Looking for a Linux based email archiving solution

Have been running Linux for a while now and I am happy to have gone over from OSX and Windows 10. However I do have one problem:

I have stored my email from the past 20 years or so in a Windows application called “MailStore” (https://www.mailstore.com/en/products/mailstore-home/). It is a good piece of software that does what I need it to do: store a massive amount of emails from multiple accounts and make it searchable and retrievable within seconds. However, it is Windows only…

Now I don’t mind paying for good software or good services, but I haven’t found any replacement for this tool that is dear to me. I have two home servers running Linux as well so I thought about rolling my own email server in a VM or a container, however this seems overkill to me and I don’t know if the Thunderbird email client will play nicely with it.

I also considered going for Mailpiler (https://mailpiler.com/) however a year ago the project was not being actively maintained and now, the developer seems to have taken it back up, only to convert it into an enterprise only solution.

So I am stil stuck with my multiple GB store of emails stuck in MailStore. Mailstore can export it in all kinds of formats, so there will be no big problem.

I already posted this question over at linuxquestions.org but alas, there was no real solution.

Can anyone please point me in the right direction? Thanks!

There’s loads of options for archiving email on linux, mailbox database, normal database, simple mail server, etc. An option for the linux desktop though that’s easy to use and maintain… I don’t know of any.


Sorry, but I have to ask… Why? Why keep 20-year old emails?

I’m not being judgemental or anything. It’s your email — do what you want with it. I just don’t understand why anyone would keep email (or any correspondence for that matter) for 20 years. I’d say that over 99% of my incoming email is deleted within a year. A good fraction of what’s left gets purged every year thereafter. Not even work/tax-related stuff lasts more than five years or so. Attached photos worth keeping get copied across to my photo manager, tagged, and then the email deleted.

1 Like

What format can you export from this program?

You can export to e-mail clients and as a directory tree containing all emails in *.EML format (Maildir format?). Also you can export as a PST file which I’d rather not do.

Has to do with legal reasons. Sometimes it saves my bacon to have proof of communication about a subject. Sure, it is not often I need an old e-mail but for me there are those moments it REALLY pays off. I only save the e-mail I really don’t want to delete and I do delete most.

In all my e-mail storage now amounts to about 30 GB including attachments.


A side note, If dependant on Business or Governmental, You are required to maintain between 3-5yrs worth of emails. Sometimes 7yrs. I consulted for a firm that was requred to have 10yrs of particular documents/ correspondence to comply with audits.

1 Like

Have you thought of using an archiving tool sometimes featured in email clients like evolution or thunderbird?

Thanks, I am aware of that. However I am a medical doctor practicing in the EU and as such I am obliged to keep medical records for at least 15 years. Any of my patients I treated in the last 10 years can file a complaint to the disciplinary court.

Of course I put all communications with a patient in the medical record, there is no issue there - moreover, I can’t communicate over e-mail with my patients because of privacy concerns. However when me and my collegues discuss e.g. the workings of a protocol or the implementation of a new treatment I might need those communications.

Just recently a firm approached me with what they said was their new health care concept. I knew they had been working with the hospital on that concept about 10 years ago, and now they were trying to sell the concept while they were paid for their efforts a decade ago. With a simple e-mail search I found the confirmation that will now save us about 100k EUR in the deal we are negotiating.

1 Like

Have you tried to run this program with WINE and see if it works. That would be the easiest solution to try first.

If you did run your own mail server, Thunderbird will play nicely. If you run Exchange, you may need to do a few tweaks on the Thunderbird side.

Unless your emails are encrypted, you could save them in .eml format as it is just flat file with contained data structures (attachments, certs, and etc) in base64 format. My only concern there is how are you required to prove anything on the CIA triangle. If so, then you will more than likely want to use a stand alone application.

Worst case scenario, you would run a minimal MS Windows VM with your mail archiver program on it.

This shouldn’t be your problem… and I’d be hesitant to even suggest you back this stuff up yourself considering the various protections you have to put in place. Your practice should be properly managing this for you. If fact … you shouldn’t even have the ability to install software on your practices devices? That’s a huge problem in itself surely.

If you read on, you should have noted that this is not the problem. I do not keep any patient records on my systems.

However I do regularly correspond with my fellow doctors about our practice and I need to keep those communications as well. And because patients can ask about practice routines upto like forever I need those communications to be preserved as well.

About software on our practice system: we do use different software packages on our hospital practice systems - this is managed by the IT department. When we need something new like a new echo server, this job is done by IT management together with the software supplier.

And when we treat patients in private practice outside the hospital, we also have an obligation to have our software properly protected. In fact every general practitioner has its own local IT infrastructure.

I like neomutt as a terminal mail client. If you install Luke’s Mutt-wizard, it automatically sets up neomutt and isync to do offline email stuff. I would imagine you could set up isync manually by itself to just periodically make local copies of whatever email you use.

1 Like

Not user friendly but if you can export it into standard Unix mailbox format (maybe one file per year) and stick it on a ZFS compressed drive it shouldn’t take up heaps of space and will be searchable via grep, sed or whatever other text manipulation tool of your choice. Many Unix mail clients can even open a different mailbox file directly.

Unix mailboxes are just concatenated text files after all.

Again like i said won’t necessarily be super user friendly but not too bad either. And you’ll have all the messages in their original format.

But as far as I know it is definitely a gap and an opening for someone wanting to get started with open source.

1 Like

Has anyone used data files in Thunderbird?

I presume OP can export the data to an intermediate file type, and maybe inport to Thunderbird, maybe the data file is OS agnostic?

Just spitballing, because Thunderbird is cross platform, , and handles the search / interface with the messages?

1 Like