Run Discourse without email?

I like Discourse but recently ran into some issues. My hosting company and Discourse maintainer said that Discourse could not run without mailer support. It took about a month to get everything setup. That host and company are no longer in service and I have to setup a new install somewhere with a backup.

I did a surface level search through the forums to see if Discourse needs a mailer to run and I couldn’t find anything specifically.

Does Discourse need mail support or can I run it without?

I’m going to make a controversial statement. It was so much work (for me) to get Discourse setup with email support that I dread doing it again. I do not want to do it. Not Discourse itself but the finding mail providers, signing up, sending mailer details to installer, waiting for records to propagate, having mail provider get bought out, finding another mailer, sending mailer details to install, redoing with new mailer, etc. That part took a month in addition to the install.

My users do not need mail support. I do not need it. I do not want it. If me or my users are waiting on a reply to a thread they can refresh the page or use browser notifications. I do not want it!

I do not like email spam
I do not like them Sam-I-am
I do not like them here or there
I do not like them anywhere
I will not read them in my house
I will not click them with my mouse
I will not read from my inbox
I will not read from Firefox
I do not want mail here or there
I do not want mail anywhere

Please note I do like email notifications - I do not like the mail setup. Also, I need to get my forum back online again quickly and I see this part as something that can be disabled, delayed or deferred for now. I’m happy to report back feedback from my users as well.


It’s that hard to config the email? Have your follow the official install instruction and try the recommended providers?

Email is central to identity at Discourse and the web at large.

If you configured the site so

  1. You can only login via Google / Facebook
  2. You disable local logins
  3. You disable all email notifications.

You could have a site that functions ok without access to any email server.


Thinking out loud.

When I wrote server side code more often there were mail API’s that would send out mail. My hosting company (of the main site) also allows sending mail via PHP through Wordpress. The only requirement is that a mail account that is used to send mail be setup on the server. They didn’t want you to send out a lot of mail but they didn’t prevent it. I’ve written mailers (legit mailers) in PHP and ASP (a long time ago).

Could that tech be used for new user registration and lost password emails? I’m guessing it’s too interconnected.

Again, I like Discourse and the mail features, just not the mail setup required by other companies.

If only Discourse had mailer service…

Hi @hawm, I did not do my own Discourse install. I paid someone with installer experience to do the set it up and followed their guidance.

I have done the mail setup steps that the installer required at the time. Setting up mailer provider accounts took the longest with multiple multi-day steps. I don’t want to do it again.

I would pay someone else to do it but I can’t. I have to do it because I have to modify my mx records and create accounts and confirm through my own email, etc. Not complaining but it’s more mental bandwidth than I have right now.

Really? You don’t even need email to bootstrap the admin account?

You would need to do that via the console, it would be a very tricky job, but doable I guess.


So, FWIW, while I fought with the email setup myself, I ended up editing the Ruby code in the container to output the mail msg that was to be sent to the administrator. It contained the activation URL. Why not print the activation URL to the container’s standard output? This way a person who didn’t have a working email setup could actually get past the activation step.

Arguably, having an email-less version of Discourse would expand its applicability.


An admin can use Create Admin Account from Console to bypass the email need.