Where are emails stored? (was Re: [clug] Suse)

Daniel Pittman daniel at rimspace.net
Sat Dec 20 00:10:24 GMT 2008

keith sayers <keiths at apex.net.au> writes:
> On Thursday 18 December 2008 23:00:35 Brian wrote:


>> For the second, did you upgrade or do a new install?
> An upgrade - the new version (which came from a compact disk in Linux
> Format magazine) was put onto the same hard drive that held the old
> version.  But with the benefit of experience I think another time I
> would put the new version onto a new or wiped hard drive and then copy
> over personal directories.

I can't speak specifically for SuSE[1], but generally it should be
reasonable to upgrade from one release of a distribution to another.

In Debian or a derivative this should be pretty straight-forward; on an
RPM based distribution you need to pay more attention to merging
configuration files after the upgrade, in my experience, but it should
otherwise be reasonable on a modern distribution.

(Actually, one caveat: most RPM distributions end up with at least one
 third part RPM repository enabled; you need to check that they will be
 compatible with the upgrade, and hope that nothing conflicts.

 The same is, naturally, true of Debian — save that third party
 repositories are vastly less common.)

> Incidentally in which directory are emails stored?  We were looking
> for those at one point.

It varies wildly, but generally in one of three places:

1. /var/spool/mail/<username>, in mbox format
2. ~user/..., in some random format
3. /var/lib/<package>, in a black-box format.

The first is the most traditional option, but isn't very popular these
days.  The third is if you use something like Cyrus that treats email as
a black-box set of data and only provides access via IMAP/POP/etc.

The second is the most common: maildir delivery to your home directory,
or under some random '.application' directory in whatever random format
your email client chose to use.


[1]  Personally, I have had nothing but bad experiences, so don't use it
     anywhere that I can escape it. ;)

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