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A mailbox is a file on a mail server that is the final destination for e-mail messages. The name of the mailbox can be the user name or a place to put mail for someone with a specific function, such as the postmaster. Mailboxes can be in the /var/mail directory on the user's local system or on a mail server. The /var/mail directory is often called the mail spool. The files contained within that directory are called mailboxes.

Mail should always be stored in /var/mail. If /var/mail is NFS-mounted, it must be mounted with the actimeo=0 option.

The Aliases database, the /etc/mail/aliases file, and nameservices such as NIS and NIS+ provide mechanisms for creating aliases for electronic mail addresses so that users do not need to know the precise local name of a user's mailbox. Mail aliases provide aliases for names to the left of the @ sign.

Some common naming conventions for special-purpose mailboxes are shown in Table 2.

Table 2 Conventions for the Format of Mailbox Names




User names are frequently the same as mailbox names.

Firstname.Lastname, Firstname_Lastname, Firstinitial.Lastname


User names can be identified as full names with a dot (or an underscore) separating the first and last names or by a first initial with a dot (or an underscore) separating the initial and the last name.

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