Mutt on Cygwin

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The Cygwin tools are ports of the popular GNU development tools for Microsoft Windows. They run thanks to the Cygwin library which provides the UNIX system calls and environment these programs expect.

Since February 2001 there is a maintained package of Mutt for Cygwin, with both sources and binaries. It is available in the 'contrib' directory of all mirrors of the Cygwin ftp site.

If you have not installed Cygwin already read the Installations Instructions in the Cygwin FAQ first. The actual installation is then as easy as to download and run

Click the "View" button til you have the category view. You will find Mutt in the "Mail" category. When you tag Mutt for installation all packages that Mutt relies on will also be selected automatically (but they will not be unselected if you unselect mutt).

If you rather do the setup by hand (download and extract the files) there is a setup.hint file in each directory of a cygwin package to tell you (or setup.exe) what other packages are needed. Manual installation is not recommended nor supported by the Cygwin community.

After installation you should, among others, have:
as well as the full manuals. Like for most other Unix programs you read the manual by typing:


All pre-compiled Cygwin packages come with a README file in the /usr/doc/Cygwin/ directory if there are any Cygwin specific comments on the port or how to use it.

There is no difference setting Mutt up for Cygwin or for Unix. If you are not happy with the default settings you can alter them either system wide, for all users, or personally, for you alone. The system wide configuration file is named /etc/Muttrc. Your personal muttrc is located in your home directory where you may choose to name it either ~/.muttrc or ~/.mutt/muttrc.

The muttrc configuration file is described in 'man muttrc', and discussed in the manual. (Section 3: Configuration, Section 6.2: Configuration Commands, and Section 6.3: Configuration variables)

Some good lines to add to your personal .muttrc are realname, from, and alternates. You should also tell where your mails are stored by setting spoolfile, folder, mbox, and record. Also look at variables such as imap_user, pop_user and pop_host if you have an Imap or Pop account. This should be enough to let you use Mutt, but most everything is configurable if you wish.

   set realname = "Ulf Erikson"
   set from = ""
   # set alternates = 'user@(first|second)\.org'

   set spoolfile = "~/Mail/inbox"
   set folder = "~/Mail"
   set mbox = "+received"
   set record = "+sent"

   set pop_host = ""
   set pop_user = "ulferikson"
   # set pop_pass = ""

   set sendmail = "/usr/sbin/ssmtp.exe"

Easiest way to write your first fully configuring muttrc is by using the automated rc-builder. After that, look at others rc files to see what more is possible to do.

Common operation is described in the manual. (Section 2: Getting Started)


Earlier one needed all kinds of tricks and patches to compile Mutt for Cygwin. But, now, with a somewhat recent version of the Cygwin tools, Mutt compiles right away without any patches.

First take a look at files like README and INSTALL. Then run ./configure --help and see what compile options you need (maybe that could be --prefix=/usr and --with-homespool). After that all what is missing is
     ./configure (with your options)
     make install

There are a few Cygwin specific patches though:

  • One issue is the problem with DOS text files. For a text mounted directory the number of characters returned when reading afile differ from the file size. Mounting all directories in binary mode is the easiest way around this, but then also all configuration files need to be written with Unix style line endings (which isn't a real problem, but not what everyone wants. hence the patches).
  • Another problem is limitations in the underlying file system. Not FAT nor NTFS allow a colon ':' in filenames, which is required for Maildirs.
  • Also, with FAT, the time of last editing for each file is only remembered with two seconds accuracy. This can give "update encoding"-nags.
Use the patches if any of these problems bites you.


Site map
> Mutt on Cygwin
   o   ssmtp
   o   fetchmail
   o   procmail
   o   pgp/gpg
   o   exim
   Mutt on Windows
   Mutt on DOS

Created on March 10, 2001.
Last modified on May 18, 2002.