Delete a user from your organization

Contributors: Diane Faigel Kweku Ako Adjei
Last updated: 31 October, 2017

Before you delete a user from your Office 365 business subscription, we recommend you save the user's email and OneDrive data, and take other steps to protect your business. To learn more, see Remove a former employee from Office 365.

Looking for how to delete your own Office 365 user account that you use at work or school? Contact the technical support at your work or university to do these steps for you.

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 need the account there. If you've converted it to a shared mailbox, you can remove the license from it so you aren't paying for it. If you set up email forwarding, you cannot remove the license. Doing so will stop the email forwarding and inactivate the mailbox.

  1. Go to the Office 365 admin center.

    Go to the Office 365 admin center.

    Go to the Office 365 admin center.

  2. In the Admin center, select Users.

    Click on User.
  3. On the Active Users page, choose the names of the users that you want to delete, and then select Delete user.

    Your screen might look like either of the following:

    Delete a user in Office 365.

    Delete a user in Office 365.

    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

To reduce the number of licenses you're paying for until you hire another person, do the following:

  1. In the Office 365 admin center, choose Billing > Subscriptions.

  2. Choose Add/Remove licenses to delete the license so you don't pay for it until you hire another person.

    Use the arrows to delete licenses from your subscription.

    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 click!

What you need to know about deleting users

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

  • After you delete a user, you're still paying for the license that was assigned to them. You need to remove the license from your subscription to stop paying for it.

  • 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 do this 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 Office 365 user account by turn it into an inactive mailbox. To learn more, see Manage inactive mailboxes in Exchange Online.

  • 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 this TechNet article: Delete a User Account.

  • To delete many accounts at the same time, see the Remove-MsolUser PowerShell cmdlet.

Fix issues with deleting a user

Here are the most common issues people encounter:

  • You get an error message along the lines of "User cannot be deleted. Please try again later." Doublecheck 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. You don't want to 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 Office 365 global 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 have to delete the users account from Active Directory. For instructions, see this TechNet article: Delete a User Account.

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

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Related articles

Restore a user

Permanently delete a mailbox

Delete a User Account: use these instructions if your business uses Active Directory that is synchronizing with Azure AD. You can't do it through Office 365.

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