How to add large numbers of user accounts to Microsoft 365

Although Microsoft 365 contains a simple wizard that you can use to create user accounts manually, it is also possible to use a CSV file to create large numbers of new user accounts. This is usually far less time-consuming than creating each account individually. In this article, I will step you through the process.

The first step in creating large numbers of user accounts is to log into Microsoft 365 using an account with administrative credentials. Once you have logged in, it is a good idea to go ahead and install the Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) if those apps are not already on your system. You can bulk add users without having the Office apps installed, but having access to Excel will make the process easier. For this article, I am going to assume that you have access to the Office apps.

Once you have installed the Office Apps, the next step in the process is to open the Microsoft 365 admin center. Next, expand the Users tab and select the Active Users tab. You can see what this tab looks like in the image below.

Microsoft 365 user accounts
As you can see in the image, I already have several user accounts that have been created. Most of these accounts have been synchronized from my on-premises environment by Azure AD Connect. For the sake of demonstration, let’s go ahead and create some new cloud-native accounts.

If you only need to create a small number of accounts, it will probably be quicker and easier to click on the Add a User link shown in the image above and then enter the details for the users you want to create. If you have a larger number of users, however, then manually adding users one at a time quickly becomes impractical. In those types of situations, you are better off adding users in bulk. To do so, click on the Add Multiple Users link, shown in the previous image.

At this point, Windows will display the Add Multiple Users screen. The first step in setting up accounts for large numbers of users is to download a CSV file that will act as a template. You can download a CSV file that contains only the header rows, or you can download a CSV file that contains example user info. My advice is to begin by downloading the CSV file that only includes the header row and then try populating that file with your user account information. If you find that you aren’t quite sure what to enter into some of the columns, you can use the CSV file with the example user information as a guide.

Microsoft 365 user accounts
As you see above, here is the CSV file you need to download.

Microsoft 365 user accounts
Above, you can see what the CSV file containing only the header row looks like.

Microsoft 365 user accounts
And here is what the CSV file containing example data looks like.

As previously noted, the next step in the process is to populate the CSV-based template file with your user information. You don’t necessarily have to fill in every column. As you can see in the next image, for instance, I have left a lot of the columns empty since these are not real users. However, there are two things that you need to know.

The one bit of advice that I would give you is to be sure to check out the Avoid Common Errors section (shown in the second screen capture) to make sure that you are not entering anything invalid into the CSV file.

The second thing you need to know is that usernames must be entered as email addresses, and each of these addresses must be unique.

Populate the spreadsheet with the details of the user accounts that you want to create.

Incidentally, I mentioned earlier that you don’t have to use Excel to populate the user data. You can use something as simple as Notepad if you prefer. The following image shows what the CSV file looks like in Notepad.

Now that you have entered any required data into the CSV file, the next step is to upload that CSV file to Microsoft 365. To do so, go back to the screen shown in the second screen capture and then scroll down. When you do, you will find an Upload CSV file section at the bottom of the screen. Go ahead and click the Browse button and then select the CSV file that you have edited.

At this point, Office will do a quick validation check on the file to make sure that the information within the file fits all of the requirements for import. If any problems are found, those problems will be listed on the screen shown above. However, if no problems are found, you will be allowed to click Next to move on to the next step.

The next screen that you will see asks you if you want to assign Microsoft 365 licenses to the new user accounts. Usually, you will go ahead and assign licenses to the users. If you do not license the users, Microsoft 365 will create the accounts within Azure AD, but those accounts will not be authorized to use the various Microsoft 365 applications. There is also an Apps drop-down that you can use to enable or disable licensing for individual applications.

Click Next, and you will be taken to a screen that lets you review your choices. Assuming that everything looks good, click the Add Users button. The new user accounts will now be created, and you will be prompted to send the sign-in information for those new accounts to someone in your organization. That person can then give each user their temporary password based on the contents of the mail message.

These temporary credentials are sent to a member of the administrative staff by email.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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