Forum Article

Send a group email in Windows Live Mail 2012

Technical Level : Basic


Windows Live Mail allows for creating categories of contacts, which can then be used as distribution lists for group email. The 'send to a category' function is broken in Windows Live Mail 2012, but this article describes a workaround.

Keywords: category, 'contact group', 'group email', 'contact folder', 'distribution list'


After creating a category and adding some contacts to it, it should be possible to address a message to the category and expect it to be sent to all of the members of the category. This works as designed in Windows Live Mail 2009 and 2011, but it is unreliable in Windows Live Mail 2012. The message may be sent to all of the members, but in many cases it will only be sent to some of them or indeed to none at all. The procedure described here has proved to be a reliable workaround. It's wise to ensure that the category is complete before using it to address a message.

The screenshots show windows with the ribbon hidden and reduced in size to emphasize the elements that matter.

  1. In the message compose window, click the To... button:

    A dialogue headed Send an Email opens:

  2. Select a category and then one of the To->, Cc-> or Bcc-> buttons; the category name will be displayed in the corresponding field:

  3. Click on the "+" beside the category name:

    All the names in the category should be displayed in the entry field:

  4. Click OK:

    The dialogue will close, returning focus to the message compose window with a fully-populated address list in the appropriate field.

The key element in this process appears to be the round-trip through the Send an email dialogue. 

Additional refinements

The reason why categories sometimes appear to be incomplete has not been identified, but one user has suggested that calling the up contacts list by simply reading or starting a new message while the contacts list is still loading on start-up may cause the program to use an incompletely-cached contacts list. Here's a suggestion that may avoid the problem:

  • Close down Windows Live Mail and wait a few minutes.
  • Right-click on the shortcut used to launch the program (or create a new one) and select Properties.
  • In the Target box, add a space and then /startcontacts to the end of what is already there. It should end up looking something like this:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Live\Mail\wlmail.exe" /startcontacts

Using this shortcut will launch the program with the contacts window active. Once the list has loaded fully and you're satisfied that it's complete, it should be safe to switch to the mail window (Ctrl-1) and start work.

Another refinement which might explain why only some users have this problem in Windows Live Mail 2012:

  • Press Ctrl-Shift-O for Options.  
  • On the General tab, deselect Send and receive messages at start-up and ensure that Check for new messages every ... is set to at least 10 minutes.

This will ensure that there's no conflict between any sign-in to Windows Live Contacts and to the mail server using the same credentials. Again, if the explanation given above is the true one, it should be safe to poll for new messages (press F5 or click Send/Receive) after switching to the mail window (Ctrl-1) once the contacts list is completely loaded.

See also

Create a template for mail messages - an alternative method of preparing group email

Using categories

Address messages

The workaround described above has been posted in the forums by several different users, none of whom has been identified as the first to suggest it.
 Thanks to them all.

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Yes, that's exactly what I figured out what you have to do.  Excellent presentation, Firedog, of how to do it for everybody in that same boat.  Nice job.  I guess I can't wait till Windows 10 comes out !

Thank you very much for for that.

 It is an absolute disgrace that millions are using this non-working system. If it weren't for the good work being done by the Gates foundation I'd be asking for my money back! 


Thanks for this and the very easily followed directions.  My problem is that when I do click on the BCC - as you describe and then the + sign - there are absolutely no contacts in the category.  This is despite me saving all the contacts into that category. 

I don't know where they go because the category is showing as having all the contacts listed.  When I click on the category in the contacts list they all show "x" number of contacts, all the names etc are shown, however when I BCC them noting transfers to the BCC line.  Clicking the + does nothing other than show a blank BCC line.

My only solution is to create another category - Category 2 and then copy the contacts listed from Category 1 to Category 2.  That works but the disappear after a time - I don't know how long and I have to start all over again.  I daren't delete a category as that deletes all the contacts in the categories which are linked to it.

Help! Please.

For Firedog,

                      thanks for the suggestion, it makes it a little more involved as I usually just enter the first couple of letters in the To, CC, or BCC field which selects the category, and then click the plus sign. Having gone through my usual method yesterday (prior to seeing your post) having created the new '1' version of a category it seems to have worked as I'm getting replies. I will however adopt your method in future. One strange thing, having created 'new' categories with the '1' I had not deleted the originals and now I find if I select one of the original categories using either your method or the method I used before, clicking on the + sign now reveals all the names whereas previously it didn't reveal any. I'm still puzzled as to why Live Mail 2012 on my Windows 7 laptop worked OK. Now of course it is synched and has all '1' categories as well as the originals.

Incidentally I always include myself in my categories. If I receive the email then I'm fairly confident others have as well, also with individual emails I always BCC myself, using a different email address, on the basis that if I get it then it has at least got into the system.

I have been using this method for a full year now and all my categories are going out through the bbc line.  I am not certain why yours isn't working.

Are you certain you are clicking on the little "+" sign after you enter the category on the bcc line?

Have you tried doing it with the regular "TO" line?  You do not have to send it but just to check to ensure the names of the individuals in your group are showing up.

Many thanks to you all.

I have been using the + sign beside my contact category group and this is putting all the addressees into the BCC line.  A bit onerous in comparison to the previous "click on the category / group" but at least its working.

I did delete several of the many categories I had created by copying from one categories / group and this deleted others so be careful in this regard.

I think my particular problem has now been solved.

Regards and once again thanks.

This is all very strange, I first came across this problem on July 10th, discovered Firedog's workaround of May 10th worked OK but I also created 'new' group addresses as replicas of the original but with a figure 1 suffix to distinguish between the two. Having done this I then discovered that clicking the + sign on either original or replica group address worked OK. This continued to work until today when I discovered that clicking the plus sign revealed no contacts at all so I used Firedog's work around to send off an email to a group.

I have a desktop with Windows 8.1, and a dual booted laptop with 8.1 and 7, all using Live Mail 2012 and since signing up for Microsoft account, seem to be synchronised. Having sent off my email to a group I stopped for lunch. Now returned I find that using the desktop's Live Mail (without Firedog's workaround) I find the group I had used this morning which, with or without the figure 1 suffix showed NO contacts, now I find using NO suffix I get 18 of the 35 contacts and using the suffix 1 I get 10 contacts. Using the laptop windows 7 I find I get all 35 contacts without the 1 suffix and the same with the suffix. On restarting the laptop with win 8.1 I find that all 35 contacts appear when using the non-suffix group address and similarly when using the suffix. From this I have deduced that my laptop's Live Mail 2012 is NOT synchronised with my Desktop's Live Mail 2012 for reasons I am unable to understand, unless it is connected with 'updates'. I have my desktop set up to install automatically whereas I check for updates on a weekly basis with the laptop and install then, the last check and install was July 15th. I suspect some update has been installed on my desktop, since July 15th, which has caused problems with Live Mail but I've no way of proving this. I have downloaded and installed outstanding updates on the Win 8.1 laptop and it continues to work as it should regarding group addressing so my suspicion of an update problem is unfounded.

I've just had another attempt with the desktop; using the group without suffix I now get 9 contacts, (earlier was 18) and with the suffix I get 3, earlier was 10. All this goes to show me that in future if I need to send an email to a group I should use my elderly laptop rather than my 6 week old desktop which I had hoped to use when Windows 10 is released. Incidentally my new desktop is a Lenovo H30-05. I should be interested to know if anyone else experiencing this group addressing problem also uses a Lenovo H30-05? If so, mine will be going back to the shop while it's still within warranty!

Mine is definitely a Lenovo but I'm ashamed to say that I've no idea what model!

I've not had difficulty since adopting the recommended approach - to me it smells of software!

Yes, the recommended approach works OK, but I'm a little concerned that what works on my laptop doesn't work on my Desktop. The laptop works without the need of Firedog's work around. The only difference I'm aware of is that Windows 8.1 on the desktop is 64 bit whereas it is 32 bit on the laptop.

Incidentally the contacts I was coming up with earlier was reduced from 18 to 9, and 10 to 3, now I don't get any but the work around works OK.

Please don't suggest I change my laptop's 8.1 to 64 bit. 32 bit WORKS and I had enough trouble getting the dual boot to work initially. I don't want to risk changing. Similarly I don't want to change my new desktop to 32 bit, even if I could.

Perhaps everything will work properly when Windows 10 starts, (ever the optimist).

My H30-05 is very small, the PSU is external to the tower and the power consumption when it's not too busy is 12-14 Watts.

Hi, I originally posted the query to the forum. 

I have a 64 bit version of win7 home. 

Similar to what  Jack U3A is experiencing, when I try it , as soon as I click on the + sign , everything on that line disappears as if I didn't ever type anything into that line.  I have about 15 members in a category, and NONE appear, and the + sign disappears as well. 

But, I have found a work-around that works ALL the time. Not ideal, but at least it works.

1) create a draft email with all the names of your category in the TO field. 

2) save it as a draft. 

3) create an email you want to send. 

4) open the draft email, highlight and copy the whole group of names.

5) go back to your email and paste them into the TO, CC, or BCC field. ( which ever one you want to use)

6)  click SEND

works every time. 

you can create different/multiple draft emails with different members saved. Put a different name in the SUBJECT field to keep track of them. 

By the way, I have tried EVERY solution posted in the forum, but NOTHING has worked for me. Including the author of this. It is strange though that some solutions work for some people, and not for others. 

I did experience the same frustrating situation as others,  in that - when you first create the category, it works once.  After that it doesn't work, or it only copies part of the list. I got tired of that - tried my work around and have been using it successfully for over a year. 

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Views: 7,879 Last updated: May 15, 2018 Applies to: