Mail services like Dovecot is an inevitable server feature.

It helps users to retrieve mails from the server.

However, a misconfiguration in dovecot files may often lead to dovecot error 89.

At Bobcares, we often get requests to fix the dovecot error 89 as part of our Server Management Services.

Today, let’s get into the details and see how our Support Engineers fix dovecot error 89.

What is Dovecot?

Dovecot is a Mail Delivery Agent, primarily written with security in mind. Luckily, it supports the major mailbox formats: Mbox or Maildir. Moreover, it is simple and easy to install Mail Delivery Agent aka MDA.

It is one of the popular mail servers as it is capable of handling the IMAP and POP3 protocols.

When Dovecot is successfully running on the server, the process output looks like:

# ps auxw|grep "dovecot"
root 7245 0.1 0.1 2308 1096 pts/0 S+ 19:53 0:00 dovecot
dovecot 7246 0.0 0.0 2084 824 pts/0 S+ 19:53 0:00 dovecot/anvil
root 7247 0.0 0.0 2044 908 pts/0 S+ 19:53 0:00 dovecot/log
root 7250 0.0 0.3 4988 3740 pts/0 S+ 19:53 0:00 dovecot/config

But there can be cases where Dovecot does not run properly and terminate the service in-between. And, the error message shows up as:

Jul 5 09:16:48 3r dovecot: dovecot: Fatal: Auth process died too early - shutting down
Jul 5 09:16:48 3r init: dovecot main process (32140) terminated with status 89

How we fix the errors related to dovecot

At Bobcares, where we have more than a decade of expertise in managing servers, we see many customers face problems while configuring dovecot on the server.

Now let’s see the major reasons for Dovecot errors and how our Support Engineers fix the top errors.

1. Misconfiguration in Dovecot file

Recently, one of our customers had a problem in starting Dovecot. And, he got an error while starting the Dovecot service. It said:

init: dovecot main process (xxxxx) terminated with status 89.

On checking, our Support Engineers found a misconfiguration in the file auth-system.conf.ext which caused the error.

It was a missing bracket in the file auth-system.conf.ext.

passdb {
driver = pam
# [session=yes] [setcred=yes] [failure_show_msg=yes] [max_requests=<n>]
# [cache_key=<key>] [<service name>]
args = mail

Hence, we corrected the misconfiguration in the file and solved the error.

Major control panels like cPanel allow editing Dovecot configuration from WHM panel itself. It supports editing from the WHM option Service Configuration » Mailserver Configuration.

2. Wrong SSL path

Similarly, missing or incorrect SSL certificates too can be a reason for Dovecot termination. This causes unexpected Dovecot failure.

On trying for a service restart, it again reports errors on startup as.

kernel: [2510855.242291] init: dovecot main process (29159) terminated with status 89
Nov 19 10:54:02 servername kernel: [2510855.242305] init: dovecot respawning too fast, stopped

When we check the  /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-ssl.conf file, our Support Engineers found incorrect ssl_cert and ssl_key paths on the file.

Therefore, we changed the settings in 10-ssl.conf as below.

ssl_cert = </etc/ssl/certs/dovecot.pem
ssl_key = </etc/ssl/private/dovecot.pem

That fixed the problem and Dovecot started working fine.

[Having trouble solving dovecot error 89? We’ll fix it for you.] 


In short, a misconfiguration in Dovecot files, missing SSL certificates or wrong SSL path in the configuration file may lead to Dovecot error 89. In this write-up, we discussed the ways in which our Support Engineers fix these errors.

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