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.


Forum Article Info

Last updated October 19, 2018 Views 8,597 Applies to:

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It is important to note that you need to click on the plus sign (+) while still in the Contacts selection window.  If you select a group of contacts and click OK, and THEN click on the plus (+), you might not get all your contacts included. So click on the plus (+) to expand your group while you are still in the Contacts selection window.
Further to my post of Nov 6th, since when I've been using my Dropbox saved group addresses quite happily.  I've now discovered a FREE clipboard called 'Ditto' which retains anything you copy to it until you remove it. I've loaded my group addresses onto it and with the cursor in the BCC field simply double click the clipboard entry and the addresses are pasted into the field. It's quicker than delving into Dropbox. The only problem with this clipboard is that it retains everything one copies so it needs to have a lot of stuff deleted periodically.
My screen looks different to the example but I can follow the principle. However when I click the + the entire distribution list disappears into thin air. At this point I am unable to use my distribution lists , what a disastrous upgrade, the format is ugly and more difficult to use , I am baffled by 'upgrades' like this a smaller company would go under if it treated its customers like this...

While I was trying this, I also tried the following, which seems to work just as well:  

    Open the Address icon, find and select the contact list, select all the entries in the right-hand screen, click the "Email" button in the top ribbon.  This opens a new email message with all selected contacts in the TO line;  select and move them to the CC or BCC line as desired.

Grant 46,

                I've completely given up on Group Addressing with Windows Live Mail. I'm still using the 2011 version with Windows 10 and I continue to use the workaround I posted Nov 6th. It works for me. I'm too old to wonder why WLM group addressing failed, and I'm certainly not about to see if MS have fixed it yet. Some months ago I made the mistake of getting into and found the number of my contacts had doubled with duplicates I couldn't delete. Someone mentioned a fix for this but I didn't go for it as it all looked somewhat complicated for my little brain and I didn't want things to get any worse. I manage quite well without

PS A 'Wether' is a castrated Ram A bellwether is one that leads or indicates trends. The term is derived from the Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading his flock of sheep. A little light relief from 'Group Addressing'.

Jack U3A, when you say you have encountered problems again, do you mean with the re-installed WLM 2011 as well?  I have uninstalled WLM 2012 several times and am unable to reinstall WLM 2011.

I have had WLM 2012 installed for several months but have not had any issues until the past two weeks.  Now I am having the same sort of ghost in the machine issues as you all.  The work-around that started this blog does not work consistently as many of you have discovered.  If find that I need to rebuild my categories every couple of days. 

I did discover an interesting connection.  I never have used the web-based version of WLM, now called  Go there, sign in using your Windows Live login and you should find your entire address book including your categories (called groups online) under the tab PEOPLE.  Who knew?  Anyway, I am wondering if there is not some sort of problem with the sync function between our home desktop/laptops mail program and this version in the cloud.  You can either create an address on the web site or on your home based computer and they will sync up.  Last night, on the web version, I created a new group called "test".  It did not show up for over an hour as I last checked my address book before turning in.  This morning it was there with the entries.  I tried using it in an email using auto-complete and it worked fine.

OK, then a couple hours later, I tried sending an email using auto-complete to a category I use regularly, hit the "+" sign to verify everybody was there and there were many names missing...****.  So I tried the same thing with my new "test" category, the one I did not create on the home computer, but the one I did online.  It too screwed up.  So something is running that is corrupting this operation.  It may have to do with the sync function.  The next test would be to leave my computer powered up but go offline for a day or two and see since there is no way to sync back and forth if the problem will be blocked or not.

One other thing I did was go onto and delete all the groups on the web.  Please, if you try this, first back-up your computer based address book entries as within ten minutes all of my address book categories that corresponded to the same groups I deleted online were gone in the ether.  Fortunately, I had saved draft messages for each group and could easily copy and paste to recreate my replacement categories.  For five hours now, things are normal.  All the categories I recreated have since shown up on / people tab.

The bottom line here is users of Microsoft operating systems have been using this mail program and encountering this problem for 4 years and there still is no fix.  Wether they simply are not smart enough to figure out what's wrong, or don't care, is your guess.  Either way, it doesn't say much about the customer service aspect of MS.

I'm now using a completely different workaround as I've have encountered problems again. I have composed what might be thought of as a 'dummy' emails for each of the groups I habitually address, adding names individually to the BCC field (or 'To' field) and the name of the group in 'Subject'. I DON'T send the email(s) but save them in a folder in my Dropbox I've called 'Group addresses'. When I wish to send a group email I simply open the appropriate email from the 'Group Addresses' folder which starts Live Mail with a 'new' pre-addressed message.  I change the subject, add text etc prior to sending. It sounds messy but is more reliable than the ever changing Live Mail. Saving 'Group Addresses' in Dropbox enables me to compose using any PC onto which I've added Dropbox.

I have also experienced complete failure of my many and extensive Contacts groups. This happened after I upgraded from  Windows 7 to Windows 10, although not immediately - after a few days. My memory is that it happened while I still had WLM 2011, and that I upgraded to WLM 2012 to try and solve it.

I had such problems with my email after that (temporarily mislaid 14 years' of stored emails) that I'm not sure I can face (or work out) how to return to WLM 2011. Guess I'll have to use Firedog's workaround, which I have just realised involves clicking on the + sign while still in the blue dialog box, so I can now get it to work. Phew!

This system usually DOES NOT WORK. Click the plus sign in my case just deletes the group name from the bcc field. Program is hopelessly flawed and Microsoft shows no interest in fixing it.

Hi folks

I have just sent out three multiple emails - to about 150 persons on each batch.  All members of a Club.  Using the BCC line and entering the name of the group and then clicking on the + sign works for me (I'm touching a large piece of oak as I type).  So far so good.

I would like to thank you all for your suggestions in this regard.  Pity Microsoft changes so many things in it's "improvement" of it's programs - but then that's the way of the world.

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