How to convert a distribution list to a mailbox

Updated April 17, 2017

The difference between a mailbox and a distribution list is that a distribution list can contain several different e-mail addresses -- with different suffixes, such as .gmail or .hotmail -- to various accounts; conversely, a mailbox is the collection point for a number of e-mail addresses using the same suffix, such as You use a distribution to send e-mails to groups of people with different e-mail addresses while a mailbox uses a default e-mail address for the main mailbox, which people can share.

Create a new mailbox. Within your e-mail client, set up a mailbox using the instructions provided with your e-mail software. The mailbox will use the domain name of your e-mail system, that is, the one you usually use by default, such as, or a new mailbox associated with your hosting provider.

Create a new e-mail address in the new mailbox for every member of the distribution list using alias names. An alias name is the prefix part of an e-mail address if your mailbox supports it and can be anything, such as or The end result is that any messages sent to these e-mail addresses will ultimately arrive in the main mailbox for the real, primary account.

Provide all users of your distribution list with login information for the new e-mail account, and provide settings for doing so. In this way, all members of the mailbox will be able to see all the messages previously posted. In addition, provide each member with her own unique alias id to use when sending messages to the mailbox, such as, so that everyone can see that a posting has come from member "fran."

Send messages to everyone in the mailbox with a single e-mail address such as when there is a need to message everyone in the new mailbox list. This avoids the need to set up a new e-mail distribution list, and when valid users login to the mailbox, they will get the message. Often this is done via their own e-mail clients.


When using alias names, ensure they match up or can be cross-referenced in some way to the original e-mail address. The use of a new mailbox address does not mean that users lose their old e-mail address or need to stop using it. They can still use their old e-mail address and carbon copy the new mailbox address when sending messages related to the new mailbox group. In a situation where everyone is sharing a mailbox, as is the case here, it is recommended to use the IMAP protocol rather than POP as all of the messages will be accessible on a central server.

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About the Author

Andy Carr has been an I.T. and business writer since 2006, after an 18-year career in information technology. Carr writes mainly about technology but is not averse to other topics. His articles have appeared in the "Yorkshire Magazine" and on websites such as He holds a Bachelor of Science from Leeds Metropolitan University.