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Is there a simple command to find out the current number of messages in the linux mail queue? mailq dumps out a verbose list, but it's not convenient for a quick overview.

I'm using Ubuntu and postfix.

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What mail transfer agent are you using? – Bart Silverstrim Aug 18 '10 at 13:32
like bart said, tell us what MTA youre using so we can give you a more specific and correct approch. – Prix Aug 18 '10 at 13:34
sendmail, sorry. – danp Aug 18 '10 at 13:39
Sure it's sendmail, not postfix? Just making sure... – Bart Silverstrim Aug 18 '10 at 13:45
good catch, its postfix not sendmail. – danp Aug 18 '10 at 13:49
up vote 17 down vote accepted

If you just want to know the number of messages sitting in the deferred queue, then the following should get you a quick answer:

find /var/spool/postfix/deferred -type f | wc -l

There are three other queues. See for details.

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in my case it was this: find /var/spool/mqueue -type f | wc -l and this find /var/spool/mqueue-rx -type f | wc -l as I have two queues and don't use postfix. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Aug 16 '12 at 20:17

You could filter the output and display only the last line:

mailq | tail -n 1
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That's a nice idea, but the queue is massive, so it take's a long time to return a result. Anything faster..? – danp Aug 18 '10 at 13:38
If the queue is really really massive, there may be another issue (unless you're an ISP or mail hosting service). You shouldn't have a backup so huge that you have to wait a few minutes for these results...? – Bart Silverstrim Aug 18 '10 at 13:41
I'm sure there is another issue, but that'll come in another question ;) – danp Aug 18 '10 at 13:45

As a related matter, you can also obtain the number of messages in your mailbox stored in mbox format, by modifying Brian Showalter's suggestion using the command "mail --headers."  For example, I have this line in my .bashrc file:

if [ -s /var/mail/$(whoami) ] ; then echo -e "\nYou have $(ls -s -h /var/mail/$(whoami) | cut -d" " -f 1) of mail.  Number of messages: $(mail --file /var/mail/$(whoami) --headers | wc -l) ($(mail --file /var/mail/$(whoami) --headers | sed '/^>* *[0-9]/d' | wc -l) unread)" ; fi
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