Account Switcher Available for Microsoft 365 Apps

Deployment Due to Fully Complete in June 2022

Announced in March, on April 26, Microsoft blogged about the availability of the account switcher for Microsoft 365 web apps. Essentially, some but not all Microsoft 365 web apps include a component to track the Microsoft accounts users sign into and allow users to switch between those accounts without the need to sign out of one account and in with another. The idea is to remove the need for people to use multiple private browser sessions – or multiple browsers – to sign into different services and tenants. The component is browser-independent and works with work (Azure AD) and personal (MSA) accounts.

According to Microsoft, from now until June 2022, they are rolling the component out to, the Office web apps (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), OWA (business and consumer), OneDrive (business and consumer), SharePoint Online, and the Microsoft 365 admin center. What’s noticeable is the exclusion of Microsoft 365 apps like Yammer, Planner, and Teams along with all the other Microsoft 365 admin portals.

Switching with Multiple Browsers

It’s a laudable effort. I’m definitely included in the target audience because I commonly work with multiple Microsoft 365 tenants. I tried the account switcher with the latest available version of three browsers:

  • Microsoft Edge.
  • Google Chrome.
  • Brave.

I didn’t anticipate any problems using these browsers because all are Chromium-based. I didn’t try other browsers like Firefox or Opera because I don’t use them.

After spending several hours switching between apps using the three browsers, I think account switching needs a little more time to mature before it works as advertised. After sorting out some initial hiccups, like making sure to enable third-party cookies in browsers and clearing out any existing cookies to make sure that I started afresh, I experienced inconsistent results with different apps. I suspect this is because not all my account switching attempts involved tenants that had received the necessary updates.

SharePoint and OneDrive Work Well

SharePoint Online worked well in all browsers, as did OneDrive (for both business and consumer). In Figure 1, I’m signed into OneDrive for Business with the Brave browser. The account switcher shows two other accounts. The first is my personal MSA account, used for and other consumer services; the other is an account in a different Microsoft 365 tenant.

Microsoft 365 account switcher in OneDrive for Business
Figure 1: Microsoft 365 account switcher in OneDrive for Business

So far, so good. When I select the other Microsoft 365 tenant, the account switcher opens OneDrive for Business and signs in using the account from that tenant. However, I couldn’t switch back to the original tenant. This could be because that tenant needs to receive an update before account switching works properly (remember, we’re in the middle of the deployment). However, I could switch smoothly between OneDrive for Business to OneDrive consumer and back again using any browser, which is probably a better example of what the user experience should be when everything is in place.

OWA wasn’t so good because account switching wasn’t available in either the business or consumer versions, nor did the feature appear in the Microsoft 365 admin center or the Office web apps.

Prompts to Refresh

A user can be active in a web app (like OneDrive) in only one tab. If they use different accounts to open multiple tabs for the same app and move from one tab to the other, they’re prompted to refresh to make sure that credentials are still valid (an Azure AD critical event might invalidate the user’s access) and to update content (Figure 2).

SharePoint Online prompts for a refresh because account switcher moved between different tabs for the same web app
Figure 2: SharePoint Online prompts for a refresh because multiple accounts access the app

After the user clicks Refresh, the app signs in again, and if that’s OK, the page refreshes.

Patience is a Virtue

I wouldn’t rush to tell users about the Microsoft 365 web app account switcher just yet. To avoid problems when people find that they can’t switch, let Microsoft complete the roll-out of all components and then share the good news. It’ll be worth waiting for, even if people only use it to move between their work and personal accounts.

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