Delete a user from your organization

Last updated: 24 July, 2018

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.

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.

Product 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 are paying for an annual plan or if you are 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 content will be permanently deleted. To increase the number of days that you retain OneDrive files for deleted accounts, see Set the OneDrive retention for deleted users.

Warning: 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 a different automatic replies to people within your organization and people from outside your organization.

  • 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 re-use those email addresses. Otherwise, you can't re-use those email addresses until the retention period for email has passed. By default, the retention period is 30 days. To increase the number of days that you retain email data for deleted accounts, see .Configure Deleted Items retention and Recoverable Items quotas.

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 this article: Delete a User Account.

Get started

Since the guided experience walks through the delete user process, here are the steps to get started.

  1. Sign in to Office 365 with your global admin account.

  2. Go to Users > Active users.

  3. Select the user you want to deleted, and in the flyout panel, select Delete user.

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 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 Click here to 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

If you are a User management admin, reducing the number of licenses is a separate step that can only be performed by the global admin or billing admin:

  1. In the Office 365 admin center, choose Billing > Subscriptions. If you don't see this option, you aren't a global admin and can't do this step. 

  2. Choose the subscription (if you have more than one) and then 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!

Delete many users at the same time

See the Remove-MsolUser PowerShell cmdlet.

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.

  • 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.

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. 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 Office 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 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.

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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