Autodiscover is a HTTP-based discovery protocol that helps users configure their email client settings automatically. To locate the Autodiscover endpoint itself, a client can utilize the Domain Name System (DNS). When joined to an ActiveDirectory domain, it can also do AD queries for Service Connection Point objects.

When a user sets up a new email account or changes their existing email client settings, the email client sends an Autodiscover request to the Autodiscover server. The Autodiscover request is an HTTP POST request that contains the user's email address. The Autodiscover server then responds with an XML response that contains the necessary configuration settings.

The Autodiscover XML response contains information such as the list of supported mail protocols and transports (e.g. MSRPC/RPCH/MAPIHTTP, IMAP, SMTP, etc.) and the connection parameters for those (e.g. name of the home server, HTTP endpoint URLs). The email client uses this information to configure the user's email account automatically.

Autodiscover V2 is not an improved version, it is an extra layer that warrants a disgruntled remark about questionable protocol design. Locating the AutoDiscover server still happens via DNS or AD-SCP query. The V2 request contains the user identity and the name of a next-level protocol that the client seeks, e.g. "ActiveSync", "EWS" or "AutoDiscoverV1". The response is now a JSON document and generally contains just one URL, namely for the service sought. Indeed there is no way to obtain MAPI, IMAP or SMTP information in Autodiscover V2.

Please note that Autodiscover is not used exclusively by Microsoft Outlook, Autodiscover is the main discovery protocol for any EAS-enabled device and application, such as Apple iOS, Android and other applications.

DNS records

There are different DNS records that clients can attempt to resolve to locate AutoDiscover servers. Some clients may just try one, some may try multiple. The exact behavior depends on the client. There is no specific order required. When HTTP requests are issued to the servers found via DNS (and/or AD-SCP), even more AutoDiscover server candidates may be collected if there are HTTP redirects.

  • Name: <domain>

    Type: A & AAAA, or CNAME

    Value: <address or canonical name of Autodiscover server>

    That is, a client working with the identity may try to resolve and request next.

  • Name: autodiscover.<domain>

    Type: A & AAAA, or CNAME

    Value: <address or canonical name of Autodiscover server>

    That is, a client working with the identity may try to resolve and request next.

  • Name: _autodiscover._tcp.<domain>

    Type: SRV


    • Priority: 10

    • Weight: 10

    • Port: 443

    • Target: autodiscover.<domain>

    That is, a client working with the identity may try to resolve, and request http://<target>/Autodiscover/Autodiscover.xml next.

CNAME is mutually exclusive with other types, for a given name. Confer with your DNS manual.

Note that the DNS records should be created in the public DNS zone for your domain. Once the DNS records have propagated, users can configure their email client settings automatically using Autodiscover.

If the DNS records are published only on private DNS servers without being publicly resolvable, most clients will fail to discover the endpoint correctly, for example Microsoft Outlook uses Microsoft servers for discovery if the explicit endpoint request (ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint) has not been disabled appropriately.

For successful discovery, the endpoint should be available from any network segment where client devices could be accessing the autodiscover as well as the service resolved by autodiscover as well. Depending on your setup, you might want to use techniques such as Split-horizon DNS or define your externally available adresses to be accessible from the internal networks as well, known as NAT hairpinning or NAT reflection <>_.

Registry settings (MS Outlook)

To control the behavior of AutoDiscover from Microsoft Outlook clients, there are two general possibilities: Windows registry or GPO (which set the corresponding registry keys more user/admin friendly). The following main configuration keywords apply:

  • EnableOffice365ConfigService

    In Outlook versions before 16.0.9327.1000, this URL was used to automatically provision O365 endpoints, overriding some AutoDiscover behavior

  • ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint

    In Outlook 2016+ (versions after 16.0.6741.2017), this configuration parameter is used to proxy AutoDiscover requests via Microsoft servers. Usage of this service is possible

    # with grommunio if the AutoDiscover entries have been configured, and/or # when globally resolvable records are pointing to grommunio as the endpoint.

  • ExcludeHttpRedirect

    Outlook does not use the HTTP redirect method in the event it is unable to reach the AutoDiscover service via either of the HTTPS URLs: https:/// or

  • ExcludeHttpsAutoDiscoverDomain

    Outlook does not use the AutoDiscover domain to locate the AutoDiscover service. For example, Outlook does not use the following URL:

  • ExcludeHttpsRootDomain

    When this option is enabled, Outlook will skip trying the URL https:/// of your primary SMTP address to locate the AutoDiscover service.

  • ExcludeLastKnownGoodURL

    Outlook will not use the last known good AutoDiscover URL.

  • ExcludeScpLookup

    Outlook does not perform Active Directory queries for Service Connection Point (SCP) objects with AutoDiscover information.

  • ExcludeSrvRecord

    Outlook does not use SRV record lookups in DNS to locate the AutoDiscover service.

These configuration settings are available via ADMX settings (category Outlook 2016), for details visit Group Policy Home.

Alternatively, the records can be modified via the Windows registry, for example by using the following .reg file fragment:



This configuration example sets Outlook 2016+ to skip over any mechanisms other than ExcludeHttpsAutoDiscoverDomain and ExcludeHttpRedirect.

Gromox notes

The OXDISCO module uses the oxdisco_exonym setting when making references to itself in AutoDiscover responses. This can be specified in gromox.cfg, if not, it will default to the re-resolved kernel hostname, the latter of which can be inspected with the hostname --fqdn command. If the exonym is not fully-qualified, clients such as Outlook will likely not succeed in connecting if they do not happen to have a suitable domain search list.

Because Outlook re-issues AutoDiscover requests every now and then and can potentially pick up a new bad hostname from a misconfigured AutoDiscover service, re-opening the mailbox may spuriously cease to function. Because OL will also not re-run AutoDiscover when caches are present and before having successfully opened the mailbox, bad hostnames are cumbersome to purge and need manual intervention.

  • Delete %LOCALAPPDATA%/Microsoft/Outlook/16/AutoD.*.xml

  • Delete %LOCALAPPDATA%/Microsoft/Outlook/* - Autodiscover.xml

AutoDiscover in MS Outlook

In the Windows taskbar, in the notification area, there is an Outlook icon. When this icon is Ctrl-right click, it brings up a service menu, and "Test AutoDiscover" is one of the commands.

In this AutoDiscover test dialog, if the discovery reports HTTP error 401 Unauthorized, the cause is because that dialog stupidly uses an old saved password and not the contents of the password field.


An alternative way to validate AutoDiscover request & responses is to use the Gromox command-line utility PASS=abcd gromox-dscli -e user@domain.