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Is this just a preset list that they have within the software that determines the servers to connect to and the correct settings or is there a DNS-based or similar tool it uses to determine what those server details are?

If it uses something that can be set up on the server side, what needs to be set to assist Outlook (or similar applications) with automatically getting server details for a server?

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"You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." - What problem are you actually trying to solve? –  kce Apr 24 '14 at 18:14
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@kce (and comment upvtoer) how is this not a practical, answerable question based on an actual problem? The only part of that which isn't explicit would be the problem being faced, but from the second sentence, it seems implicit that he's trying to get Outlook to autodiscover details for an email server. –  HopelessN00b Apr 24 '14 at 18:43
    
@HopelessN00bGeniusofnetwork - It did not seem implicit to me. Computers are complex, the less guesswork we all have to do the better answers we can give. –  kce Apr 24 '14 at 18:49

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Is this just a preset list that they have within the software that determines the servers to connect to and the correct settings or is there a DNS-based or similar tool it uses to determine what those server details are?

It is called the Exchange Autodiscover service, and while the details vary slightly from version to version, it's a service that's "configured" on the Exchange server, and meant to work with Outlook clients.

You would not be able to make use of it with other email servers, as you had originally tagged your question, nor does it generally work with non-Microsoft email clients or applications - not because it can't, but because it was designed by Microsoft, for use with their email client (Outlook).

If you read the white paper, you can get details on it, and it's really fairly simple (Outlook sends a query to AD, gets an autodiscover url back, and hits it up to try to pull down the data it auto-populates), so there's probably nothing stopping someone from supporting it with a different email server or client, but there's not a whole lot of motivation to do so either, since it relies on Microsoft AD, is a proprietary standard utilized by Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Outlook, and offers no compatibility outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.

If it uses something that can be set up on the server side, what needs to be set to assist Outlook (or similar applications) with automatically getting server details for a server?

It is automatically set and configured when you install the Client Access Server Role on an Exchange server, so you don't really need to set anything up, other than the CAS Role on your Exchange server(s). There is a fairly useful article, here, that gets a bit deeper into what all the auto-discover service entails, which can be fairly useful for troubleshooting, or non-standard/non-supported autdiscover setups, but there is really very little that an administrator actually does in configuring autodiscover. It either works, and you're happy, or it doesn't, and you pull out a lot of hair troubleshooting it.

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Actually, it has nothing to do with AD from the client perspective. The client never asks AD anything and doesn't even need to be in the AD forest. It's strictly DNS, which is why testconnectivity.microsoft.com works. –  mfinni Apr 24 '14 at 18:47
    
@mfinni True enough. I was looking at it from the service or server perspective, though. And from that perspective, it does rely on AD... Exchange would be unable to put that SCP record onto a BIND DNS server (or other), for example. :) –  HopelessN00b Apr 24 '14 at 18:50
    
@HopelessN00bGeniusofnetwork but you could add that record manually, I guess? –  MichelZ Apr 24 '14 at 19:18
    
@MichelZ Indeed you can (and I've done it), but I have no idea how a non-AD DNS server would react to it. For that matter, I don't even know if an SCP would even work at all on a DNS server without AD, since it's located at a specific LDAP path, and I've honestly never gone deep enough with DNS to figure out the answers to questions like what kind of records can successfully be served up, and under what circumstances. –  HopelessN00b Apr 24 '14 at 19:27
    
@HopelessN00bGeniusofnetwork Can you give me an example of the DNS record that you would put in? I could try it out and see what happens. –  Kelly John Rose Apr 24 '14 at 20:00

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