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Summary: Microsoft 365 Groups and Distribution Lists offer similar functionalities, but Microsoft 365 Groups provide additional features. Microsoft 365 Groups include shared mailboxes and calendars, enhancing communication and collaboration. This article outlines the differences between the two and explains how to create and manage them. It also discusses the advantages of migrating from Distribution Lists to Microsoft 365 Groups and emphasizes the importance of data backup using tools like Kernel Office 365 Backup & Restore.

Office 365 Groups and Distribution Lists offer comparable functionalities, yet Microsoft 365 Groups provide a broader range of features. Dive into this blog for deeper insights. In the realm of on-premises Exchange Server, there exist distinct group types, including:

  • Distribution lists
  • Security groups

Similarly, within Microsoft 365, there are distribution lists, as well as Microsoft Groups (formerly Office 365 Groups). To distinguish between these two, it’s important to note that Microsoft 365 Groups include shared mailboxes and calendars, allowing emails to be distributed to list members and stored in a separate mailbox. Additionally, users can utilize the calendar feature for scheduling meetings and events.

Microsoft 365 Groups

Microsoft 365 Groups is a cross-application service that is an object in Azure Active Directory. This is a list of members connected for work with common facilities, including a SharePoint team site, Planner, and OneNote notebook.

How to create Microsoft 365 Group?

Microsoft 365 Groups can be created either by administrators or end-users manually. Administrators have the option to create Groups in the Exchange Admin Center, Office 365 Admin Center, or through PowerShell.
End-users can create Groups in various versions of Outlook by following these steps:

  • In Outlook, go to Home.
  • Click on the New Group.
  • Next, add group information and click Create.

Applications such as SharePoint Online, Teams, Planner, and Yammer can also create Microsoft 365 Groups.

Distribution Lists

Distribution lists are called by different names – Outlook Distribution Lists, Distribution Groups, and Contact Groups. This is used to send a group email without manually entering their email address. Great for big firms and organizations in managing communications.

How to create a Distribution List?

To create an Outlook Distribution list, follow the steps given below-

  • In Outlook, go to the People tab in the folder pane.
  • A new window will appear; go to My contacts.
  • Now go to New Contact Group and name your contact group.
  • Click on Add Members to add people to the contact list.
  • After that, click on Save & Close.
Microsoft 365 Groups Vs. Distribution Lists

The difference between Microsoft 365 Groups and Distribution Lists can be understood based on the following parameters-

  1. Services
    • Microsoft 365 Groups send emails to all group members and integrates with Yammer, Team, Planner, SharePoint OneNote, and PowerBI.
    • The Distribution List is only used to send emails to all members of the Group.
  2. Management
    • Microsoft 365 Groups can be managed using PowerShell cmdlets and Exchange admin center.
    • Distribution Lists can be managed using PowerShell cmdlets and Exchange admin center.
  3. Shared Inbox
    • Microsoft 365 Groups support shared inbox.
    • In the Distribution List, emails are only shared with members.
  4. Dynamic membership
    • Microsoft 365 Group requires an Azure AD premium subscription.
    • The Distribution List only works with a dynamic distribution group.
  5. Document Library
    • In Microsoft 365 Group, the document library is automatically set up in SharePoint.
    • A Distribution List doesn’t have a document library.
  6. Restoration after deletion
    • Microsoft 365 Group can be recovered within 30 days after deletion.
    • The Distribution List cannot be recovered.
  7. Shared Calendar
    • Supported in Microsoft 365 Group.
    • Not supported in the Distribution List.
  8. License
    • A free AAD subscription is enough.
    • Any AAD subscription will work.
  9. Additional Sharing Options
    • Microsoft 365 group has an option for additional sharing options like OneDrive, SharePoint, and OneNote notebook.
    • There is no such additional sharing option in the Distribution list.
Migrate Distribution Lists to Office 365 Groups

Office 365 Groups and Distribution Lists serve as means to send emails to groups of people. However, Office 365 Groups offer enhanced collaboration features compared to distribution lists. To transition to Microsoft 365 Groups, users can efficiently migrate the Distribution List by creating new Groups for each distribution list and adding associated email addresses. When moving data, including Distribution Lists, from on-premises Exchange Server to Office 365, it’s advisable to back up the data using a reliable tool like Kernel Office 365 Backup & Restore.


We trust that you’ve found this blog both informative and helpful in understanding the utility of Distribution Lists and Office 365 Groups for Office 365 users. Furthermore, the migration of Distribution Lists to Office 365 Groups can enhance your collaboration capabilities. Stay connected with our blog for more insightful content and updates about our products and services.