Configuring your mail reader

I recommend you use Thunderbird for your mail program. Although I support Outlook, Entourage, and other Microsoft-authored mail readers at Nevis, I don't encourage their use. Unfortunately, for technical and social reasons, the Microsoft mail readers are prone to security problems. Please consider using a non-Microsoft program instead.

Here are some items to check in your configuration:

  • You have to decide whether to use POP or IMAP to read your mail. The difference between the two is described in a separate web page.

  • If you want your mail files to be stored in some place other than the default location (/a/mail/folders/$user), this web page tells you how to do it. Note that this is not recommended.

  • The name of the mail reader's account can be anything. I use "Nevis". The name of the account in your mail reader has nothing to do with how your mail reader connects to the mail server.

  • Make sure your mail account name is <youraccount>, and your mail domain is

    Alternate: your mail identity is <youraccount>

  • The password for your mail account is the same as your password for the Nevis Linux cluster.

  • Your IMAP, POP, and SMTP server names are all

    Alternate: If you wish, you may use any of the following aliases for clarity:

  • Turn on all the authentication options. You need authentication to both send your mail (SMTP authentication) and to read your mail (IMAP or POP authentication).

    Do not use "SPA" or "secure password authentication", which is a different protocol not supported by the Nevis mail server.

  • Some reminders:
    • POP and IMAP are two different ways to read your mail; you can use either one as you choose.
    • SMTP is the way your mail program sends the mail.
    • In general, you must use SMTP to send your mail (there are no other popular e-mail methods).
    • If your e-mail address ends in you must use the Nevis mail server to send mail.
    • Do not use the Nevis mail server if you want your e-mail address to end in anything except
    • In particular, if you'd prefer to use your Columbia University UNI account to manage your mail, do not use set your identity to <account> and try to use as your SMTP server; use Columbia's SMTP server:


If your mail reader supports it, I highly recommend that you use SSL encryption. This assures that your password is not sent over the network in plain text. Most mail readers (though not all) support this.

Aside from selecting the option in your mail reader, you'll have to set or confirm that your mail reader is using the correct ports to access the mail server:

  • If your mail reader supports SSL, use port 995 for POP3 and port 993 for IMAP. For SMTP, you normally want port 465 with SSL/TLS; if that doesn't work try port 587 with STARTTLS.

  • If your mail reader does not support SSL, get a modern mail reader. If you can't, use port 110 for POP3, port 143 for IMAP, and port 25 for SMTP.

    Some sites block off port 25 with their firewall. As an alternative, you can try accessing the Nevis mail server via port 587.

  • If you are using a non-Nevis mail server, connect to port 587 of that mail server with STARTTLS or port 465 with SSL/TLS. Our firewall blocks off port 25 to any other mail servers.

Of the two methods to send mail, the 465 + SSL/TLS is the more secure one, but the 587 + STARTTLS is probably also secure unless you're still using a very old mail program (7 years old or more).

If you're interested: "STARTTLS" means to negotiate a security protocol and (perhaps) use an unencrypted connection if your mail reader doesn't support one. "SSL/TLS" means that there's no negotiation: Use an encrypted connection with the TLS protocol.

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Topic revision: r16 - 2022-03-12 - WilliamSeligman
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