It’s frustrating, we know. You hear the term Microsoft account and you naturally believe they are referring to you Microsoft 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, what’s going on?

Quick History

Back in the days of early Internet, Microsoft began offering a free email service called later expanded to include the domains,
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 to access and use them. These are collectively known as personal Microsoft Accounts and are free.

Kelly is caught out

Kelly bought an XBox and to use it, she must set up a free Microsoft account. She is allowed set up an account with any email address of your choice, she doesn’t have to register a generic address as above available with Microsoft. Kelly already has a work email address, and she can use that to save having another email address. So she did – her and millions of others around the globe!


Starting in 2001 Microsoft introduced business services under the banner of Office 365 (now called Microsoft 365). Kelly’s company Contoso decided to use 365 email services. When Contoso moved their company domain to Microsoft 365 for email, Kelly found herself with two Microsoft accounts with the same email address. Kelly moves to log into her new 365 business portal and is presented with this:  

This happens to many people and can be challenging – which one do I use? Here’s the simple breakdown. 

  • School Account. Microsoft 365 is deployed world wide in schools and universities, so they have a unique reference. 
  • Work Account account means any other organisation using Office 365 services other than schools. 
  • Personal Accounts. These are the free Microsoft accounts available for consumer use. 

Microsoft made a dogs breakfast of the problem by using the domain name 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 Microsoft 365 business services. But millions remain along with the confusion. So if you receive such a prompt, you now know what’s going on – you have both services set up with same email address as the username. You just need to understand which service you are logging into.  And those two sets of OneDrive folders on you computer? One is personal the other is for work. The work one normally carries the company name next to it.