sa-update - automate SpamAssassin rule updates


sa-update [options]


--channel channel       Retrieve updates from this channel
                        Use multiple times for multiple channels
--channelfile file      Retrieve updates from the channels in the file
--checkonly             Check for update availability, do not install
--install file          Install updates directly from this file. Signature
                        verification will use "file.asc", or "file.sha512"
                        or "file.sha256".
--allowplugins          Allow updates to load plugin code (DANGEROUS)
--gpgkey key            Trust the key id to sign releases
                        Use multiple times for multiple keys
--gpgkeyfile file       Trust the key ids in the file to sign releases
--gpghomedir path       Store the GPG keyring in this directory
--gpg and --nogpg       Use (or do not use) GPG to verify updates
                        (--gpg is assumed by use of the above
                        --gpgkey and --gpgkeyfile options)
--import file           Import GPG key(s) from file into sa-update's
                        keyring. Use multiple times for multiple files
--updatedir path        Directory to place updates, defaults to the
                        SpamAssassin site rules directory
                        (default: /var/lib/spamassassin/4.000001)
--refreshmirrors        Force the MIRRORED.BY file to be updated
--forcemirror url       Use a specific mirror instead of downloading from
                        official mirrors
--httputil util         Force used download tool. By default first found
                        from these is used: curl, wget, fetch, lwp
--score-multiplier x.x  Adjust all scores from update channel, multiply
                        with given value (integer or float).
--score-limit x.x       Adjust all scores from update channel, limit
                        to given value (integer or float). Limiting
                        is done after possible multiply operation.
-D, --debug [area=n,...]  Print debugging messages
-v, --verbose           Be verbose, like print updated channel names;
                        For more verbosity specify multiple times
-V, --version           Print version
-h, --help              Print usage message
-4                      Force using the inet protocol (IPv4), not inet6
-6                      Force using the inet6 protocol (IPv6), not inet


sa-update automates the process of downloading and installing new rules and configuration, based on channels. The default channel is, which has updated rules since the previous release.

NOTE: channel names are domain names, but DO NOT typically have any DNS records other than (maybe) NS records. There is a tree of records below that name which denote the SpamAssassin version and resolve that name to the version number of the latest rules, e.g. to find the latest update version number for SpamAssassin v4.0.0:

$ host -t txt is an alias for descriptive text "1907730"

That also illuminates the fact that the current ruleset is supposed to be backward-compatible to v3.3.3.

Update archives are verified using GPG signatures by default. If GPG is disabled (not recommended), file integrity is checked with SHA512 or SHA256 checksums.

Note that sa-update will not restart spamd or otherwise cause a scanner to reload the now-updated ruleset automatically. Instead, sa-update is typically used in something like the following manner:

sa-update && /etc/init.d/spamassassin reload

This works because sa-update only returns an exit status of 0 if it has successfully downloaded and installed an updated ruleset.

The program sa-update uses the underlying operating system umask for the updated rule files it installs. You may wish to run sa-update from a script that sets the umask prior to calling sa-update. For example:

umask 022



sa-update can update multiple channels at the same time. By default, it will only access "", but more channels can be specified via this option. If there are multiple additional channels, use the option multiple times, once per channel. i.e.:

sa-update --channel --channel

Similar to the --channel option, except specify the additional channels in a file instead of on the commandline. This is useful when there are a lot of additional channels.


Only check if an update is available, don't actually download and install it. The exit code will be 0 or 1 as described below.


Install updates "offline", from the named tar.gz file, instead of performing DNS lookups and HTTP invocations.

Files named file.asc, file.sha512, or file.sha256 will be used for GPG signature, and the SHA256 and SHA512 checksums, respectively. The filename provided must contain a version number of at least 3 digits, which will be used as the channel's update version number.

Multiple --channel switches cannot be used with --install. To install multiple channels from tarballs, run sa-update multiple times with different --channel and --install switches, e.g.:

sa-update --channel --install foo-34958.tgz
sa-update --channel --install bar-938455.tgz

Allow downloaded updates to activate plugins. The default is not to activate plugins; any loadplugin or tryplugin lines will be commented in the downloaded update rules files.

You should never enable this for 3rd party update channels, since plugins can execute unrestricted code on your system, even possibly as root! This includes spamassassin official updates, which have no need to include running code.

Use --reallyallowplugins option to bypass warnings and make it work.

--gpg, --nogpg

sa-update by default will verify update archives by use of GPG signature.

If you wish to skip GPG verification (very unsafe), you can use the --nogpg option to disable its use. Use of the following gpgkey-related options will override --nogpg and keep GPG verification enabled.

If GPG is disabled, only SHA512 or SHA256 checksums are used to verify whether or not the downloaded archive has been corrupted, but it does not offer any form of security regarding whether or not the downloaded archive is legitimate (aka: non-modifed by evildoers).

Note: Only GnuPG is supported (ie: not any other PGP software).


sa-update has the concept of "release trusted" GPG keys. When an archive is downloaded and the signature verified, sa-update requires that the signature be from one of these "release trusted" keys or else verification fails. This prevents third parties from manipulating the files on a mirror, for instance, and signing with their own key.

By default, sa-update trusts key ids 24F434CE and 5244EC45, which are the standard SpamAssassin release key and its sub-key. Use this option to trust additional keys. See the --import option for how to add keys to sa-update's keyring. For sa-update to use a key it must be in sa-update's keyring and trusted.

For multiple keys, use the option multiple times. i.e.:

sa-update --gpgkey E580B363 --gpgkey 298BC7D0

Note: use of this option automatically enables GPG verification.


Similar to the --gpgkey option, except specify the additional keys in a file instead of on the commandline. This is extremely useful when there are a lot of additional keys that you wish to trust.


Specify a directory path to use as a storage area for the sa-update GPG keyring. By default, this is


Use to import GPG key(s) from a file into the sa-update keyring which is located in the directory specified by --gpghomedir. Before using channels from third party sources, you should use this option to import the GPG key(s) used by those channels. You must still use the --gpgkey or --gpgkeyfile options above to get sa-update to trust imported keys.

To import multiple keys, use the option multiple times. i.e.:

sa-update --import channel1-GPG.KEY --import channel2-GPG.KEY

Note: use of this option automatically enables GPG verification.


Force the list of sa-update mirrors for each channel, stored in the MIRRORED.BY file, to be updated. By default, the MIRRORED.BY file will be cached for up to 7 days after each time it is downloaded.


Force the download from a specific host instead of relying on mirrors listed in MIRRORED.BY.


By default, sa-update will use the system-wide rules update directory:


If the updates should be stored in another location, specify it here.

Note that use of this option is not recommended; if you're just using sa-update to download updated rulesets for a scanner, and sa-update is placing updates in the wrong directory, you probably need to rebuild SpamAssassin with different Makefile.PL arguments, instead of overriding sa-update's runtime behaviour.

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

Produce debugging output. If no areas are listed, all debugging information is printed. Diagnostic output can also be enabled for each area individually; area is the area of the code to instrument. For example, to produce diagnostic output on channel, gpg, and http, use:

sa-update -D channel,gpg,http

For more information about which areas (also known as channels) are available, please see the documentation at

-h, --help

Print help message and exit.

-V, --version

Print sa-update version and exit.


In absence of a --checkonly option, an exit code of 0 means: an update was available, and was downloaded and installed successfully. If --checkonly was specified, an exit code of 0 means: an update was available.

An exit code of 1 means no fresh updates were available.

An exit code of 2 means that at least one update is available but that a lint check of the site pre files failed. The site pre files must pass a lint check before any updates are attempted.

An exit code of 3 means that at least one update succeeded while other channels failed. If using sa-compile, you should proceed with it.

An exit code of 4 or higher, indicates that errors occurred while attempting to download and extract updates, and no channels were updated.


Mail::SpamAssassin(3) Mail::SpamAssassin::Conf(3) spamassassin(1) spamd(1) <>




See <>


The Apache SpamAssassin(tm) Project <>


SpamAssassin is distributed under the Apache License, Version 2.0, as described in the file LICENSE included with the distribution.

Copyright (C) 2015 The Apache Software Foundation