About the author

My name is Solène Rapenne. I like learning and sharing experiences about IT stuff. Hobbies: '(BSD OpenBSD h+ Lisp cmdline gaming internet-stuff Crossbow). I love % and lambda characters. OpenBSD developer solene@.

Contact : solene on Freenode or solene+www at dataswamp dot org

Convert mailbox to maildir with dovecot

Written by Solène, on 17 January 2017.
Tags: #unix #email

I have been using mbox format for a few years on my personal mail server. For those who don’t know what mbox is, it consists of only one file per folder you have on your mail client, each file containing all the mails of the corresponding folder. It’s extremely ineficient when you backup the mail directory because it must copy everything each time. Also, it reduces the system cache possibility of the server because if you have folders with lots of mails with attachments, it may not be cached.

Instead, I switched to maildir, which is a format where every mail is a regular file on the file system. This takes a lot of inodes but at least, it’s easier to backup or to deal with it for analysis.

Here how to switch from mbox to maildir with a dovecot tool.

# dsync -u solene mirror mbox:~/mail/:INBOX=~/mail/inbox

That’s all ! In this case, my mbox folder was ~/mail/ and my INBOX file was ~/mail/inbox. It tooks me some time to find where my INBOX really was, at first I tried a few thing that didn’t work and tried a perl convert tool named mb2md.pl which has been able to extract some stuff but a lot of mails were broken. So I have been going back getting dsync working.

If you want to migrate, the whole process looks like:

# service smtpd stop

modify dovecot/conf.d/10-mail.conf, replace the first line
mail_location = mbox:~/mail:INBOX=/var/mail/%u   # BEFORE
mail_location = maildir:~/maildir                # AFTER

# service dovecot restart
# dsync -u solene mirror mbox:~/mail/:INBOX=~/mail/inbox
# service smtpd start