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

Maildir configuration

See MailboxFormat/Maildir for a complete description of how Dovecot has implemented Maildir support.

Mail location

Maildir exists almost always in ~/Maildir directory. The mail location is specified with:

mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir

Directory layout

By default Dovecot uses Maildir++ directory layout. This means that all mailboxes are stored in a single directory and prefixed with a dot. For example:

If you want maildirs to use hierarchical directories, such as:

you'll need to enable fs layout:

mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir:LAYOUT=fs

Control files

Dovecot stores some Maildir metadata into two control files:

Both of these files are described fully in MailboxFormat/Maildir. The important thing to remember about them however is that they shouldn't be treated the same way as index files. Index files can be deleted and rebuilt without any side effects, but if you delete control files you'll cause messages to get new UIDs and possibly lose keyword names.

If the messages get new UIDs, the IMAP clients will invalidate their local cache and download the messages all over again. If you do this for all the users, you could cause huge disk I/O bursts to your server.

Dovecot can't currently handle not being able to write the control files, so it will cause problems with filesystem quota. To avoid problems with this, you should place control files into a partition where quota isn't checked. You can specify this by adding :CONTROL=<path> to mail_location, for example:

mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir:CONTROL=/var/no-quota/%u

Index files

See MailLocation#indexfiles for full explanation of how to change the index path. For example:

mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir:INDEX=/var/indexes/%u


Filesystem optimizations

See "Maildir and filesystems" section in MailboxFormat/Maildir.

Mailbox directory name

When using LAYOUT=fs, there is a potential for naming collisions between Maildir's new/, cur/ and tmp/ subdirectories, and mail folders of the same names. For example, consider a mail folder "foo/bar". Under LAYOUT=fs, data for this mail folder will be stored at under Maildir's usual three directories ~/Maildir/foo/bar/{new,cur,tmp}/.

If the user then tries to create a mail folder "foo/bar/new", this would then imply that data should be stored in Maildir's three directories ~/Maildir/foo/bar/new/{new,cur,tmp}/. But this would overlap Maildir's new/ subdirectory of mail folder "foo/bar".

This may not be a problem in many installations, but if a risk of collisions with Maildir's three subdirectory names is perceived, then the DIRNAME parameter can be used. For example, if we specify mail location as:

mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir:LAYOUT=fs:DIRNAME=mAildir

then this will push Maildir's new/, cur/ and tmp/ subdirectories down into a subdirectory mAildir/, so a mail folder "foo/bar" would be stored at ~/Maildir/foo/bar/mAildir/{new,cur,tmp}/. A mail folder "foo/bar/new" would be stored at ~/Maildir/foo/bar/new/mAildir/{new,cur,tmp}/, which would then have no overlap with the mail folder "foo/bar".

DIRNAME affects INBOX slightly differently. Without DIRNAME, INBOX will be stored at ~/Maildir/{new,cur,tmp}/, but when DIRNAME is specified, we get an extra path component INBOX/ immediately prior to the DIRNAME value, so in the example above INBOX would be stored at ~/Maildir/INBOX/mAildir/{new,cur,tmp}/.

The value for DIRNAME should be chosen carefully so as to minimise the chances of clashing with mail folder names. In the example here, unusual upper/lower casing has been used.