How to add distribution group members in Exchange Online

This article explains the procedure to add members to distribution group using PowerShell in Exchange Online or Office 365. It also lists the steps to accomplish the same using ADManager Plus, a unified Active Directory, Office 365 and Exchange management and reporting tool, and explain why the PowerShell is a complex option.

Windows PowerShell

Steps to add members to a distribution list,

  • Ensure you have the necessary permissions to create distribution groups.
  • Get the values for all necessary attributes viz., Name of the distribution group, and Name of the member to be added.
  • Check if you have permission to configure all the attributes.
  • Create the script with these values, and execute it in the PowerShell window.

A sample PowerShell script to add member to distribution group in Exchange Online

Add-DistributionGroupMember -Identity "Marketing" -Member ""
Click to copy entire script

ADManager Plus

To add members to a Distribution group in Exchange Online:

  • Select the Modify Distribution Groups option from Group Management in Office 365 tab.
  • Select the desired Office 365 tenant, enter members' names or import the CSV file with the names of members, select all the groups to which the users have to be added to and removed from, and click Apply.


Add Members to Distribution Groups using ADManager Plus

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The PowerShell script mentioned above will add the user JohnS to the distribution group named Marketing. To bulk add members to a distribution list in Office 365, or add members to distribution groups from CSV, the script has to be modified by adding more parameters and functions, making it more complex.

Limitations of using PowerShell to Add Members to Distribution Groups in Office 365 or Exchange Online.

  • You will not be able to add members to groups if you do not have sufficient permission. With ADManager Plus, users privileges in native AD or Exchange doesn't have to be elevated, and they can be allowed to do this operation only in specific OUs or domains.
  • The Add-DistributionGroupMember cmdlet adds only one member at a time. ADManager Plus allows you to add members in single or bulk using the same option.
  • To bulk add members to distribution groups, or add multiple members from CSV, the script has to be modified. With ADManager Plus though, it is offered as a built-in option that's available by default.
  • You must know how to run the scripts from the PowerShell window. ADManager Plus is purely GUI-based, allowing you to perform all management and reporting actions with just mouse clicks from its web-based console.
  • Even a misplaced hyphen, a typo in the LDAP names or lack of sufficient permission to configure any of the attributes used in the script will lead to errors. As all actions in ADManager Plus are GUI-driven, there is no need to write scripts, eliminating the chances of errors.

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