How are you using the Windows 2003 POP Server, Part II

In a previous post, I asked people how they are using the Win2K3 POP server and what features they wish it had.  One thing I’d like to get, especially from people who posted that they do use it today, is some more details on why and how they are using it. 

1) It seems to me that a Windows Server license is pretty expensive, so are you buying Windows Server for other reasons and just happen to use the POP server because it’s free, or did the POP server play a role in choosing Windows Server?  Do you have other dedicated servers already?

2) What kind of scenario are you running it in?  Are you an ISP, are you running it for your home/family? Are you running it for a business? 

3) What other options did you look at and why did you or did you not settle on using the Windows POP server?

If you would like to send me a response via private mail or feedback, please feel free to do so.

Comments (23)

  1. David Lemson says:

    PS – if you want to email me directly, my address is I do appreciate people giving me their email addresses in their feedback so I can ask follow-up questions. No, I won’t send you spam!.

  2. Paul Tyng says:

    I didn’t realize that Win2k3 had a POP server until reading your post. I’m currently in the initial phases of setting up a business and was dreading having to pick up an exchange licence. Now instead of Win2k I’ll definitely pick up 2k3 on one machine to handle my email, since I’m starting a small ISV i have no reason for a full blown exchange server and this would definitely suit my needs. Thanks for the info, I’ll let you know how it goes!


  3. Ferris Beuller says:

    Dammit now you went and lost a sale.

  4. David Lemson says:

    Well, Ferris, I don’t really consider the Windows POP server to be a real competitor to Exchange. Exchange offers so much more: OWA, MAPI (full support for Outlook), antivirus and antispam hooks/features, mobile access from phones, full-text indexing and thousands of more things.

    I have an idea of what I think the competitors to Windows 2003 POP server are, but I’d love to hear from real people what they consider to be the real competitors.

    And, finally, why would you buy a Windows 2003 Server license and use POP, when you could buy a Windows Small Business Server Edition 2003 license, which comes with Exchange?

  5. Steve says:

    We’ve (small ISP) been using XMail ( for quite some time. It’s certainly not as friendly as Win2k3’s POP server, but allows multiple domains, filters, custom authentication, etc. and isn’t too difficult for someone competent to set up. And it runs just fine on Win2K so no need for upgrading to Win2K3 :).

  6. TJ Fiske says:

    Currently we are looking to utilize Exchange for calendaring, but when meetings are POP’ed through W2K3’s server, it strips any meaningful data and makes it just a text message. It has a neat feature to provide a link to OWA, but would be ideal is if users that POP’d email could have an attachment that would be digestable by Outlook as an external viewer. Our users have choice in their email client, but would like to use Outlook for calendaring.

  7. TJ Fiske says:

    One side effect of allowing users to POP their email is that it removes it from the Exchange Information store. Which then breaks access to OWA and Outlook. One thing would be nice is to allow IT to enforce at the server level a "Leave on Server for X Days" of messages.

  8. Sethalon says:

    1. Yes, the licenses are expensive. I’d have server running anyway, the POP is just a plus. If it weren’t in the product, I’d have to buy something else and that would be expensive as well.

    2. Running it for my family and friends.

    3. I’ve run some other mail systems on Windows. Most of them are as pricey as Exchange, and aren’t really geared towards small companies. *nix OS requires getting too intimate with SendMail. PostFix is easier, but not as up to date as far as RFCs. Running SBS would likely require more RAM. Exchange is just too hungry for small 10-25 user systems. Yes, it’s feature rich.

  9. Lutz Elssner says:

    I’m hosting some Domains and Websites (Frontpage, ASP.NET) and every customer wants an E-Mail Address for his Domain. With NT4 I did use Exchange 5.5 but it’s to expensive and not developed for Internet use on a standalone Webserver. (I need a Domain only for authenticating a Mail User..)

    The POP3 Service works good, the Mailbox Quota also. My Problem may be on SMTP Service. Incoming Mail that is over the Mailbox Quota or undeliverable (no Mailbox found) goes in the Drop Directory. The Quota of the Drop Directory:

    "When Enable drop directory quota is selected, the SMTP service limits the size of your drop directory to 10 times the size specified by the Limit message size to (KB) setting.

    Exceeding this quota will generate a 452 4.2.2 Mailbox Full entry in the protocol log."

    does not stop receiving more Mails.

    How can I set up to reject undeliverable Mails (no Mailbox or Mailbox full) and send an Error Message back to the Sender? Such Messages should be not received to make no Traffic and the Drop Directory remains blank.

  10. David Lemson says:

    TJ: I don’t exactly understand the scenario you’re in. Exchange does offer the feature you’re asking for. If you set on the POP service that users are using "rich text", then it will encapsulate calendaring items within a TNEF attachment, which Outlook can use to turn it back into a meeting request or whatever.

    And yes it would be nice to enforce "leave mail on server for X days" on the server, but I’m afraid that even if we did add a new extension to communicate that to the client, there are no clients that would understand it.

    Sethalon: interesting point about the RAM requirement.

    Lutz: that is a good question. I would expect that the SMTP drop directory quota would have no effect on POP mailboxes, because they are entirely different things. When mail is delivered to a POP mailbox, it never reaches the SMTP drop directory, the POP service "intercepts" it. (well to be honest it installs a hook into the SMTP service to make the SMTP service deliver it to the mailbox instead of putting it in the drop directory, but the effect is the same) Is there a quota setting on the mailbox from within the POP admin? I don’t have a Windows Server machine available to me at the moment so I can’t check myself, but if there are no quota settings in the POP service admin, then I suspect that feature is just missing.

  11. Paul Vernon says:

    I would love to see a catch all mailbox facility built in…. You know… if it doesn’t match the usernames that are configured… stick it in the mailbox.

  12. Sethalon says:

    Paul: Yes, that seems especially important given that SMTP doesn’t give an error in session when a mailbox doesn’t exist. So I get spam (to a non-existent account), and SMTP accepts it. Tries to deliver it. Can’t. Generates an NDR. Can deliver that, because either the sender domain must exist (as configured), or the mailbox is invalid. My BadMail and queue fill up with messages that can’t be handled. Maintenance is very poor. I could write you a script to move any messages in Drop and put them in a specific folder. 🙂

    I’m just about to pull the plug on this, and use one of my linux boxes to do mail. This is a very much 1.0 solution, and waiting for Longhorn is out of the question. My job requires that I’m well versed in non-MS mail services, but I would really like to see Windows able to compete with *nix on this part. They’ve got a lot of lead time. Exchange is a great product, but I’m not up for the money/overhead for what it gets me.

  13. Paul Vernon says:


    I found this set of scripts that creates a single catch all account across all the domains that you run but its not exactly what I’m looking for as there is no capability of a catch all per domain….

    Someone may find it useful though!

  14. John Abbott says:

    I tried to use Windows Server 2003’s POP3/SMTP servers for an Extranet. We have a number of partners partners, etc, that we want to provide email for, but we do not want to use an Exchange license. The 3 different authentication methods were great, but we wanted the ability to choose which method per user. In other words, we had reason to allow internal users "extranet" email accounts, as well as partners. However, the server determined which method would be used, rather than the user.

    Also, POP3 and SMTP did not use the same authentication methods, so when we secured the SMTP server, we blew apart security since it was no longer the same between POP3 (which we were running in password mode) and SMTP.

    I really liked the fact that messages were individual files, rather than stored in a database. It made it much easier to backup. It also allowed me to double click on a message in Windows Explorer and read it with Outlook Express.

  15. Anon Friend says:

    Hi David:

    So what are Microsoft’s plans for the POP3 service? Will it be developed any more? Is it just there for marketing or does MS really plan to offer it as a real alternative to free SMTP/POP3 on Linux?

    Thanks, and thanks for having this blog!


  16. David Lemson says:

    Anon: I can’t say what the definite plans will be. I will say that the reason I posted this was to get feedback as to what we SHOULD do.

  17. Anon Friend says:

    Yes, I agree, I should have posed my question in that context and been more constructive.

    What I’d like to see in the POP3 and SMTP services is an answer to my Linux associates and competitors who give me grief in meetings when they argue "Linux with Sendmail/Procmail/etc. can provide a full e-mail system for small or medium organizations for free what MS charges thousands for with Exchange Server…"

    Now, I know Exchange with SBS provides a ton more functionality to consider, but it causes problems for me as a consultant when debating with the non-technical MBAs who only know how to object "but even IBM thinks Linux is good now…".

    The advantage of the SMTP/POP3 services over SBS is that they are simpler, hence, easier to plan, deploy, troubleshoot, backup/restore, script, etc. So, in addition to the requests of the others (aliases, default mailbox, etc.) I just want to ask for it to be ROCK SOLID. It doesn’t need many more features, in my opinion, but I have got to be able to rely on it 99.999% because e-mail is so mission-critical and my clients literally FREAK OUT if e-mail is down.

    If the answer is "well, that’s what Exchange is for, to be reliable" then why even dabble in a POP3 service at all? This is really my request from MS as a whole: fewer "features" and more predictability and stability. Performance is not even half as important to me than reliability. If I could present IIS-SMTP/POP3/Outlook Express to my smaller clients and in *good conscience* tell them it will work reliably, well, THEN I could compete better with my "It’s free with Linux" adversaries.

    Just to make sure you don’t think I’m venting, I want to say that the SMTP service *is* rock solid for me. I have SMTP smart hosts relaying for back-end Exchange Servers and these IIS-SMTP boxes have (almost) never failed, even under heavy loads; whereas the Exchange boxes just seem to sometimes gum up their own MTA queues for no reason, requiring complex hours of troubleshooting or full restores. I just breathe a sigh of relief at the thought of having simple messages-as-files on the hard drive of the POP3 servers instead of opaque databases…in fact, I would rather set up three reliable POP3 servers than one Exchange box (even though it might cost more and be slower).

    I love MS and the living Windows has afforded me as a consultant, but I wish MS would focus less on rarely-used features and more on making core functionality more resilient under load. Either have a full and reliable POP3 service or don’t have one at all, but anything in between (any "dabbling") is just distracting and causes me and my clients headaches.

    Best Wishes! And thanks again for having this blog!

  18. arjun kakar says:

    Hi, I am a first timer here. I have been setting up web applications on servers as well as mails for my clients for over 8 years now. Right now i am using windows 2k and running mercur mailserver – which has served me well. I have setup win2k3 pop to work with SMTP in local intranet environments and am planning its use on web as well. However one thing i miss is fetaures such as mailfowarding , aliasis as well as setting up of lookups to ordb and other relay foilters etc.

  19. Bart Bultinck says:

    answer to questions

    1:) allready acquired licenses for other reasons

    2) I’m using it to host mailboxes for a gameclan

    3) What other options did you look at and why did you or did you not settle on using the Windows POP server?

    i wrote an article for my blog about this today and then i found this blog. i suggest you pay it a visit (

    for those who are interested, the article shows how you can set up aliases for mailboxes and how you can change the pop3 greeting message (can also be found on the microsoft sites)

    kind regards


  20. David Lemson says:

    Thanks, Bart, you seem to have found some interesting links and wrote them up well. I hadn’t seen that "Advanced use of POP Server" document that you linked to:

  21. Bart Bultinck says:

    sometimes you come across docs you wanted to have found weeks ago when you needed them. Credits to the authors of the advmail article !


  22. John Rohland says:

    I would like to upgrade my home 2K Server to 2003 Server but, the license cost is prohibitive.

    The POP3 service in 2003 (I use 2003 at work and have played with the POP3 service) could have been a selling point for me but, I have already found a good, inexpensive multi-domain POP3 email product which works very well for me. see:

    Like everyone else, I am fighting the good fight against junk email. To that end I found a product which works with the MS SMTP service to pass all email through one or more open relay checks. See

    With Windows 2000 Server, Vamsoft ORF and DawkCo POP3 Server, I have a nice, reliable, easy to manage, inexpensive multi-account/multi-domain email server (which runs on my Web server).

    If Server 2003 (with POP3) could duplicate these capabilities, I might consider the upgrade more strongly.

  23. Zulqurnain Ahmad says:

    Presendtly I m using VPOP3 software to POP my email usign dial-up connections form my company domain which is hosted with ISP.

    After reasing this artilce I think I can try following setup:-

    Using "Mailenable" standard version which is fee but does not offer POP service, ofcouce this feature is availablei in their professional verion. AND then I can use POP3 service of windoes-2003 to POP my domain and other accounts.

    Pls give ur input in this regard if some one has done it in this manner or any other way. I have to test out all this setup but I could not stop myself for writing these lines.