Migrate Distribution Lists to Microsoft 365 Groups in Outlook

Megha Sharma | Updated On - 30 Dec 2020 |

Read time 5 min

Migrating your organization distribution lists to Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook is primarily done to inhibit its features and functionality. Some feasible methods are available to move distribution groups to Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook like through Microsoft 365 options or PowerShell cmdlets.

With the continuous updates in Microsoft 365, a new feature has been included i.e. Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook which is far better and powerful solution for collaboration of groups. While saving the primary mailbox in free Office 365 backup, the Administrator can also save data in Groups.

Microsoft 365 group in Outlook allows you to select a group of people for communication and provides a set of collected resources to share among them. Provision of automatic permissions for the resources is facilitated. The resources and features that Microsoft 365 group provides to members of the group are Shared inbox, Shared files library, Shared calendar, Shared OneNote notebook, Guest access, Content is discoverable, Self-Service creation, etc. Read more about why moving to Microsoft groups in Outlook.

Only cloud-managed and un-nested Distribution Lists can be upgraded to Microsoft 365 groups.

You cannot upgrade a Distributions List – managed On-premises, including alias with special characters, including members without owner, including >100 owners, with configured as a forwarding address for shared mailbox, including Sender Restriction in another DL, a security group, having member RecipientTypeDetails (apart from MailUser, UserMailbox, SharedMailbox, TeamMailbox), having child groups, etc.

Perform Yourself

To migrate Distributions Lists to Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook, you can either use the options available in Microsoft 365 interface or execute the PowerShell commands for direct migration.

Let us start with the methods one after another.

Migrating Distributions Lists to Office 365 Groups in Outlook Using Microsoft 365 Features

Before starting, the person who is performing the procedure must have global administrator rights for Microsoft 365 or be an Exchange admin.

Now, follow the given steps to migrate one or multiple Distribution Lists to Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook.

  1. Login to your Microsoft 365 account as global administrator. Go to Admin Center and select Exchange.
    Login to Microsoft 365 account as global administrator
  2. Now, in the opened Exchange Admin Center, go to Recipients and then click Groups.
    A notice appears saying that eligible distribution lists or groups are available to upgrade to Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook. Click Get Started to continue.
    Open Exchange Admin Center
  3. Now, from the Distribution Lists, select the lists you want to upgrade and move to Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook.
  4. After selection, click the Start Upgrade icon.
    upgrade Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook
  5. In the appeared information dialogue box, click OK to confirm the upgrade. The upgrade process starts from there. The process will take time as per the number and size of distribution lists for upgrade.
    confirm the upgrade

    Note: Use Available for upgrade and Upgraded DLs to analyze the status of the upgraded and available for upgrade Distribution lists.

Migrating Distributions Lists to Microsoft 365 Groups in Outlook Using PowerShell

Using PowerShell, you can migrate single as well as multiple Distribution Lists, but the cmdlets are different for each operation. For that first you need to connect Exchange Online to Windows PowerShell manually. Then run these commands in the Exchange Online PowerShell.

To migrate a single Distribution List, run the following cmdlet

Upgrade-DistributionGroup –DlIdentities <Dl SMTP address>

At the place of <Dl SMTP address>, provide the SMTP address of your Distribution List

To migrate multiple Distribution Lists, run this cmdlet.

Upgrade-DistributionGroup –DlIdentities <DL SMTP address1>, < DL SMTP address2>, < DL SMTP address3>, ………

At the place of <DL SMTP address1>, < DL SMTP address2>, < DL SMTP address3>, provide the SMTP respective addresses of your Distribution Lists.

To migrate all eligible Distribution Lists, run any of the following commands.

To get the eligible DLs in the tenant and upgrade them, run the following command –

Get-EligibleDistributionGroup | Upgrade-DistributionGroup

To get the list of all DLs and upgrade the eligible DLs, run this command

Get-DistribtuionGroup | Upgrade-DistributionGroup

Additional Help for Users – Find and Delete Empty Distribution Lists from Microsoft 365 Account

After connecting to Exchange Online PowerShell, Microsoft 365 users can run certain cmdlets to list out all the empty distribution lists in the account and delete it further using another cmdlet. Here are these cmdlets.

To find out all empty distribution lists, run this cmdlet.

get-distributiongroup |? {!(get-distributiongroupmember $_.PrimarySMTPAddress).count}

This cmdlet execution would list out all the empty distribution lists. If you want to delete each of these lists, then we suggest you to run this command.

get-distributiongroup |? {!(get-distributiongroupmember $_.PrimarySMTPAddress).count} | Remove-DistributionGroup –Confirm:$false

Now, you don’t have any empty distribution list in your account.

Keep following our blogs to seek all sorts of help regarding the cloud environment – Microsoft 365.


Users can make well use of Microsoft 365 feature to upgrade the distribution lists to Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook. It is easy to perform this by using in-built features in the user interface of Microsoft 365. Or, users have the privilege to do this using PowerShell cmdlets. Both methods are feasible, and they can use any to perform the upgrade process.