A server that I'm helping to administrate had a severe file system problem and now there's a lot of files inside the /lost+found directory. I'd like to find the user@example.com's received and sent mail boxes. We're using Maildir email format, Postfix as MTA and Dovecot as POP3/IMAP server on a Debian Squeeze.

I've already tried

grep -r ".*user.*"


grep -r ".*From: \"John Doe.*"

The majority of the results where files like 1412216683.V804I9e3a201M324743.example inside directories like Maildir10805257/new/. Since there are many different Maildir/new directories, I'd like to know if there's a specific one that is the user@example.com mailbox and if so, if someone knows a better way to find it. Otherwise, are his remaining messages spread all around these directories?

  • 1
    I'd use the Delivered-To: field to identify the correct owner.
    – sebix
    Apr 8, 2015 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


For received email, you can rely on Delivered-To to identify the correct recipient as @sebix has said in above comment.The challenge is, if the email has more than one Delivered-To header. So you must modify the grep to search user@example.com mailbox

grep -r -m 1 '^Delivered-To:' directory/ | grep user@example.com

For sent email, you can rely on From header. Again, you should limit it in first occurrence.

grep -r -m 1 '^From:' directory/  | grep user@example.com
  • Thanks! That really helped me. I was almost giving up, because I was starting to think that each user's mailbox that appeared in the /lost+found directory would be split in several Maildirxxxxxx directories, which apparently is not the case: using the command you suggested (except for the -m 1 part), I found another user mailbox where all his received email were inside Maildirxxxxxx/new and the received ones in Maildirxxxxx/.Sent. So I'd say it's just a matter of digging deeper :) Apr 10, 2015 at 22:40

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