I had this error appear almost on every reboot in my /var/log/mail.err file. Rather frustrating considering reboots are so infrequent that I would forget that dovecot failed to start and troubleshoot anew IMAP access failure. Well last time this happened I decided to fix the root cause and below is the solution.
As per dovecot wiki this error can appear on some VPS hosts. Resolving this is relatively easy but it's not obvious, the solution consists of installing NTP - Network Time Protocol daemon which keep your time correct and synchronized and then delaying the execution of dovecot service until ntpd service is loaded.
Install the ntp package:
# aptitude update Get:1 http://security.debian.org squeeze/updates Release.gpg [836 B] ... # aptitude install ntp
By default dovecot startup script does not require the ntp servicet before it starts, so we must modify it that it waits for the ntp before it starts itself. Edit the /etc/init.d/dovecot startup script and add 'ntp' to the end of '# Required-Start' line like so:
# nano /etc/init.d/dovecot ... # Required-Start: $local_fs $remote_fs $network $syslog $time ntp ...
Delete and re-add the start up script which will place in its proper order in the startup sequence (thanks Linode for help with this):
# insserv -r dovecot # insserv dovecot
Reboot your system and verify that dovecot is indeed running:
root@shared-hosting-1:~# ps aux | grep dovecot root 2208 0.0 0.1 3996 796 ? Ss 23:51 0:00 /usr/sbin/dovecot -c /etc/dovecot/dovecot.conf root 2213 0.0 0.4 10072 2508 ? S 23:51 0:00 dovecot-auth root 2221 0.0 0.5 10264 2668 ? S 23:51 0:00 dovecot-auth -w dovecot 2234 0.0 0.4 5604 2200 ? S 23:51 0:00 imap-login dovecot 2235 0.0 0.3 5464 1940 ? S 23:51 0:00 imap-login dovecot 2236 0.0 0.3 5464 1940 ? S 23:51 0:00 imap-login dovecot 2246 0.0 0.3 5464 1936 ? S 23:53 0:00 imap-login root 2307 0.0 0.1 3356 740 pts/0 R+ 23:54 0:00 grep dovecot
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