Postfix cheat sheet

Postfix is a mail transfer agent (MTA). We recommend it over exim4 (which is the Debian favourite)

Installing Postfix is easy:

$ sudo apt install postfix

This will automatically uninstall exim4.

You need to understand how to answer the installation options.

Using a relay host for outgoing mail

A smart host or relay host is a third-party server that accepts outgoing mails from your server and cares about forwarding them to their final destination.

Some server providers have a free mail relay host for the virtual machines they provide. In that case you simply need to know the name of that host.

Otherwise you can register an account for a third-party SMTP service like Mailgun and configure your postfix to use it as smarthost. Mailgun gives you 10000 free emails every month.

Without relay host

Make sure that the Reverse DNS is configured. The provider of your server is the owner of the IP address and they usually have a means for you to tell them that your server at that IP address is responding to your domain name.

Otherwise the SMTP servers of your recipients are likely to refuse to talk with you. You will see messages like the following in your /var/log/mail.log file:

Oct 16 07:06:16 yourhostname postfix/smtp[28516]: 570517A73:
host[] refused to talk to me: (mxgmx116) Nemesis ESMTP Service not available
554-No SMTP service 554-Bad DNS PTR resource record.
554 For explanation visit

Inspect the mail queue

Display a list of queued mail (deferred and pending):

$ mailq

Display the content of queued mail:

$ sudo postcat -vq <QueueID>

Display the mail log:

$ sudo less /var/log/mail.log

Delete all queued mail:

$ sudo postsuper -d ALL

Delete deferred mail queue messages:

$ sudo postsuper -d ALL deferred