If you value privacy and are looking for a good alternative to popular webmail providers like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo, you’re in luck. You can learn how to set up your own mail server and avoid the routine email scanning that these providers perform for millions of users, and enjoy a safe and confidential environment for your emails.
Personal or private mail servers live in your own space, unlike the usual Apple, Google and Microsoft server farms. This way, you can customize your own drive and have complete control over the access, management and storage of your emails.
For small and medium-sized businesses looking to cut costs, mail administration can seem expensive. Likewise, the work of their mail servers seems complicated due to the incessant spam being sent out. They probably also don’t have their own technical staff or tools to properly configure and run it while managing threats.
This is why many small and medium-sized enterprises use external suppliers. However, this comes with hidden risks such as losing control over the security of your mail, breaches of confidentiality and privacy risks, delivery problems due to server sharing, and more.
Luckily, you can run a secure mail server with a spam filter for personal use or small business use. In this guide, we’ll show you how to create and configure your own mail server right on your computer.
- A separate computer with sufficient hard disk space to act as a mail server.
- The domain name of the mail server that you will use to configure email addresses.
- Reliable high-speed Internet connection.
- Operating system such as Windows or Linux to start the server.
- Software such as MailEnable that can sort and route email, antivirus protection and spam filter such as SpamAssassin (the software you will use depends on your operating system).
- A system to streamline the installation process.
What you’ll need to set up a personal email server
- A separate computer with sufficient hard drive capacity, which will act as your email server.
- Domain The name of the email server that you will use to set up the email addresses.
- A reliable, high-speed Internet connection.
- An operating system such as Windows or Linux to run the server.
- Programs like MailEnable can sort and route emails, virus protection, and spam filter like SpamAssassin (the program you use depends on the operating system you are on).
- A system to simplify the setup process.
How to set up an email server
An easier way to set up your mail server is to hire an IT professional to do it for you. When the initial setup is ready, you can change the settings to your liking.
If you can’t afford to pay someone to do it for you, you can still set it up yourself.
In this guide, we will show you how to set up a mail server based on the Windows operating system. We’ll be using hMailServer, a free and flexible Windows mail server that lets you handle all of your emails without relying on your ISP to manage them for you.
It is one of the most popular mail servers for Windows that is easy to use and install and offers basic features such as security and built-in spam protection from SpamAssassin.
Follow these steps to complete the installation.
- Click Next and agree to the licensing terms.
- Select “Server” on the next screen if you want your local computer to act as a server, or “Administration Tools” to manage the server remotely.
- Then select the database you will be using. The built-in database is checked by default and is ideal for use if you need something quick and simple.
- Click “Next” and select the folder where the program shortcuts will be saved.
- Specify the master password that you will use to manage your hMailServer installation (write it down somewhere, as you will need to use it often).
- Click Next and then Install to add hMailServer to your computer.
- When finished, make sure the Start hMailServer Administrator check box is selected and click Finish.
- The hMailServer admin window will open. Click Connect.
- Enter the password generated during installation.
- You are now ready to configure your SMTP server. In the new window, click Add Domain.
- On the General tab, enter your domain name and click Save.
- In the left pane, click Domains> Accounts.
- Click “Add” and enter a name in the address field, password and then click “Save”.
- Go to Settings> Protocols and select SMTP (uncheck POP and IMAP).
- Click Advanced and enter localhost in the Default Domain section. Click Save.
- Click the + next to the Advanced field to expand the list, and then click Autobahn. This feature blocks IP addresses after multiple failed login attempts.
- Uncheck the Enabled box and click Save.
- Click IP ranges and click TCP / IP ports to view the ports configured for SMTP, IMAP, and POP, such as 25 and 110 for SMTP and POP and 143 for IMAP. Opening these ports ensures that the mail server can receive and send mail.
- Enable various options such as forwarding, autoresponder, DNS blacklists and others in hMailServer
- Finally, click the + next to Utilities to expand the list and click Diagnostics to test your configuration.
- Under Select (the domain where you want to run tests), enter the domain you entered earlier and click Start.
Your hMailServer is configured with basic parameters.
- Check the collection server information to see the hMailServer version and database type.
- Check the outgoing port – an error here means your SMTP server will not be able to communicate, in which case you need to troubleshoot.
Congratulations, you’ve just set up your own mail server.
To read or write emails, install a webmail client such as Outlook or Thunderbird. If you want to use a computer application instead, enter your email address as username and authentication type as password.
While hosting your own mail server requires some effort and precautions, they are worth having if you don’t want the hassle and hesitations of popular webmail providers.
Remember to check your server’s IP address and domain, always checking if there are any problems such as a public blacklist as some ISPs may do this for incoming emails due to incorrect DNS settings.