In this post we will explain what the root site of your SharePoint Online environment is, why you may want to replace it, limitations and more.
The root site in SharePoint Online is one of the sites that get created automatically when you purchase your Microsoft 365 subscription that includes SharePoint. The root site is a teams site, but not Microsoft 365 group connected. It’s URL is contoso.sharepoint.com or similar, owned by the company administrator and cannot be deleted.
By default, the root site has the “everyone except external users” domain group added within the site members SharePoint group, meaning that everyone except external users has edit access to the site.
As the root is is a team site, when organisations start to build intranet solutions, they may find they want to use the root, or top-level URL as their default landing page, or home site for their intranet. To do this, you will need to swap the existing root site for a communication site in your SharePoint Online environment.
Root site vs. home site – what’s the difference?
As mentioned earlier, the default root site of a SharePoint environment is the one that is setup at the beginning when you purchase your subscription. You may also come across the term home site, which is used by Microsoft frequently. The Microsoft definition of a home site is:
“A landing site for your intranet that brings together news, events, embedded video and conversations, and other resources to deliver an engaging experience that reflects your organization’s voice, priorities, and brand”.Set a site as your home site – SharePoint in Microsoft 365 | Microsoft Learnn
- Setting a home site doesn’t change the SharePoint start page from appearing when pressing the SharePoint link in the Microsoft 365 ribbon, or pressing the home button on the side-bar. The SharePoint start page is something else – not a root site or home site
- Setting a home site doesn’t change the site that appears if you browse to the root URL i.e. contoso.sharepoint.com
- There is a separate configuration setting that let’s you can specify a new home site – but this is not the same as replacing the root site
Replacing the root site
There is some pretty good documentation available here from Microsoft on how to replace a root site, but it lacks screenshots and any limitations that may be relevant. So here’s how to replace the root site of your SharePoint Online environment:
💡 You’ll need to have the SharePoint admin role to be able to perform a root site swap.
- Navigate to the SharePoint admin center
- In the all sites view > sort the A to Z column so that the current root site appears at the top of the list
- Select the root site > press replace site from the command bar
- A replace root site pane will open > enter the URL of the source site you wish to replace the root site with
- Press Save
Note: SharePoint auto-generates what the URL will be for the root site when you swap it. This cannot be changed.
Things of note
- Any featured links added to the SharePoint start page will need adding after replacing the root site
- A site redirect is created to redirect traffic from the source site to the root site (if the source site is already being used)
- Following the root site swap, the source site redirects also update any sharing links, apps or files to refer to the new URL
- During the root site swap, you may see a 404 not found message appear temporarily.
- Following the root site swap, all content needs to be re-indexed by search, so some content might not appear in the search results whilst this happens.
- The source site used for the root site swap has to be a communication site (SITEPAGEPUBLISHING#0), or modern team site not connected to a Microsoft 365 group (STS#3).
- Neither the root site, or source site can be registered as a hub site prior to replacement. If either are hub sites, they must be unregistered, then re-registered following the swap.
- If your root site has sub-sites, they will be archived as part of the replacement process.
- The site you select as the new root site must be within the same domain as the current root site.
- If the site is on hold, you’ll receive an informative error and you can’t replace the site.
- If your root site swap contains large lists or libraries then it is worth considering migrating these before the root site swap. There is no official documentation on size limitations as part of the replacement process, and should be possible – but I would air on the side of caution!
Setting a home site
Although different from the root site, a home site does have it’s own capabilities, such as:
- “Intranet” wide search – Home sites don’t have the scoped search that typical sites have.
- Home site news posts become official organizational news and take priority on the start page and in the home section of the mobile app.
- Customised global navigation in the SharePoint app bar
Before you start – make sure to have the URL of the site you wish to set as the home site handy, as you’ll need it later! Here’s how to set a home site in SharePoint:
- Navigate to the SharePoint admin center.
- Select Settings > SharePoint – Home site.
- Enter the URL of the site you want to use.
- Press Save.
Note: After setting the home site, it may take several minutes to take effect.