I am setting up a server and I have the choice of installing qmail or postfix. Can someone help me make the right choice.

Thing I like to see covered are:
- Performance
- Ease of setup
- security

  • 4
    If you're allowed to look at other options, Exim is a little easier than postfix to set up, and performs reasonably. I've never used qmail but it sounds like a nightmare to set up (though it obviously has fans).
    – nedm
    Mar 28 '10 at 5:30
  • No, I only have the choise to use qmail or postfix Mar 28 '10 at 10:10
  • See: MTA Comparison
    – kenorb
    Apr 14 '15 at 20:28

afaik qmail is deprecated in most distros, so you'll probably have to build from source and forget about easy apt/yum style updates. If you still want to go with qmail, qmailrocks.org is what got me through a setup with minimal brain damage.

On the other hand, postfix seems to be replacing sendmail more and more, becoming the default MTA in some distributions, and there's a reason for that - active development, ease of configuration and plenty of documentation, and a huge user base, including the users of Zimbra, which runs postfix under the hood.

  • also good to note, www.zixcorp.com also uses postfix under the hood. Feb 12 '16 at 4:19

For the two choices you give, Postfix.

Security and performance are even -- both were designed and implemented by knowledgeable people with security and performance as high priorities. The two considerations play together, of course; a mail server that's been broken into has poor performance, and a poorly performing mail server is denial of service all by itself.

So the remaining criteria is ease of setup and maintenance. Postfix is way, way ahead there, IMHO and those of about 80-90% of the other people who've tried both.


I run Courier. I can install it from packages, but I prefer to compile it myself to get the "-O2" flag in there. I like it, it's quick, reliable, and well documented. Dropmail delivery agent has a rather expansive scripting language (very similar to C with RE). The IMAP server is somewhat well know, I just know it's fast and reliable.

  • Courier is a MDA (Mail Delivery Agen). I think he's asking about MTA's (Mail Transfer Agents).
    – Duke
    May 26 '12 at 16:24
  • 3
    @Duke, you might want to check the URL of Courier's website... before you look foolish.
    – Chris S
    May 27 '12 at 2:18

I started with qmail and then moved to Postfix. No doubt about it, Postfix is MUCH easier to set up and is also more actively maintained and developed. Performance is quite good even when running it in an OpenVZ VM. I also set up SqlGrey, ClamAV, SpamAssassin and Maia Mailguard (http://www.maiamailguard.com) to keep the malware and spammers at bay. And as another response mentioned, Postfix is also designed to be secure. In fact, the Postfix author (Weitse Venema) and the qmail author (Dan Bernstein) had a sort of "feud" going where each was trying to prove that their software was better and more secure than the other. That sort of competition is just bound to result in good solid software on both sides.

  • s/Weitse/Wietse/ Both Venema & Bernstein count as security experts; I've generally thought of Bernstein having the more paranoid approach, which in the security world is not a terrible thing Apr 1 '10 at 11:31

I think that qmail wins on performance and security but it will lose on ease of setup. You cannot even find qmail packages for most Linux distros but will need to build it all from source. However, it is smaller than postfix and was designed with security in mind.

  • I'm a huge fan of QMAIL. dot-qmail aliases are awesome too.
    – Warner
    Mar 28 '10 at 2:02
  • 2
    Postfix was also designed with security in mind. I also found the performance of qmail not to be better than Postfix's. So IMHO Postfix wins (although I'm an Exim guy ;)
    – joschi
    Mar 28 '10 at 6:14
  • If i choose qmail should i install any other stuff like qmail-scanner and spamassassin? Mar 28 '10 at 10:14
  • 1
    You can use SpamAssassin with almost any mta. Definitely with postfix, qmail and exim. You definitely want a content (spam) filter with your mailsetup. Doesn't necessarily have to be SpamAssassin, but this one works fine. Remember that a good smtp setup will get rid of a lot of spam before it hits the expensive processing through a filter. PS: I'm a postfix person and like it very much, but I don't have a lot of experience with qmail or exim to be honest.
    – MacLemon
    Mar 28 '10 at 13:07

I think Postfix wins because: qmail can not ipv6, no smtp auth, no greylisting you must always patching qmail and this is difficult if you try it in 90% of the cases it will not work e.g. IPv6 patch. i have moved to postix. the security and performance are even.

  • 1
    There seems to be some FUD here. When we read "qmail" in 2014 (or in 2010 or 2012), I think we should read "the original qmail source code + the patches included by virtually everyone in packages and by most sysadmins", or the netqmail distro which provides the source code of qmail already patched, including both patches to address the issues you quoted (ipv6, smtp auth).
    – Dereckson
    Jul 15 '14 at 10:23


Sendmail is dreadfull. Exim is installed by default but a pain to configure and has suffered from many security holes. Postfix is beauty incarnate, I've been using it since 99 and have never had cause to complain. Qmail is crippled by Dan Bernstein's weird licensing which prevents any of the Linux distributions from shipping it.

Also, the Packt book Linux Email is awesome, buy a copy!

  • 1
    I thought that the "weird licensing" was rectified in 2007 when it was donated to public domain. I think the lack of updates is more of a problem than the licensing these days in terms of acceptance by distros. Jun 20 '13 at 3:20
  • And before 2007, it were included in most distros anyway.
    – Dereckson
    Jul 15 '14 at 10:25

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