It’s frustrating, we know. You hear the term Microsoft account and you naturally believe they are referring to you Office 365 account, but you sign into OneDrive and …where are your files? Wait a minute, I have two sets OneDrive folders set up on my computer, whats going on?
The difference between organisational Work and School accounts and personal Microsoft accounts
Back in the days of early Internet, Microsoft began offering a free email service called @hotmail.com later expanded to include the domains @outlook.com, @live.com.
Then online gaming with Xbox came along followed by online file storage with OneDrive. These services and others are delivered across the Microsoft network and all of them require an account setup to access and use them. These are collectively known as personal Microsoft Accounts and are free. Until recently you could set them up with any email address of your choice, you didn’t have to use one of theirs. This is because the email address also acts as the username. All email addresses are unique and in any network a username has to be unique.
Later, the same Microsoft network then began accommodating business services including Office 365 and Azure. These accounts are referred to as Work or School accounts. Schools have their own reference because Office 365 is deployed world wide in schools and universities. Work account means any other organisation using Office 365 services other than schools.
Online business services are set up using the company domain name for example contoso.com. But millions of people had set up free Microsoft Accounts using their business email address. But that’s OK, they all work under the same network, so Microsoft allowed individuals to have both. They divided their services into two. For organisations Work or School accounts, for free Microsoft accounts, they are now referred to as a Personal Account. This is why anyone who have both are now prompted with a choice when they log into into to office.com, as shown in the image. The confusion this can cause is obvious – which do I use? Microsoft made a dogs breakfast of the problem by using the domain name office.com to register personal home versions of Microsoft Office, which is not a business service.
Microsoft now prevent anyone from creating free personal account with an email address already registered under Office 365 business services. But millions remain along with the confusion. So if you receive such a prompt, you now know whats going on – you have both services set up with same email address as the username. You just need to understand which one you are logging into. And those two sets of OneDrive folders on you computer? One is personal the other is work. The work one normally carries the company name next to it.