Azure AD and SharePoint Online user differences

I’ve been developing scripts to work with OneDrive for Business when I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole that lead me to an interesting revelation.

Part of the challenge with working with OneDrive for Business in Office 365 is that not all users have one, even though they are licenses for it. The reason for this is simply that a user’s OneDrive for Business isn’t generally provisioned for them until they start using it. Thus, in my demo tenant there are probably users who haven’t as yet been through the process of having a OneDrive provisioned. No issues.

Secondly, when you share information with external users in SharePoint and Teams you may also find an AD account but that user hasn’t as yet access SharePoint resources for some reason. Maybe, they haven’t accepted the sharing request and so on. Again, no big deal.


So I created a script that goes through each active Azure AD user in the Office 365 tenant and check to see whether there is a corresponding SharePoint Online user. To do this I used the following commands:




So I trained these commands on the OneDrive for Business URL which is typically:

As you can see from the above report, the green lines indicates matches to accounts in my Azure AD and in my OneDrive for Business. The green tenant users, with a custom domain typically have their own OneDrive for Business. The green External users, distinguished by an account that includes #EXT# are typically accounts outside the tenant that have been shared information with and accepted that sharing request.

Now the red tenant users, typically haven’t had their OneDrive for Business provisioned yet and the red external users typically haven’t accepted the sharing request that has been sent them as yet. All understood.


Here’s where the rabbit hole opened up. Ok, I thought, now what happens if I do the reverse? That is, check my SharePoint users against my Azure AD users? So off I went to create a script.

The script came back with the results you see above. All the the yellow accounts are SharePoint users that don’t have a match Azure AD account. Quite a few eh? When I first saw this I panicked a bit, because many of the accounts I didn’t recognize. What was going on here I wondered? Had I been compromised?

In a perfect world, there would be a one to one mapping between Azure AD accounts and SharePoint account. However, things aren’t that perfect, so in my demo tenant, I had created lots and lots of accounts over the years and many had become ‘orphaned’ leaving behind information in SharePoint. Many were just so old I forgotten that I created them and then later deleted the Azure AD account.

Is this a problem? Not really I don’t think, because without an Azure AD account to login to, these ‘orphaned’ resources aren’t much use. Still, if they aren’t needed then they really should be deleted to my mind.

Interestingly, some of these ‘orphaned’ SharePoint users actually still had their own OneDrive for Business that clearly wasn’t being displayed anywhere else. Once I took control of these ‘orphaned’ sites by making myself a Site Collection Administrator I could see what they actually contained. When I was happy it wasn’t needed or in use I deleted these, again using PowerShell.

So what did my trip down the rabbit hole teach me? Firstly, I learned that Azure AD and SharePoint user accounts don’t always line up. Next, I learned that you can end up with ‘orphaned’ SharePoint users and resources that you may want to clean up using PowerShell. I don’t believe these represent any security issues but if they aren’t necessary then they probably should be deleted. However, be careful of system accounts which shouldn’t be removed. Just get rid of those you recognise as no longer being required.

The biggest thing that my exploration taught me is the value of PowerShell to get behind the standard interface of Office 365 and see what is really going on. It gives you much better control and for me it helps me understand much better how everything works.

If you want the scripts that I used to do these comparisons then I suggest you sign up to my Patron community – where you’ll find these and whole lot more Office 365, Microsoft 365 and Azure resources.

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