"Get-UnifiedGroup" cmdlet produces a list of your Office 365 Groups with some default properties shown

How to fix an Office Group with no Owners

This post was most recently updated on December 27th, 2018.

Reading Time: 4 minutes.

This post explains how to add new Owners to your Office Groups using PowerShell. If your group has ended up without any owners, PowerShell might even be the only option, since the graphical user interfaces for Office Groups management are not that good. 


The hype around Office Groups kind of died down a little bit a while back, since their role wasn’t that clear – they didn’t really do much, and were confusing for end users. Back then, I posted about them replacing Site Mailboxes in SharePoint Online – because that was the first very visible and kind of useful thing they were good for!

Now that they’ve re-emerged and since stabilized as the security model and kind of the overarching unifying factor for SharePoint team sites, Microsoft Teams teams (that branding is just.. yeah.), Planner and a whole lot of other services, managing them suddenly became important again. And this added visibility is great, since they more or less power everything related to collaboration in Office Graph API, too, so sorting out your Office Groups is pretty important nowadays.

One of the issues you might run into, however, is the case of orphaned Groups. A group is supposed to have one or more owners, but it’s also entirely possible to create a Group (programmatically) without owners, or have the only owner leave the organization and the Group be left with nobody. This complicates its management, since members might not be allowed to add new members or manage different resources in the Group.


You have no users that are allowed to make changes to an Office group or the SharePoint team site. This makes managing the group, and the SharePoint team site it’s linked to, rather difficult.

You can modify the Group’s memberships using Office Admin Portal (Microsoft has a decent guide on how to do that), like shown in the screenshot below.

Office 365 Admin Center has decent Office Group management tools, but most of the time it's just easier and more reproducible to script everything :)
Office 365 Admin Center has decent Office Group management tools, but most of the time it’s just easier and more reproducible to script everything :)

In this post, however, I’m going to show you how to do it in PowerShell.


You can use PowerShell to add a new owner to an “unified group” – which is the name Exchange Online uses for Office Groups.

Here’s how:

Prerequisites to adding a new owner to an Office Group

  1. You are using an user account with awesome permissions. Some Office 365 admin permissions required, documentation is a little bit hazy on this.
    1. DotNetMafia suggests that Global Administrator is required.
    2. It worked for me with “just” Exchange Administrator as well, so I’d say that’s the minimum required permissions level.

With that in order, you’re ready to proceed!

How to add a new Owner to an Office 365 Group using PowerShell

Don’t want to read through the whole thing? Just jump to the script by clicking this!

1. Open Powershell (don’t use SharePoint Online Management Shell)

At least I had to run it as an admin. Don’t use SharePoint Online Management Shell – you never know if some of the imported commandlet names might conflict!

2. Store your credentials

$cred = Get-Credential

This opens a login window, where you can give your admin credentials.

3. Establish a session with Exchange Online

$session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://outlook.office365.com/powershell-liveid/ -Credential $cred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection

The ConnectionUri is the same for all tenants! Don’t change it.

Then import the established session:

Import-PSSession $session

Executing this command should actually take a while, as PowerShell is importing a lot of commandlets here. After it’s done, you are able to run the next command. If you aren’t, you’ll need to make sure you have enough permissions on the account you’re using!

4. Figure out the alias of your group (you’ll need it in a sec)

Running something like this returns your groups. Exchange Online calls Office Groups UnifiedGroups. That might be a bit confusing, but it’s very fitting for their role as the one, unifying the access to all different Microsoft’s tools in Office 365.


This command will output something like below:

"Get-UnifiedGroup" cmdlet produces a list of your Office 365 Groups with some default properties shown
“Get-UnifiedGroup” cmdlet produces a list of your Office 365 Groups with some default properties shown

Alternatively, you could run this to get only the “orphaned” groups (without a single owner):

$Groups = Get-UnifiedGroup | Where-Object {([array](Get-UnifiedGroupLinks -Identity $_.Id -LinkType Owners)).Count -eq 0} | Select Id, Alias, DisplayName, ManagedBy, WhenCreated<br />
ForEach ($G in $Groups) { 
	Write-Host "Warning! The following group has no owner:" $G.Alias

This will produce something like this:

This magic command shows only the Office 365 Groups without Owners. In this case, there's just one, and it's properties are shown nicely.
This magic command shows only the Office 365 Groups without Owners. In this case, there’s just one, and it’s properties are shown nicely.

If you then need to get just one group (if you want to investigate it’s properties, for example), you can run this:

Get-UnifiedGroup -Identity [alias from the list above]

5. Add your account (or any other) as a member of the group, then as the owner

This is order of commands required – only members can also be owners! You’ll get an error like this if you try adding the user account as an owner without first making them a member:

<only Members can be Owners of a group. Please add 'koskila' first as members before adding them as owners.
    + CategoryInfo          : NotSpecified: (groupwithoutown...c4-9678a42bd27b:ADObjectId) [Add-UnifiedGroupLinks], AD
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : [Server=HE1PR0802MB2186,RequestId=64556147-88ed-4788-90aa-0cbea612cd84,TimeStamp=10/9/20
   18 7:54:39 PM] [FailureCategory=Cmdlet-ADNotAMemberException] AE3249D5,Microsoft.Exchange.Management.RecipientTask
    + PSComputerName        : outlook.office365.com

Running these commands yields no output if successful.

Add-UnifiedGroupLinks [alias_from_above] -Links [your_upn] -LinkType Member
Add-UnifiedGroupLinks [alias_from_above] -Links [your_upn] -LinkType Owner

6. Verify, that the operation was successful

You can then verify the success by running this:

Get-UnifiedGroup -Identity [alias_again] | Select Alias,ManagedBy

This should produce your group with your account in the “ManagedBy” column.

The End Game: Add yourself as the owner of all orphaned groups

So, taking what we’ve learned today, in short, this is the script you can use to add yourself as the owner of all the orphaned Office 365 Groups:

$cred = Get-Credential
$session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://outlook.office365.com/powershell-liveid/ -Credential $cred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
Import-PSSession $session
$groups = Get-UnifiedGroup | Where-Object {([array](Get-UnifiedGroupLinks -Identity $_.Id -LinkType Owners)).Count -eq 0} | Select Id, Alias, DisplayName, ManagedBy, WhenCreated
ForEach ($g in $groups) { 
	Add-UnifiedGroupLinks $g.Alias -Links $cred.UserName -LinkType Member
	Add-UnifiedGroupLinks $g.Alias -Links $cred.UserName -LinkType Owner

Hope this helps! :)

Antti K. Koskela

Antti Koskela is a proud digital native nomadic millennial full stack developer (is that enough funny buzzwords? That's definitely enough funny buzzwords!), who works as a Solutions Architect for Valo Intranet, the product that will make you fall in love with your intranet.

He's been a developer from 2004 (starting with PHP and Java), and he's been bending and twisting SharePoint into different shapes since MOSS. Nowadays he's not only working on SharePoint, but also on .NET projects, Azure, Office 365 and a lot of other stuff. He's also Microsoft MVP for Office Development.

This is his personal professional (e.g. professional, but definitely personal) blog.

Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
mmAndreas Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Is there a way to do this with Teams Service Admin rights? Does this work for this Admin Right, too? Exchange are the other guys, I am Teams Admin, and I need this reporting. :) ;)