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How to Track Inactive Distribution Lists by Last Email Received Time

Ever felt overwhelmed by a growing number of distribution lists in your Microsoft 365 environment? If these lists are left unused, they can create clutter, impact efficiency, and pose security risks in your organization. This guide provides a strategic approach to identify and manage inactive distribution lists, empowering you to optimize your email system for clarity, security, and flexibility.

Native Solution

Microsoft 365 Permission Required

High

Global Admin or Exchange Admin.

Option 1 Using Exchange Online Admin Center

  • Login to the Exchange Online admin center.
  • Navigate to Mail Flow»Message Trace.
  • Start a new message trace by giving the desired distribution list address in recipient field and wait for the search results to check the required data.
Using Exchange Online Admin Center

Option 2 Using Windows PowerShell

  • Connect to Exchange Online PowerShell using the below cmdlet.
  • Windows PowerShell Windows PowerShell
     Connect-ExchangeOnline -UserPrincipalName 
  • Run the below cmdlet to get a list of distribution groups in your Microsoft 365 environment.
  • Windows PowerShell Windows PowerShell
     Get-DistributionGroup
  • From the results, pick the required DL and then run the below cmdlet to check the emails received by that distribution group during the specified time.
  • Windows PowerShell Windows PowerShell
     Get-MessageTrace -RecipientAddress <EnterYourDL_EmailAddress> -StartDate "01/01/2024" -EndDate "01/31/2024"  
Using Windows PowerShell
  • As there is no direct PowerShell cmdlet for retrieving the inactivity of distribution list by last email received time, you can make use of the above workaround.
AdminDroid Solution
More than 150 reports are under free edition.

AdminDroid Permission Required

Any user with report access assigned by Super Admin.

StepsUsing AdminDroid

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  • Login to the AdminDroid Office 365 reporter.
  • Navigate to Inactive Distribution Group Mailboxes by Last Email Received report under Analytics»Email Analytics»Inactive Distribution Groups.
Using AdminDroid

Remove inactive distribution list mailboxes in Microsoft 365 by determining the date of last email sent to a distribution list.

inactive-distribution-by-internal-emails

Effortlessly audit inactive distribution lists in Microsoft 365!

Manage inactive distribution lists and optimize your email usage in real-time with AdminDroid's Exchange Online email analytics.

Witness the report in action using the

Important Tips

Retrieve Microsoft 365 distribution groups and their members to optimize communication, streamline email flow, and balance group memberships in your Entra ID environment.

Track Microsoft 365 group changes diligently to check who modified the group properties and address unauthorized changes promptly in your organization.

Find overall group mailbox email traffic to ensure that Microsoft 365 distribution lists remain up-to-date and useful for communication needs.

Exchange OnlineMonitor and Remove Stale Distribution Lists in Microsoft 365

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How to create a distribution list in Microsoft 365 admin center?

Distribution groups are essential for facilitating smooth email communication, encouraging collaboration, and simplifying interactions within organizations. Understanding their purpose empowers productive utilization. Creating a distribution list in your Microsoft 365 admin center is very simple.

Create a distribution group using Microsoft 365 admin center:

  • Open your Microsoft 365 admin center and navigate to Teams & groups.
  • Click on the 'Active teams and groups'.
  • Click on 'Distribution list' tab and add a distribution list to your tenant.
active-teams

Create a distribution group using PowerShell:

Connect to Exchange Online using your administrative credentials.

Connect-ExchangeOnline
To create a new distribution list, run the below cmdlet.

New-DistributionGroup -Name <YourDistributionGroupName> -Type 'Distribution'

Stay informed with AdminDroid's 'Distribution Groups' report, providing effortless visibility into all distribution lists created within your Office 365 environment.

distribution-groups

How to find and manage inactive distribution groups?

Inactive distribution lists can clutter systems and hinder message delivery. So, it is necessary to identify and remove them by tracking their last usage in your Microsoft 365 environment.

It will streamline communication, save resources, and enhance organizational adaptability. Also, there are several strategies that can help to find inactive distribution groups in Exchange Online.

Spotting stale distribution groups with message trace analysis:

  • Using Native Tools With Microsoft 365 message trace results, you can analyze email activity within a specific distribution list for up to 90 days. It will help you to identify the unused distribution lists that have not received any email in recent days and remove them if required.
  • Using Third-party Microsoft 365 Tools You can make use of a AdminDroid's Exchange Online reporting tool to easily export inactive distribution lists and take immediate action.

Picking inactive Distribution lists by analysing the Membership Dynamics:

  • Using Native Tools By examining Microsoft 365 membership trends, you will get static lists with no changes, suggesting inactivity, whereas dynamic lists may require further assessment despite low email volume.
  • Using Third-party Microsoft 365 Tools You can make use of a AdminDroid's Exchange Online monitoring tool to review the distribution group membership changes in your organization.

AdminDroid helps to find out the inactive distribution list by tracking the last email received time.

While M365 may not offer a direct solution, AdminDroid steps in to provide a seamless report to uncover and monitor exchange inactive distribution groups, ensuring streamlined and resource-efficient communication.

  • With this approach, you can effectively assess the usage activity and find the last time a distribution mailbox received an email and subsequently determine appropriate actions to be taken.
inactive-dl-by-last-email-received-time

Why should groups be used over distribution lists (DLs)?

While groups may offer robust collaboration features, the Microsoft 365 distribution lists (DLs) are still valuable for the below reasons.

  • Simplicity: Simplify your email communication by using DLs to send messages to multiple recipients at once, without the added complexities of group features.
  • Efficiency: For one-way communication, such as announcements or notifications, distribution lists remain a quick and efficient option.
  • Accessibility: DLs can be easily managed and utilized by users who may not require the advanced collaboration features offered by groups.
  • Flexibility: Distribution lists can be quickly set up and used for various communication needs without the need for additional configuration or setup.

How to find the owner of a distribution list?

Knowing the owner of a Microsoft 365 distribution list is crucial for managing access, updating membership, and resolving issues. Follow the below steps to find out the owner(s) of a distribution list in Exchange Online.

  • Login to the Exchange Online admin center.
  • Navigate to Recipients»Groups.
  • Click on the Distribution list tab and select the desired list.
  • In the "Members" section, you can see the owner of a distribution list.
distribution-groups-owner

Clear ownership empowers individuals to actively maintain access, membership, and overall functionality of the distribution list.

  • With AdminDroid, you can view the distribution group owners efficiently using the dedicated Microsoft 365 Group Owners report.
  • It provides details, such as owner email, group name, department, membership type, email address, job title, etc. You can utilize the 'group type' filter to view the data related to the distribution groups.
group-owners

With this approach, you can prevent the inactivity of distribution lists by currently maintaining the workflow of that list.

AdminDroid Exchange Online ReportingIdentify & manage inactive distribution lists for better efficiency!

AdminDroid Exchange Online auditing tool provides an all-encompassing solution for Microsoft 365 admins, by simplifying the identification and management of Exchange distribution lists. Say goodbye to long line PowerShell scripts!

Leverage AdminDroid's standout capabilities to identify inactive distribution lists in Microsoft 365

The Inactive Distribution Group Mailboxes by Last Email Received report under Analytics»Email Analytics»Inactive Distribution Groups section will reduce the need of multiple PowerShell commands and provide you with required solution directly in a single report.

A Quick Summary

Real-Time Alerting on Distribution List Modifications

Get Microsoft 365 alerts on distribution group member changes and take prompt actions on group membership modifications in your organization.

Export Distribution Group Members at a Click

Export your distribution group members list easily with a single click. Choose to send via email or download directly to your device.

Visualize Group Storage Trends

With the help of AdminDroid's charts and graphs, get interactive Microsoft 365 group usage trends for the required groups in the desired time interval.

Monitor Group Permissions Like a Pro

Assess Microsoft 365 group setting changes report to remove unnecessary modifications and avoid unwanted security issues in your organization.

Schedule Weekly DL Email Stats Automatically

Schedule distribution list reports collection to get data delivered directly into your inbox and gain regular updates to monitor the Microsoft 365 distribution group activity effectively.

Streamline DLs with Granular Delegation

With the granular delegation functionality, you can provide access to distribution group owners or Exchange admins to use & manage reports related to desired DLs alone using AdminDroid.

Thus, AdminDroid's Exchange Online management tool helps to eliminate the inactive distribution lists and track the Microsoft 365 email traffic seamlessly in your organization.

Kickstart Your Journey with AdminDroid

Your Microsoft 365 Companion with Enormous Reporting Capabilities!

Common Errors and Resolution Steps while getting started with the distribution lists

The following are the possible errors and troubleshooting hints while dealing with Microsoft 365 distribution lists.

Error: Invalid StartDate value. The StartDate can't be older than 10 days from today.

This error occurs when attempting to set a StartDate value that is older than 10 days from the current date in PowerShell. Exchange Online imposes this restriction to ensure data accuracy and consistency.

Troubleshooting hint :To resolve this issue, ensure that the StartDate value specified is within the permitted timeframe. If necessary, adjust the StartDate parameter to a date within the past 10 days. (You can use AdminDroid's Overall Group Email Traffic report as it stores data indefinitely and you can view it anytime).

Error: The operation couldn't be performed because object 'Distribution List GUID' couldn't be found.

Indicates an error due to an incorrect Exchange GUID for the distribution list.

Troubleshooting hint :Use Get-DistributionGroup cmdlet to retrieve the correct GUID for the distribution list before performing operations.

Error: Set-DistributionGroup : The group <Distribution Group Name> does not exist in the organization.

Occurs when trying to modify a non-existent distribution group.

Troubleshooting hint :Verify the accurate group name and ensure its existence before attempting modifications.

Error: Cannot disable the distribution group because it is the primary group for one or more users.

The distribution group cannot be disabled as it serves as the primary group for one or more mailboxes.

Troubleshooting hint :To resolve this issue, assign a different primary group to the affected mailboxes before attempting to disable the distribution group.

Error: The distribution group membership cannot be modified.

This error occurs when attempting to add or remove members from a distribution group that has been configured with restricted membership settings.

Troubleshooting hint :Check the group membership settings and verify if the group is configured to accept members from specific senders or if membership approval is required.