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Sending automatic responses from a distribution group with Exchange 2010

You have an email address (for example, contact-us@your.domain.com) that you want delivered to a several people. Normally, just making that address a distribution group would be sufficient, but you also want everyone who sends a message to that group to get an automatic response (e.g. “Thanks for contacting us”, “Have you tried out online support”, etc.).  Since distribution groups don’t have automatic reply settings in Exchange, it’s going to take a bit more than a simple distribution group to do that.


  1. Create a new mailbox with the address you want to use (I used “autoreplytest@domain.com” for the purpose of this post).
  2. Configure Outlook for this new mailbox and make sure that mail is working normally for the new user
  3. Create a new distribution group (I used “autoreplytest-real”) and populate it with the list of users who you actually want to receive messages sent to the address in step 1
  4. Open up Outlook for the target address, click on the  File tab, then “Manage Rules & Alerts”.
  5. Click the “New Rule” button at the top of the window.
  6. Select “Apply rule on message I receive” and click Next.
  7. The next step wants to limit which messages the rule applies to.  Since it should apply to pretty much everything, just click Next.
  8. Outlook assumes you don’t really want to reply to every email you get, so it asks you if your sure you want to do this. Just click Yes.
  9. The next step is specify what should actually happen when a new message comes. First check “Forward it to people or public group”. click the “people or public group” link the bottom frame and either select your distribution group from the GAL or type in the recipient address.
  10. On that same step, click “have server reply using a specific message”.
  11. Click the “a specific message” link the bottom pane to open a window to compose the response that should be sent.  You can leave the To and CC fields blank unless you want to have the automatic response be sent to another address in addition to the original sender. Click the “Save & Close” button to return to the Rules Wizard
  12. Your rule should now look something like the image below; just click Next.
  13. The next step is optional; I added an exception to exclude messages from the address I’m creating this rule on to prevent a potential auto-reply loop. You could also add exclusions to prevent replies to your own domain, etc.
  14. Finally name your rule and click “Finish” to return to list of rules and alerts.
  15. Click “OK” to return to Outlook.
  16. At this point, you should be able to send a message to the target mailbox, have that message forwarded to your distribution group, and have the original sender receive your auto-response as well. 

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