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i have read some articles about mda and mta but still don't have a hang on it.

what is exactly is the difference between a mda like fetchmail and a mta like sendmail.

in my computer, do i have to have a mta installed? if im using Apple Mail to send messages, is it using a mta application in my computer to send the mail? where does it send the mail?

and if i receive mails with it, does it receives it with mda installed in my computer?

would be great if someone could explain how it works for me, or give me good links to good tutorials.


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up vote 8 down vote accepted

MTA - Mail Transfer Agent - sends and receives email between MTAs and among other elements of an email system

  • Postfix
  • Sendmail
  • Exim

MDA - Mail Delivery Agent - receives email from an MTA for delivery to a mailbox

  • procmail
  • dovecot
  • Courier

MUA - Mail User Agent - email client

  • Thunderbird
  • elm
  • Exchange

Here is an overview of how the elements interact.

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It would have even great if you would have included squirrel AtMail... – user53864 May 6 '11 at 11:42
@user53864: I listed only a few popular examples. For (perhaps) exhaustive lists, see List of e-mail clients (MUA) and List of mail servers (MTA and MDA). – Dennis Williamson May 7 '11 at 1:31
Is it the case that an MDA runs IMAP to store the email, and the computer running the MDA also runs an SMTP server to receive the email from the MTA? – barlop Oct 24 '14 at 23:52

when you are talk about mta -it is mail server side role;

when you are using apple mail - it is client, and use smpt/pop3/imap/or other client protocols, but i think it is not mta or mda

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