This documentation is for Dovecot v2.x, see wiki1 for v1.x documentation.


This file is compatible with a normal /etc/passwd file, and a password file used by libpam-pwdfile PAM plugin. It's in the following format:


For a password database it's enough to have only the user and password fields. For a user database, you need to set also uid, gid and preferably also home (see VirtualUsers). (gecos) and (shell) fields are unused by Dovecot.

The password field can be in four formats:

extra_fields is a space-separated list of key=value pairs which can be used to set various passdb settings and userdb settings. Keys which begin with a userdb_ prefix are used for userdb, others are used for passdb. So for example if you wish to override mail_location setting for one user, use userdb_mail=mbox:~/mail. Variable expansion is done for extra_fields.

Empty lines and lines beginning with '#' character are ignored.

Multiple passwd files

You can use all the variables in the passwd-file filenames, for example:

passdb {
  driver = passwd-file
  # Each domain has a separate passwd-file:
  args = /etc/auth/%d/passwd

Passwd-file args


passdb {
  driver = passwd-file
  args = scheme=plain-md5 username_format=%n /etc/imap.passwd
userdb {
  driver = passwd-file
  args = username_format=%n /etc/imap.passwd
  default_fields = uid=vmail gid=vmail home=/home/vmail/%u

This file can be used as a passdb:


passdb with extra fields:


This file can be used as both a passwd and a userdb:

user:{plain}pass:1000:1000::/home/user::userdb_mail=maildir:~/Maildir allow_nets=

FreeBSD /etc/master.passwd as passdb and userdb

On FreeBSD, /etc/passwd doesn't work as a password database because the password field is replaced by a *. /etc/master.passwd can be converted into a format usable by passwd-file.

If only using the result for name:password:uid:gid and not using PasswordDatabase/ExtraFields you may be able to use the extract directly. However, the Linux-style passwd file has fewer fields than that used by FreeBSD and it will need to be edited if any fields past the first four are needed. In particular, it will fail if used directly as a userdb as the field used for home is not in the same place as expected by the Dovecot parser. The :class:change:expire stanza in each line should be removed to be consistent with the Linux-style format. While that stanza often is ::0:0 use of cut is likely much safer than sed or other blind substitution.

In /etc/master.passwd, a password of * indicates that password authentication is disabled for that user and the token *LOCKED* prevents all login authentication, so you might as well exclude those:

# fgrep -v '*' /etc/master.passwd | cut -d : -f 1-4,8-10 > /path/to/file-with-encrypted-passwords
# chmod 640 /path/to/file-with-encrypted-passwords
# chown root:dovecot /path/to/file-with-encrypted-passwords

or permissions and ownership that may be more appropriate for your install and security needs.

The following will work in many situations, after disabling the inclusion of other userdb and passdb

passdb {
  driver = passwd-file
  args = username_format=%n /path/to/file-with-encrypted-passwords
userdb {
  driver = passwd-file
  args = username_format=%n /usr/local/etc/dovecot/users