Teacher's notebook and folder before a remote learning lesson with Microsoft 365 page visible on the screen
Image: griangraf/Adobe Stock

It’s fairly common to have more than one Office account. You might use Microsoft 365 at work and sign in to your Windows PC with the Azure Active Directory account your organization gives you – and many students have an Office account through their school or college – but you may also have an Office subscription at home, and you probably have a free Hotmail or Outlook email address.

If your company works closely with partners or suppliers, you may have guest accounts that give you access to Teams or SharePoint sites for collaborating on projects. And if you work as a contractor for multiple organizations, you’ll have an account for each, meaning you need to sign in to multiple Microsoft 365 tenants.

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You can add all those accounts into the Office apps on your PC or Mac. Only one of them will be used to activate Office so you can create and edit files, but you’ll get access to any files associated with the other accounts. Things are a little more complex if you’re using those multiple Office accounts online.

If you’ve connected both your personal and your organizational account to Windows or you need to use multiple Azure AD accounts, you’ll have to pick which of those accounts you want to sign in with in every new browser session. Inevitably, when you open Office.com or Outlook.com, you’ll sometimes find that your browser is open with the wrong account, because you’ve already signed in with the other account recently.

How to switch accounts

Method one: Online Office switching

The simplest way to handle this is to use the new account switcher in Microsoft 365 and Office 365; for many people this will remove the need for multiple browsers, private browser windows and different Edge profiles.

Click on your profile photo in the top right corner of the Office app you’re using – not the picture of your face in the top right corner of the Edge browser – and the account manager menu shows you which accounts you’re signed in with and which you’re currently using.

Choose Sign In With A Different Account to add another Azure AD or personal Microsoft account, or just click one of the accounts on the list to switch the Office app you have open in the current tab to use that account (Figure A).

Figure A

Image: Microsoft. You can see all the Office accounts you have set up and switch to another account in the current browser tab.

If you’re looking at your email in Outlook, switching to a different account will refresh the current browser tab to show your other Outlook account. If you have Word or PowerPoint open in another tab, it won’t change the account you’re using there. In fact, if you have Outlook open in two different tabs, only the one where you switch accounts will change (Figure B).

Figure B

Image: Mary Branscombe/TechRepublic. Switch to a different Outlook account and you get your other email account without changing what you see in other Office apps open in other browser tabs.

Microsoft says that initially, only one account will be active per app, and you’ll get a notification to refresh the tab where you’re using a different account. In practice, we found we were able to have two tabs in Edge open to both consumer and Office 365 Outlook email accounts at the same time, where we could read and send email from each account, without immediately seeing warnings like that, although we did see the notification for Office.com after a few minutes (Figure C).

Figure C 

Image: Microsoft. When you switch Office accounts in one tab you should see a notification in other tabs showing the same app but we didn’t always see this.

We were also able to have two PowerPoint tabs open at once, each with a different account. That worked without any problems for viewing existing PowerPoint files, and we could create and save new presentations in each tab and have them end up in the right account. If we tried to use the Save As command, we sometimes saw an error message warning us that the “sign-in is not complete” because Office was trying to use the consumer Microsoft account in the Office 365 tenant, which obviously won’t work.

Microsoft has said that it’s “working to support concurrent use of multiple accounts for the same app in different browser tabs,” so to avoid confusion, try to avoid having multiple tabs open in the same browser with the same app signed in with different accounts until that’s supported.

Microsoft also says you need to allow third party cookies and suggests setting the tracking prevention in Edge to balanced rather than strict; we found account switching still worked with third-party cookies blocked and strict tracking prevention on.

If you use multiple browsers – whether that’s Chrome and Firefox or the release and canary versions of Edge together – adding or switching to an Office account in one browser won’t change the Office account you use to sign in with the other browser. If you want to use one Office account in one browser and a different account in another browser you can still do that.

Initially, account switching will work for the web versions of Office, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneDrive, SharePoint and the Microsoft 365 admin center. It also works in apps like Sway and Forms that rely on SharePoint and should be enabled for all users by the end of June. It doesn’t yet work for the web versions of OneNote, Planner, To Do, Yammer, Visio  or Teams, where it would be particularly useful,  but Microsoft is working on adding support for more Office apps.

Method two: Pick a profile

The Office switcher doesn’t cover all the places where you might use an account that’s also an Office account, like an online Microsoft event, and there are other reasons why you might want to use a different technique, like multiple profiles in Edge.

You can create different browser profiles without adding an account to them, but if you add a consumer Microsoft account or an Azure AD work or school account to a profile, it will sync browser data like favorites, saved credit cards and passwords between different devices.

When you open a site that you’ve logged in to with one browser profile when you’re using a different browser profile – like looking at a work SharePoint site from your personal Microsoft account – Edge will prompt you to change profiles so it can log you in automatically. That’s handy if there are specific sites you need to visit with one account, like partner SharePoint sites, an online Microsoft event or the Microsoft Store.

Browser profiles are a more advanced option than just using the account switcher on the Office sites, and for many people the Office account menu will be all they need: It’s already seeing a lot of usage.

But browser profiles do let you keep your work and personal passwords separate. Just signing in to sites with your personal information on a work PC doesn’t give your employer access to those passwords, but if you set up a browser profile using your work account, and you save and sync passwords for sites you log into with your personal details, those passwords are associated with that Azure AD account. Theoretically, then, a malicious administrator could reset the password for your Azure AD account, take it over and use it to get access to those personal passwords.

This is an unlikely scenario, but if you want to make sure that couldn’t happen, setting up another browser profile with your Microsoft consumer account means your synced passwords always stay under your control.

If you use personal and work accounts or multiple Azure AD accounts and set up an Edge profile for each of them, the UseMyCurrentAccount extension also lets you skip the login prompt to pick between those accounts for sites you’ve logged in to before. Install the extension in each profile, go to the site and Edge will automatically log in with the Edge profile account you’re using.

You can also toggle the extension off if you’ve gone to a site with the wrong profile and want to log in without changing the whole browser profile (which opens a new window). Automatic profile switching makes this extension less necessary, but it also comes in handy even if you only have one browser profile.

If you ever find that you keep getting offered the wrong account to use when you’re trying to log in to a specific site, this will save you a lot of frustration. Toggle the extension, and even if it doesn’t get the site to sign you in with the right account automatically, it will take you back to the start of the sign-in flow where you can pick that account by hand.

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