Microsoft 365 user profile photos: Why do they take so long to sync?

User profile photos, especially in Microsoft 365, are one of the most common features in applications today. They give you the face of a person either in the company or external to the company. Many companies want this information shown, especially when it comes to a hierarchy of employees reporting to a manager and who that person reports to. It’s also a good feature for IT staff so that employees know who they are calling and dealing with. Applications like CodeTwo can import user photos into Active Directory, or you can do it in Active Directory yourself, as we will show you below. You can do the same from SharePoint and have someone upload photos of users, for example, photos done by a professional company.

Microsoft 365 user profile pictures
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Microsoft 365 user profile photos: When things go wrong

For many who have been implementing profile photos in Active Directory, having these now sync across all applications like Microsoft Teams, Office 365, Skype for Business (if still used), SharePoint, and other applications is expected. But what happens when things do not go according to plan? Recently, I noticed that my Teams photo is different from my Office 365 one, and I did not have one showing on SharePoint Online. Yes, you read correctly. The sync was not happening. And this causes confusion for people when they look for you on different platforms.

Before we get to why this is happening, I opened a ticket with Microsoft, which sent me a few links regarding the sync. They said we need to check the licensing, and because we are in hybrid mode, how long ago did the sync happen. After advising them we were not having any sync issues, and the users all have licenses assigned even though they are on-premises, we were advised to wait some more time for the sync to happen. Here is the link to one article where people are describing the same issue we were having.

From a SharePoint Online perspective, it was advised that if you do not fully cut over to Exchange Online, you will have these issues, but I am not sure I agree with this statement as some tenants work and others don’t. If you head over to Delve and sign in to Office 365, you will be able to update your photo manually here. What was also advised to do if the sync is not happening is the following:

  • Edit your profile on Delve.
  • Edit your picture.
  • Upload a new picture.
  • Save the information.

Once you have edited the image, here is a box that appears after you save all and close:

Microsoft 365 user profile

Mixed results

After doing the above, it took about 24 hours for SharePoint to show my user profile photo, but Microsoft Teams and Office 365 were not updated. Clearing the cache on Teams or restarting it makes no difference at all. If you go into teams and manually update the photo, it will update on Teams immediately. Technically, the photo is supposed to be stored in the SharePoint library. Going back to Microsoft, it was advised to give it a few more days to sync. After I told them it had been three weeks, they could not give me an answer — except to be patient.

Inside the SharePoint Online People web part, you can check if your picture is showing correctly on a modern SharePoint page.

On the Delve web page, if you click Edit on the profile picture, it shows the updated photo on a new page but not on the profile page, which still has the old one showing. If you read about other issues people have had, most say that Microsoft has to run a script backend to force the sync to happen again on a Microsoft 365 tenant. While this sounds easy, it is not. Unfortunately, if you request this from the support team, they push back telling you to wait for a few more days.

On some tenants, I have seen this task completed by Microsoft, and after a day or two, all user pictures have updated and are showing properly across all the platforms. Is the sync stuck, or is it just because the Microsoft platform is so big that it does take this time to sync across everything? It seems like this is a patience game as, one day, you open up everything, and all the images have synced. Coming back to the part of “why is this taking so long,” it might just be a sync issue or just sync slowness as no official answer can be given by the support teams.

Waiting game

I think that they force a sync for a tenant when there are enough complaints, but most of the time, it is just a waiting game, and this is shown in the image above regarding profile changes. The bottom line: I have no solid explanations on how long this process takes, but I am guessing if you wait long enough, things will start to sync, and people’s images will show up. If not, you need to log a call with Microsoft.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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