“How can I access the OneDrive of a deleted user account?” was a question that arose on a recent training course. The question arose from the need to review OneDrive content of a departed member of staff.
Office 365 allows you to delegate access to a deleted user’s OneDrive for Business to their manager. For this to work, the “manager” attribute for staff accounts must be correctly populated in Azure Active Directory. Information on enabling this type of delegation can be found here.
Let’s consider a scenario where Maria Clark is John Douglas’s manager. If John leaves the organization and his Office 365 account is deleted, then the clock starts ticking on the retention period for his OneDrive. By default, the retention period is 30 days, but an organization can increase that value as needed (up to 3,650 days). Once the retention period has expired, the data in OneDrive will be permanently deleted. Information on changing the retention period can be found here.
Before the OneDrive is deleted, Maria needs to review the files stored there. If Maria was named as John’s manager in Azure Active Directory, then within 24 hours of John’s account being deleted, Maria should receive an email like the one below. If she clicks on the link in the email and signs in with her Office 365 credentials, she will be logged into the web portal for John’s OneDrive. Once there Maria can review and download data as needed.
It is important to educate managers to expect this email and know how to make use of it. So that the email will not be considered SPAM.
Sent: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 1:08 AM
To: Maria Clark
Subject: John Douglas’s OneDrive for Business contents will be preserved for 30 days
John Douglas’s account has been deleted from the Active Directory. Their OneDrive for Business will be preserved for 30 days. You’re the temporary owner of all documents saved to their OneDrive for Business. If you would like to save content beyond the 30-day retention period, you can copy important documents to another location. You can also contact your administrator to reassign ownership to another OneDrive for Business owner. After 30 days, John Douglas’s OneDrive for Business will be permanently deleted. Go to John Douglas’s OneDrive for Business at