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Delete a user from your organization

Before you begin

  • Only people who have Microsoft 365 global admin or User management permissions for the business or school can delete user accounts.

  • You have 30 days to restore the account before the user's data is permanently deleted.

  • If you want to keep the user's OneDrive data, move it to a different location. You can even move the data up to 30 days after deleting the account. See Get access to and back up a former user's data. You don't need to move their SharePoint files; you'll still have access to them.

  • If you want to keep the user's email, BEFORE you delete the account, move the email to a different location. If you've already deleted the account: if it's been less than 30 days you can restore it, then move the email data, then delete the account. See Get access to and back up a former user's data.

  • If you have an Enterprise subscription like Office 365 Enterprise E3, you can preserve the mailbox data of a deleted user account by turning it into an inactive mailbox. To learn more, see Manage inactive mailboxes in Exchange Online.

Global admin: Delete a user, stop paying for their license, and choose what to do with their email and OneDrive content

If you are a global administrator, when you delete a user you can also give another user access to their email, and choose what to do with their OneDrive content.

Things to consider

Before you begin, think about what you want to do with the user's email and OneDrive content, and whether you want to keep the license or stop paying for it.

ItemDescriptionProduct licenses You can remove the license from the user and remove it from your subscriptions to stop paying for that license. If you select this option, the license will be removed automatically from your subscriptions. You can't remove the license if you bought it through a Partner or volume licensing. If you're paying for an annual plan or if you're in the middle of a billing cycle, you won't be able to remove the license from your subscription until your commitment is completed. OneDrive content If the user saved their files to OneDrive, you can give another user access to these files. You'll need to move the files you want to keep within the retention period that is set for OneDrive files. By default, the retention period is 30 days. If you don't move the files within the retention period after deleting the user, the OneDrive for the deleted user is moved to the site collection recycle bin, where it is kept for 93 days. During this time, users will no longer be able to access any shared content in the OneDrive. To restore the OneDrive, you need to use PowerShell. For info, see Restore a deleted OneDrive. To increase the number of days that you retain OneDrive files for deleted accounts, see Set the OneDrive retention for deleted users. Important! If the deleted user used a personal computer to download files from SharePoint and OneDrive, there's no way for you to wipe those files they stored on their computer. They will continue to have access to any files that were synced from OneDrive.Email Giving another user access to the deleted user's email will convert the deleted user's mailbox to a shared mailbox. The new mailbox owner can then access the mailbox and monitor for new email. You'll also have the following options: Change the display name - We recommend changing the display name so that it will be easy to identify the shared mailbox in the Active users list. Turn on automatic replies - We've already written a polite automatic reply for you. You can send different automatic replies to people within your organization and people from outside your organization. Remove any existing calendar permissions using PowerShell. Clean up aliases - Aliases are additional email addresses for users. Some organizations don't use them, so if you don't have any you don't need to do anything else here. If the user does have aliases, we recommend removing them so that you can reuse those email addresses. Otherwise, you can't reuse those email addresses until the retention period for deleted mailboxes has passed. By default, a deleted mailbox is recoverable for 30 days. For more information, see Delete or restore user mailboxes in Exchange Online. Active Directory If your business uses Active Directory that is synchronizing with Azure AD, you need to delete the user account from Active Directory. You can't do it through Office 365. For instructions, see Delete a User Account.

Get started

Since the guided experience walks through the steps to delete a user, here's how to get started.

  1. In the admin center, go to the Users > Active users page.

User management admin: Delete one or more users from Office 365

Important Don't delete a user's account if you've converted it to a shared mailbox or if you've set up email forwarding on the account. Those functions still need the account. A shared mailbox doesn't require a license. If you've converted the account to a shared mailbox you can Stop paying for the license . If you've set up email forwarding on the account, you can't remove the license. Doing so will stop email forwarding and deactivate the mailbox.

  1. In the admin center, go to the Users > Active users page.

  1. Select the names of the users that you want to delete, select the three dots (more actions), and then choose Delete user. Although you deleted the user's account, you're still paying for the license. See the next procedure to stop paying for the license. Or, you can assign the license to another user. It won't be assigned to someone automatically.

Stop paying for the license

Reducing the number of licenses is a separate step that can only be performed by the global admin or billing admin.

  1. In the admin center, go to the Billing > Your products page.

  1. On the Products tab, select the subscription that you want to remove licenses for.

  2. On the subscription details page, select Remove licenses.

  3. In the Remove licenses pane, under New quantity, in the Total licenses box, enter the total number of licenses that you want for this subscription. For example, if you have 100 licenses and you want to remove five of them, enter 95.

  4. Select Save.

Later when you go through the steps to add another person to your business, you'll be prompted to buy a license at the same time, with just one step!

Delete many users at the same time

See the Remove-MsolUser PowerShell cmdlet.

Fix issues with deleting a user

Here are the most common issues people encounter when deleting a user:

  • You get an error message along the lines of "User cannot be deleted. Please try again later." Double-check whether the account has email forwarding set up on it, or it's been converted to a shared mailbox. Both of these will cause that error. Don't delete the account if it has email forwarding or it's been converted to a shared mailbox.

  • You don't have the appropriate permissions to delete a user. Only people who are Microsoft 365 global admins or user management admins can delete users. Usually this is the technical support in your school or business.

  • You delete the user but their name continues appear in your global address book. This happens when a business is using Active Directory. You must delete the users account from Active Directory. For instructions, see Delete a User Account.

Do you want to delete Microsoft 365 from your computer? Go to Cancel your subscription.


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