60      1       pickup
cleanup       unix  n       -       n       -       0       cleanup
qmgr          unix  n       -       n       300     1       qmgr
tlsmgr        unix  -       -       n       1000?   1       tlsmgr
rewrite       unix  -       -       n       -       -       trivial-rewrite
bounce        unix  -       -       n       -       0       bounce
defer         unix  -       -       n       -       0       bounce
trace         unix  -       -       n       -       0       bounce
verify        unix  -       -       n       -       1       verify
flush         unix  n       -       n       1000?   0       flush
proxymap      unix  -       -       n       -       -       proxymap
proxywrite    unix  -       -       n       -       1       proxymap
smtp          unix  -       -       n       -       -       smtp
relay         unix  -       -       n       -       -       smtp
showq         unix  n       -       n       -       -       showq
error         unix  -       -       n       -       -       error
retry         unix  -       -       n       -       -       error
discard       unix  -       -       n       -       -       discard
local         unix  -       n       n       -       -       local
virtual       unix  -       n       n       -       -       virtual
lmtp          unix  -       -       n       -       -       lmtp
anvil         unix  -       -       n       -       1       anvil
scache        unix  -       -       n       -       1       scache

SQL query files

The following three configuration files deal with the SQL query files to make Postfix able of getting some of its configuration from a database. You obviously have to change the first 4 directives to match your database authentication credentials.

user = postgres
password = incredibly-secret!
hosts = 127.1
dbname = mail
query = SELECT 1 FROM domains WHERE name='%s';

user = postgres
password = incredibly-secret!
hosts = 127.1
dbname = mail
query = SELECT 1 FROM users WHERE local='%u' AND domain='%d';

user = postfix
password = nope
hosts = 127.1
dbname = mail
query = SELECT destination FROM aliases WHERE origin='%s';


This should be enough Postfix configuration, for now. Next part involves Dovecot, which will enable IMAP. It will also provide the SASL mechanism defined in this part.