Private channels in Microsoft Teams

Private channels in Microsoft Teams create focused spaces for collaboration within your teams. Only the users on the team who are owners or members of the private channel can access the channel. Anyone, including guests, can be added as a member of a private channel as long as they are already members of the team.

You might want to use a private channel if you want to limit collaboration to those who have a need to know or if you want to facilitate communication between a group of people assigned to a specific project, without having to create an additional team to manage.

For example, a private channel is useful in these scenarios:

  • A group of people in a team want a focused space to collaborate without having to create a separate team.
  • A subset of people in a team want a private channel to discuss sensitive information, such as budgets, resourcing, strategic positioning, and so on.

A lock icon indicates a private channel. Only members of private channels can see and participate in private channels that they are added to.

Screenshot of private channels in a team

What you need to know about private channels

Currently, private channels support connectors and tabs (except Stream, Planner, and Forms). We're working on full apps support for private channels, including messaging extensions and bots.

Each team can have a maximum of 30 private channels and each private channel can have a maximum of 250 members. The 30 private channel limit is in addition to the 200 standard channel limit per team.

Note

We're continually adding capabilities to private channels so check back for the most up-to-date information regarding apps, channel meetings, and scaling private channels for large teams.

When to create a private channel

To determine whether a private channel is appropriate, consider the following questions about who needs to work together and what the collaboration is about.

Is there already a team that has these people as team members? Does this work need to be kept private from others? Are there multiple distinct topics to discuss? Recommendation
Yes Yes Yes Create a private channel in the existing team or consider creating dedicated private channels for each topic.
Yes Yes No Create a private channel in the existing team.
Yes No No Create a channel in the existing team.
No No No Consider creating a new team.
No No Yes Consider creating a new team and then, depending on the confidentiality of each topic, consider creating separate standard or private channels for each topic.
No Yes No Create a new team or create a new private channel in an existing team.

When a private channel is created, it's linked to the parent team and can't be moved to a different team. Additionally, private channels can't be converted to standard channels and vice versa.

Private channel creation and membership

Who can create private channels?

By default, any team owner or team member can create a private channel. Guests can't create them. The ability to create private channels can be managed at the team level and at the organization level:

  • On the Settings tab for a team, team owners can turn off or turn on the ability for members to create private channels.
  • As an admin, you can use policies to control which users in your organization are allowed to create private channels.

The person who creates a private channel is the private channel owner and only the private channel owner can directly add or remove people from it. A private channel owner can add any team member to a private channel they created, including guests. Members of a private channel have a secure conversation space, and when new members are added, they can see all conversations (even old conversations) in that private channel.

What happens when a team member leaves or is removed from a team?

If a team member leaves or is removed from a team, that user will also leave or be removed from all private channels in the team. If the user is added back to the team, they must be added back to the private channels in the team.

What happens when a private channel owner is removed from a private channel?

A private channel owner can't be removed through the Teams client if they are the last owner of one or more private channels.

If a private channel owner leaves your organization or if they are removed from the Office 365 group associated with the team, a member of the private channel is automatically promoted to be the private channel owner.

What can team owners and team members see in a private channel?

Team owners can see the names of all private channels in their team and can also delete any private channel in the team. (A deleted private channel can be restored within 30 days after it's deleted). Team owners can't see the files in a private channel or the conversations and member list of a private channel unless they are members of that private channel.

The following table shows who can see what in a private channel.

Item Team owner can see Team members can see
Name and description All private channels in the team Only the private channels that they are added to
Conversations and tabs Only when added to the private channel Only when added to the private channel
Files and content Only when added to the private channel Only when added to the private channel
Private channel owner All private channels in the team Only when added to the private channel
Last activity time stamp All private channels in the team Only when added to the private channel

Manage private channels

The following table outlines what actions owners, members, and guests can do in private channels.

Action Team owner Team member Team guest Private channel owner Private channel member Private channel guest
Create private channel Yes1 Yes1,2 No N/A N/A N/A
Delete private channel Yes No No Yes No No
Leave private channel N/A N/A N/A Yes3 Yes Yes
Edit private channel No N/A N/A Yes No No
Restore deleted private channel Yes No No Yes No No
Add members No N/A N/A Yes No No
Edit settings No N/A N/A Yes No No
Manage tabs and apps No N/A N/A Yes4 Yes5 No

1 Assuming the policy that you, the admin, configured allows the user to create private channels.
2 Each team has a setting that team owners can turn on or off to allow team members to create private channels. Team owners can always create private channels.
3 Assuming the private channel owner isn't the last owner of the channel.
4 Requires the team to have an app installed for a private channel to use it.
5 Private channel owners can configure this.

Manage private channel membership and settings

Each private channel has its own settings, including the ability to add and remove members, add tabs, and @mentioning for the entire channel. These settings are independent of the parent team settings. When a private channel is created, it inherits settings from the parent team, after which its settings can be changed independently of the parent team settings.

The private channel owner can click Manage channel, and then use the Members and Settings tabs to add or remove members and edit settings.

Screenshot of private channel settings

Manage the life cycle of private channels

See Manage the life cycle of private channels in Teams for guidance on how to manage the life cycle of private channels in your organization. This includes how to control whether users in your organization can create private channels, how to create a private channel on behalf of a team owner, how to get a list of all private channel messages for archiving and auditing purposes, and other management tasks.

Private channel SharePoint sites

Each private channel has its own SharePoint site collection optimized for file sharing and fast provisioning. The separate site collection is to ensure access to private channel files is restricted to only members of the private channel compared to the team site where team owners have access to all the assets within the site collection. These site collections are created with a document library by default, and can be easily enhanced to a full-featured site collection through the site management interface. Each site collection is created in the same geographic region as the site collection of the parent team. These lightweight sites have a custom template ID, "TEAMCHANNEL#0", for easier management through PowerShell and Graph API.

To accommodate a greater number of site collections per tenant, the limit has increased from 500,000 to 2,000,000. A private channel site collection syncs data classification and inherits guest access permissions from the site collection of the parent team. Membership to the site collection owner and member groups are kept in sync with the membership of the private channel within Teams. Any changes to the membership of Owner or Member groups in SharePoint Online will be reverted to private channel membership within four hours automatically. In scenarios where certain users need to access documents without needing to access private channel messages, add them to the Visitors group on the site or to a new group that's separate from Owners and Members.

Teams manages the life cycle of the private channel SharePoint site collection. If the site collection is deleted outside of Teams, a background job restores the site within four hours as long as the private channel is still active. If the site is deleted and hard-deleted, a new site collection is provisioned for the private channel.

If a private channel or a team containing a private channel is restored, the site collections are restored with it. If a private channel site collection is restored and it's beyond the 30-day soft delete window for the private channel, the site collection operates as a standalone site collection.

Considerations around access in private channels

When a new OneNote notebook is created in a private channel, additional users can still get access to the notebook because the behavior is the same as sharing access to any other item in a private channel SharePoint site with a user.

If a user is granted access to a notebook in a private channel through SharePoint, removing the user from the team or private channel won't remove the user's access to the notebook.

If an existing notebook is added as a tab to a private channel, access to the private channel isn't changed. This means the following:

  • Not everyone in the private channel will have access to the notebook by default. This is because they may not have access to where the notebook is hosted, such as another team's SharePoint site.
  • Users who are not members of the private channel can view the notebook.