This documentation is for Dovecot v2.x, see wiki1 for v1.x documentation.

POP3 (IMAP) before SMTP

sometimes also called SMTP-after-POP3 or SMTP-after-IMAP

Are you sure you want this?

POP-before-SMTP is generally considered a kludge, originally invented to make up for the lack of authentication in the original SMTP specification for clients on dynamic IP addresses. ESMTP resolved that shortcoming long ago, and all modern mail clients and servers support it by now. You should consider implementing ESMTP AUTH in your mail transport/submission agent, and using it in your clients, rather than using POP-before-SMTP. See also PostfixAndDovecotSASL or EximAndDovecotSASL.

Problems with POP-before-SMTP

Advantages of POP-before-SMTP over SMTP AUTH

If you want to use (from together with Dovecot, you can use this regular expression to match successful POP3 and IMAP logins:

$pat = '^(... .. ..:..:..) \S+ (?:pop3|imap)-login: Login: .+ \[(\d+\.\d+\.\d+\.\d+)\]';

v1.0RC2 seems to need this format to work properly:

$pat = '^dovecot: (... .. ..:..:..) \S+ (?:pop3|imap)-login: Login: \S+ \S+ \S+ lip=(\d+\.\d+\.\d+\.\d+)';

Note: This only works with IPv4, anyone who wants to fix it for IPv6, please do so :)

worked for me on Fedora: <drak at>

$pat = '(?:pop3|imap)-login: (... .. ..:..:..) Info: Login: \S+ \[(\d+\.\d+\.\d+\.\d+)\]';

With v1.0 Alpha 4, the following pattern works:

$pat = '^(... .. ..:..:..) \S+ (?:dovecot: )?(?:imap|pop3)-login: Login: \S+ \S+ rip=(\d+\.\d+\.\d+\.\d+)'

This works with RHEL 4.3 (at least until IPv6 really catches):

$pat = '(?:pop3|imap)-login: (... .. ..:..:..) Info: Login: \S+ \[::ffff:(\d+\.\d+\.\d+\.\d+)\]';


The DRAC historical plugin for Dovecot 1.x, located here, doesn't work with Dovecot 2.x, since it relies on the "IP" environment variable, not set anymore by Dovecot 2.x

a more recent version of this plugin is available here: DRAC Plugin for Dovecot 2.x. The README file explains how to compile it. Change the path to your Dovecot 2.x source code into the Makefile to compile it.

DRAC runs as a separate daemon, maintaining a BerkeleyDB database of IPs that have successfully authenticated via POP3 or IMAP, expiring them after 30 minutes. Installing it therefore requires that both your POP3/IMAP server and your SMTP daemon (Postfix/Sendmail/qmail) be set up to support it. DRAC-PLUGIN.c is a small C program, and accessing BerkeleyDB databases is efficient so it works pretty well.

By following the instructions you will install a file in your dovecot lib/ directories for IMAP and/or POP3 loadable modules.

To turn on the new DRAC plugin in dovecot, you must set up these lines in your dovecot.conf. There is a separate section for 'protocol imap' and another under 'protocol pop3'; make sure you enable both.

  # Support for dynamically loadable modules
  mail_plugin_dir = /usr/lib/dovecot/imap # not mandatory
  mail_plugins = drac                            # provide a list of all plugins you want to load here

Permissions note: the directory containing the file has to be readable by ordinary users. Check your Dovecot error log for help.

To get DRAC working on your machine, download the main DRAC daemon, edit the makefile as directed in the instructions, and make and install it. You will also want to ensure that you register the rpcs by executing rpcgen. See the Makefile for more details.


Advantage: you do not have a multi-megabyte Perl daemon reading your logs

Disadvantage: for each login you need the time and space to execute this script

  1. tell your MTA to look up IPs authorized to relay in an SQL table
  2. delete old IPs from the table regularly (cron job for example, or a modification to the script below)
  3. tell dovecot to update the SQL table upon successful login

Dovecot 1.0 (and probably 0.99) can update a SQL table with the script below.

/!\ Note that you must set up a script that deletes old IPs separately, and you also must configure your MTA properly. The script only performs the 'update on successful login' step, which alone is insecure without expiring older IPs! Add your working examples to this section. This Wiki depends on your help!

# This script created 2005-08-21 by Lorens Kockum
# Released into the Public Domain
# Changes:
# 2006-06-06 Matthias Andree
#  - changed $* to "$@" for more robust argument quoting
# Action: when called by dovecot 1.0 as described below, updates an SQL table
# with logged-in IP and current time, and then executes the relevant process.
# Output: normally nothing
# dovecot.conf should be modified with these lines (where
# /usr/lib/dovecot/ represents this script):
# protocol pop3 {
#   mail_executable = /usr/lib/dovecot/ /usr/lib/dovecot/pop3
# }
# protocol imap {
#   mail_executable = /usr/lib/dovecot/ /usr/lib/dovecot/imap
# }
# The HOME= lines are necessary to find $HOME/.my.cnf containing login info,
# because mail_executable is executed as root, but without a home directory.
# Of course this script must not be writable by anyone else than root.
    # drop out IPs from local networks that can relay anyway
    IP=`echo $IP | grep -v '^192\.168\.'`
    if [ -n "$IP" ]
        export HOME=/root/
        echo "replace into popbsmtp VALUES('$IP',now());" | mysql mail
        export HOME=/
) >> /var/log/dovecot3 2>&1
exec "$@"

Example for postgresql, postfix


    if [ -n "$IP" ]
        /usr/bin/psql -U popbsmtp -d popbsmtp -c "begin;update auth set accessed=now() where host=substring('$IP' from 8);commit;insert into auth(host, accessed) values(substring('$IP' from 8),now());"

) >> /var/log/dovecot3 2>&1
exec "$@"

The substring call was necessary because $IP has '::ffff:' or something like that in front of the IP address on my system. The update followed by an insert, with the update in a transaction is necessary to replicate mysql's REPLACE INTO functionality. The INSERT will produce an error if the IP already exists but it doesn't matter as the UPDATE will have committed by then.


smtpd_recipient_restrictions =
  check_client_access pgsql:/etc/postfix/
  check_policy_service unix:private/policy


hosts = localhost
user = username
password = secret
dbname = popbsmtp
query = SELECT 'OK' as result FROM auth WHERE host = '%s'


/usr/bin/psql -U popbsmtp -d popbsmtp -c "DELETE FROM auth WHERE (now() - accessed)  > '30 minutes'::interval"

Example for MySQL, postfix

Note that you can use this even if pop/imap and smtp are not on the same host as it is the case in my setup.

First you have to create a table (in this example named "popbsmtp") with 2 fields:

varchar size 39 is for IPv6 addresses.You should definitely consider adding IPv6 support to your popbsmtp solution because postfix and dovecot do well with IPv6.

/!\ address field must be primary for "REPLACE into" to work.


        if [ -n "$IP" ]
                echo "REPLACE INTO virtual_mail.popbsmtp (address,last_seen) VALUES ('$IP', NOW( ))" \
                | mysql -u user -p secret -h host > /dev/null 2>&1
exec "$@"

mail_executable in dovecot.conf looks something like this:

mail_executable = /opt/ /usr/libexec/dovecot/imap

postfix map (/etc/postfix/

hosts = mysqlhost
user = user
password = secret
dbname = virtual_mail
query = SELECT 'OK' FROM popbsmtp WHERE last_seen >= DATE_SUB(NOW(),INTERVAL 30 MINUTE) AND address = '%s'

In postfix add the following access map to your recipient restrictions ( /!\ before "reject_unauth_destination"):

check_client_access mysql:$config_directory/

The 30 minute relay access period is handled by the INTERVAL in DATE_SUB. So it's safe anyway, but you should definitely run a cron job daily that deletes older records. That's to keep the table clean and speed up lookups. You might also need to run "OPTIMIZE TABLE" via the cron job to free up allocated space.


relay-ctrl consists of a few small programs designed to fit in qmail-like command chains. The most important:

relay-ctrl-allow expects to find the client IP in the environment as $TCPREMOTEIP. Dovecot provides it as $IP, so you'll need this tiny dovecot-settcpremoteip wrapper script:

# Wrapper for relay-ctrl-allow that sets TCPREMOTEIP.
exec "$@"

Edit dovecot.conf and set mail_executable appropriately, e.g., for IMAP (this is one long line):

mail_executable = /usr/local/bin/envdir /etc/relay-ctrl /usr/local/bin/relay-ctrl-chdir /usr/local/bin/dovecot-settcpremoteip /usr/local/bin/relay-ctrl-allow /usr/local/libexec/dovecot/imap

Restart Dovecot. Verify that your IMAP client still works. Verify that relay-ctrl has recorded your client IP. Hook relay-ctrl-check into your SMTP service, as documented in the relay-ctrl README, and you're done.

HowTo/PopBSMTPAndDovecot (last edited 2013-07-12 12:46:55 by mg)