Note: This page is under construction and shouldn't be considered "complete". If there are any questions, etc, please feel free to contact the users at list for more information.

Notes / FAQ

  • Currently, for 3.1.1+ and 3.2.0, to use any channel for updates requires that also be used. This is because once the update directory exists, the SpamAssassin modules expect to find all rules in that directory.
    Can plugins be distributed via updates/channels?

    After sa-update completes, do I have to move the files somewhere for them to be used?

    Should I use "--updatedir" to put updates in the default rules directory (ie: /usr/share/spamassassin), or the site rules directory (ie: /etc/mail/spamassassin)?

    If I use "--updatedir" to install an update in a subdirectory of my site rules directory (ie: /etc/mail/spamassassin), a number of my local settings (typically set via no longer function. Why?

    What do I need to do with-respect-to sa-update after a SpamAssassin upgrade?

    After upgrading SpamAssassin several times, there are a number of directories .../3.001001, .../3.001002, .../3.001003, etc. What should I do with them?

    How often should I run sa-update?

    After sa-update was used, the report contact setting becomes @@.

    Can I use sa-update as non-root too?

    What if I need update requests to go through a proxy server?

For more information about how to use sa-update and how it works, please read below.

Using sa-update

What is sa-update?

The goal of sa-update is to download new configuration files (rules, scores, etc,) so that SpamAssassin will use them to better catch spam and/or to avoid catching ham messages. The main reason to use sa-update is that the old method of disseminating rules, releasing a new version SpamAssassin, is a lengthy process that can take many months. Spam is rapidly changing, and new rules are often written in response. With sa-update, those rules can quickly (potentially within minutes) be distributed and the new spam caught.

Simply put, sa-update allows rules to be distributed as they are developed, while full SpamAssassin releases can focus on bug fixes and new features.


Simply put, channels are locations where sa-update can download rule and configuration files. By default, sa-update will use the channel to receive official updates from the SpamAssassin project, but anyone can create a channel and publish updates. By default, sa-update (and spamassassin) expect to find updates in the /var/lib/spamassassin/<spamassassin version> directory, which will have each channel in its own directory underneath. Each channel will also have a channel cf file and (optionally) a channel pre file to load the update's configurations in the update's parent directory. For example:

`-- 3.001004
    |-- updates_spamassassin_org

Shows the channel available for SpamAssassin 3.1.4, underneath the /var/lib/spamassassin directory.

For more information about what makes up a channel and how it all works together, please see the Publishing channels for sa-update section below.

NOTE: Once the /var/lib/spamassassin/<spamassassin version> directory exists, spamassassin expects to find all rules underneath that directory, so make sure that the first time you run sa-update it completes successfully (see below for information about running in debug mode).

sa-update commandline

sa-update has several parameters that can be passed via the commandline.

Channel / Location Related

--updatedir <path>:: sa-update by default places updates in the /var/lib/spamassassin/<spamassassin version> directory. If updates should go into a different directory, specify it via this option.

--channel <channel>:: sa-update by default only uses the channel for updates. If other channels should be used, specify it with this option. For multiple channels, specify this option multiple times. ie:

 sa-update --channel --channel 

--channelfile <file>:: If multiple channels are going to be used at once, it may be easier to write the channels to a file, and then use this option to point to that file. ie:

$ rm -f channels ; touch channels
$ echo >> channels
$ echo >> channels
$ sa-update --channelfile channels







--install <filename>


GPG Related

--(no)gpg:: By default, sa-update will require the use of GPG signatures to verify that downloaded updates are in fact legitimate. However, there may be channels which do not publish GPG signatures, or the system may not have GPG installed. In these situations, specify the


option to disable the use of GPG. Note: By using the --gpgkey or --gpgkeyfile options as shown below, --gpg is automatically enabled.

--gpghomedir <path>:: sa-update tries to keep its keys separate from the user's keys by using a different directory for the keyrings (passed to gpg via its --homedir option). By default, the location is /etc/mail/spamassassin/sa-update-keys. If a different location is desired, use this option to specify it.

--gpgkey <key id>:: Specify which GPG key ids should be trusted to sign update packages. If there are multiple keys, use this option multiple times to list them. Generally it's safer to specify the whole key fingerprint, but it is more common to see simply the last 8 hex digits used. ie:

 sa-update --gpgkey 26C900A46DD40CD5AD24F6D7DEE01987265FA05B --gpgkey 5244EC45 

--gpgkeyfile <file>:: Similar to channelfile, if there are multiple keys to be trusted, it may be easier to specify them in a file and then use this option to point sa-update at the file. ie:

$ rm -f gpgkeys ; touch gpgkeys
$ echo 26C900A46DD40CD5AD24F6D7DEE01987265FA05B >> gpgkeys
$ echo 5244EC45 >> gpgkeys
$ sa-update --gpgkeyfile gpgkeys

--import <file>



-D, --debug [area=n,...]


-V, --version


-v, --verbose


-h, --help


More information is available via the POD/man page for sa-update.


sa-update && service spamassassin restart

This is potentially the most simple example of using sa-update. It will see if an update is available, and download the update and lint-test it as necessary. If there was an update and no problems were detected, sa-update returns 0 and the

 service spamassassin restart 

command is run (used on Linux machines to restart the spamassassin service (spamd)).

sa-update -D

If there is a problem with doing updates, or just some curiousity about what is happening, run sa-update in debug mode and it will show you what it is doing step-by-step.

sa-update -D --updatedir /tmp/updates

To perform updates without attempting to put the files into the system-wide location (either for users or to test, etc,) use the --updatedir option to aim at a different directory for which to put the updates.

Installed Updates

When updates are downloaded, they are put into a directory under the local state dir (default /var/lib/spamassassin/<spamassassin version>) similar to:

`-- 3.001004
    |-- updates_spamassassin_org

The files from the update go into updates_spamassassin_org, and the *.cf files are then included by, which also keeps track of what update version is installed. Therefore, if it is desired to change the update directory, the .cf and the update directory will exist there.

Publishing channels for sa-update

See PublishingRuleUpdates.

SARE Channels

Unfortunately the SARE ruleset has been discontinued in 2009. (Historical details of various channels from SARE can be seen at SareChannels)

The Backend

Details of the rule-update generation backend at can be read at SaUpdateBackend.

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