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Virtual Exim 2


Thanks for picking the Virtual Exim package, for your virtual mail hosting needs! :-)

This document provides a basic guide on how to get Virtual Exim working on your system. In this guide, I assume that you have a little knowledge of both MySQL and Exim.

Before we go into any details, I'd like to thanks Philip Hazel and the Exim developers for a fine product. I would also like to thanks the postmasters at various domains for letting me play havoc with their mail while I set this up :-) Finally, a special note of thanks to Dan Bernstein for his Qmail MTA. Dan, thank you for educating me how mail delivery really shouldn't be done, on the Internet.

The Virtual Exim project currently lives on GitHub: And its mailing list/Google group is available at:

Installation steps for each component:


If you are upgrading from a previous version of Virtual Exim, you'll find additional notes marked 'UPGRADING' in some sections. If and when you do, follow these notes.


Some sections may contain distribution or OS-specific notes. You'll find them after an appropriate prefix, such as 'DEBIAN' or 'FREEBSD' where appropriate.


  1. Prerequisites
  2. System user
  3. Databases and authentication
  4. Files and Apache
  5. Mailman
  6. Exim configuration
  7. Site Admin
  8. Virtual Domains
  9. Mail storage and Delivery
  10. POP3 and IMAP daemons (separate to this software)


The following packages must be installed on your system, for Virtual Exim to work. If you don't have any of these packages already installed, please refer to the documentation provided with your operating system on how to install each package:

  • Exim v4 with MySQL or PostgreSQL support (tested on v4.1x/4.2x/4.7x)
  • MySQL (tested on v5.1.x) or PostgreSQL
  • Apache or other HTTP server (Tested on Apache v2.2.x)
  • PHP (tested on v5.3.x and v7.x) with at least the following extensions:
    • PDO
    • pdo_mysql or pdo_pgsql
    • imap
    • gettext
    • iconv
    • filter

The following packages provide optional functionality:

  • Mailman – to have mailing lists
  • ClamAV – for scanning e-mail for viruses
  • SpamAssassin – for scanning e-mail from spam

VExim might work with older (or newer) versions of these packages, but you may have to perform some adaptation work to achieve that. In any case, you are welcome to file bugs and/or provide patches on GitHub.

DEBIAN: The following command line installs all the packages mentioned above (last four are optional), if you're going with MySQL setup:

# apt-get install apache2 exim4-daemon-heavy mysql-server libapache2-mod-php php-mysql php-imap clamav-daemon clamav-freshclam spamassassin mailman

System user:

You should create a new user account to whom the virtual mailboxes will belong. Since you do not want anyone to be able to login using that account, you should also disable logging in for that user. Here are the command lines to do that. This manual assumes you want to have your virtual mailboxes in /var/vmail. If you want them elsewhere, adjust the commands. After the user and group are created, find their uid and gid using the last command and memorize these values:

# useradd -r -m -U -s /bin/false -d /var/vmail vexim
# id vexim

FREEBSD: Instead of the commands above, you should probably use the following (change 90 to another value if this user or group id is already used on your system):

# pw groupadd vexim -g 90
# pw useradd vexim -u 90 -g vexim -d /usr/local/mail -m -s /nonexistant

DEBIAN: Use the following command instead:

# adduser --system --home /var/vmail --disabled-password --disabled-login --group vexim

Databases and authentication:


This distribution contains a file "vexim2/setup/mysql.sql". This file provides the database schema used by vexim. You will have to import it into MySQL, like this:

# mysql -u root -D YOUR_DATABASE_NAME -p < vexim2/setup/mysql.sql

Where YOUR_DATABASE_NAME is the name of an empty database you have created for vexim. If you want the script to create the database for you and set up access to it, this is also doable: just open it in a text editor, and find a commented out block which begins with -- CREATE DATABASE near the top of the file. This block is documented just above it, so you may uncomment it, apply the changes you want and save the file. With the necessary changes made, you should run the following command line to initialize the database:

# mysql -u root -p < vexim2/setup/mysql.sql

A site admininistrator account is created with an autogenerated password required for your first login to Vexim.


The code has been tested by several users to work with Virtual Exim, and we try our best to make sure it always will. Unfortunately I don't have much PostgreSQL knowledge to support it fully. A database schema for it is included however, as setup/pgsql.sql to help you set up the database. Make sure to adjust it similarly as per MySQL instructions above.

UPGRADING: If you are upgrading your installation, we have prepared MySQL migration scripts for you, which you will find under vexim2/setup/migrations/. Find out the version of Vexim that you have and apply the necessary scripts in a sequential manner, like this:

# mysql -u root -D YOUR_DATABASE_NAME -p < vexim2/setup/migrations/SCRIPT_FILENAME.sql

Files and Apache:

In this distribution is a directory called 'vexim'. You have two options:

  • Copy this directory into your current DocumentRoot for your domain, and optionally rename the directory.
  • Set up a new VirtualHost and point the DocumentRoot to the vexim directory.

Both should work equally well.

After copying the 'vexim' directory, you should find the 'variables.php.example', file in its subdirectory called 'config', copy that file to 'variables.php' and change the following values defined in it:

  • $sqlpass – to the vexim database user's password which you chose while editing 'mysql.sql' in the "Databases and authentication" step.
  • $uid, $gid and $mailroot to the values you have from the "System user" step.
  • $cryptscheme is set to "sha512", a more specific configuration or other crypt-schemes can be used.
  • $mailmanroot to the mailman URL

Other, less interesting options are documented in the comments of that file. Feel free to explore them as well.


Mailman needs to be installed if you want to use mailing lists. Edit the default configuration file (/etc/mailman/

DEFAULT_URL_PATTERN = 'https://%s/mailman/'
DEFAULT_EMAIL_HOST = 'mail.example.tld'
DEFAULT_URL_HOST   = 'mail.example.tld'

Debian will already create a default configuration for your webserver that you can enable with a2ensite mailman. Create your master password: `mmsitepass MY_PASSWORD``. Restart mailman and apache.

Exim configuration:

NOTE: the configuration files supplied here have been revised. You should use them carefully and report problems!

An example Exim 'configure' file, has been included with this distribution as 'docs/configure'. Copy this to the location Exim expects its configuration file to be on your installation. You will also need to copy docs/vexim* to /usr/local/etc/exim/. The following lines are important and will have to be edited if you are using this configure, or copied to your own configure file:

Edit these if your mailman is in a different location (in Debian: /var/lib/mailman):


These need to match the username and group under which exim runs (in Debian: list/daemon):


Change this to the name of your server:

In general, it is required that your reverse DNS entry of your IP points to this hostname.

If you are using MySQL, uncomment the following two lines:

#VIRTUAL_DOMAINS = SELECT DISTINCT CONCAT(domain, ' : ') FROM domains type = 'local'
#RELAY_DOMAINS = SELECT DISTINCT CONCAT(domain, ' : ') FROM domains type = 'relay'

If you are using PGSQL, uncomment the following four lines:

#VIRTUAL_DOMAINS = SELECT DISTINCT domain || ' : ' FROM domains WHERE type = 'local'
#RELAY_DOMAINS = SELECT DISTINCT domain || ' : ' FROM domains WHERE type = 'relay'

Depending on the database type you are using, you will need to uncomment the appropriate lines in the config, to enable lookups.

These control which domains you accept mail for and deliver locally (local_domains), which domains you accept mail for and deliver remotely (relay_to_domains), which IP addresses are allowed to send mail to any domain (relay_from_hosts) and which system users are considered trusted (trusted_users). More on these options – in Exim documentation.

domainlist local_domains = @ : : ${lookup mysql{VIRTUAL_DOMAINS}} : ${lookup mysql{ALIAS_DOMAINS}}
domainlist relay_to_domains = ${lookup mysql{RELAY_DOMAINS}}
hostlist   relay_from_hosts = localhost : @ :
#trusted_users = www-data

These lines configure database connectivity. You need to uncomment one of them (depending on the database type you have chosen) and adjust it to match your setup. You at least have to change the word 'CHANGE' to the password you used for the 'vexim' database user, which you have created before. The socket path depends on your system, for Debian it is:

#hide mysql_servers = localhost::(/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock)/db/user/password
#hide pgsql_servers = (/var/run/postgresql/.s.PGSQL.5432)/db/user/password

If you want to use either Anti-Virus scanning, or SpamAssassin, you will need to uncomment the appropriate line here.

# av_scanner = clamd:/tmp/clamd
# spamd_address = 783

in Debian use:

# av_scanner = clamd:/var/run/clamav/clamd.ctl
# spamd_address = /var/run/spamd.sock

Specify here, the username and group under which Exim runs (Debian: Debian-exim). This combination is also that under which mailman must run in order to work:

exim_user = mailnull
exim_group = mail

Also it is assumed that the mysql domain socket is /tmp/mysql.sock, which is where the FreeBSD port puts it. Other installations put it in /var/tmp, /usr/lib, or any number of other places. If yours isn't /tmp/mysql.sock, you will need to set this.

TLS is activated by default. We suppose that you already created a SSL key and certificate.

tls_certificate = /etc/exim4/exim.crt
tls_privatekey = /etc/exim4/exim.key

The creation of SSL-keys is the same like for webservers, e.g. . You can use the same certificate your the webserver of this host (if you use webmail).

tls_dhparam = /etc/exim4/dhparam.pem

The Diffie-Hellman group should have at least 1024 bit and can be created with this command (it can take some time):

# openssl dhparam -out /etc/exim4/dhparam.pem 2048

In tls_require_ciphers, currently (2016) secure ciphers are selected. It works by default on GnuTLS setups (Debian/Ubuntu). If your distribution uses OpenSSL (e.g. FreeBSD, CentOS), comment the block tls_require_ciphers = ... and uncomment the line openssl_options = .... If you are not sure, the output of exim -bV will show either GnuTLS or OpenSSL.


We have split all of the ACL's into separate files, to make managing them easier. Please review the ACL section of the configure file. If there are ACL's you would rather not have executed, please comment out the '.include' line that references them, or edit the ACL file directly and comment them out.


Typically, Debian setups use split Exim configuration with some Debconf magic. This manual will assume that you are familiar with it. If not, you should refer to the Debian documentation on Exim. To get the virtual mailboxes to work, copy the contents of docs/debian-conf.d/ to /etc/exim4/conf.d/ and change the MySQL password in .../main/00_vexim_listmacrosdefs. You may also want to review the ACL's in docs/vexim-acl-*.conf and selectively copy and paste their contents to the files provided by Debian in conf.d. By the way, some of these ACL's are already implemented by Debian, so you might just need to enable them by defining certain macros as described in Debian manual. This manual does not cover enabling ClamAV and SpamAssassin in Exin in Debian. Please look this up elsewhere. By the way, the author of this part never bothered to set up Vexim in such a way that Debian would take into account the status of the various user flag (on_av, on_spamassassin etc) for each user. In his setup, these flags have no effect, and all messages are checked for spam and viruses.

Stefan Tomanek has a nice writeup about using Vexim in Debian, but that article does not cover all aspects, is a bit outdated, and most of if has been incorporated (and improved!) into this document anyway. You can find it at

Site Admin:

In order to add and delete domains from the database, you need to have a "site admin". This user can create the initial postmaster users for the individual domains. This user has been created along with the database (see mysql-section), use it here to log in. The password is case sensitive. You are advised to change it when you first log in.

Virtual Domains:

Virtual Exim can now control which local domains Exim accepts mail for and which domains it relays mail for. The features are controlled by the siteadmin, and domains can be easily added/removed from the siteadmin pages. Local domains can also be enabled/disabled on the fly, but relay domains are always enabled.

Mail storage and Delivery:

The mysql configuration assumes that mail will be stored in /var/vmail/ If you want to change the path from '/var/vmail/', you need to edit the file:


and change 'mailroot' to the correct path. Don't forget the / at the end.

POP3 and IMAP daemons:

There are many POP3 and IMAP daemons available. Some that we have found that work are:

  • Courier: docs/clients/courierimap.txt
  • Dovecot: docs/clients/dovecot.txt

Dovecot provides more features (server-side sieve filters) and is more performant on larger setups.

UPGRADING: If you are upgrading, you will need to update your configs for your POP/IMAP daemons, as the database layout has changed. You should be able to follow the above instructions without problem.

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