SharePoint Online Root Site – Customize or not to Customize it.

Some time back, when I was fairly new to Office 365 & SharePoint Online, for the sake of learning I had provisioned a demo site and playing around with it.  At that time, I didn’t know the importance of the SharePoint Online root site and started noticing that my SharePoint instance had started to act weird.  Upon further investigation found that the root/default site is not an isolated site after all, and that its existence is very important to the overall health of all other sites provisioned in that tenant.

The below are some facts as to why its better to leave the root site “untouched” and leave it in its own pristine condition:

  1. Do not ever delete the Root site :  If you ever are required to delete the site or had accidentally deleted it, all other SharePoint sites in that tenant will cease to work.  This is because of the fact that the “default/root” site is used for some kind of authentication mechanism (before allowing users to sign-in to other sites) and that is very important for it to be available at all times.
  2. Missing Site Settings in the Default/Root Site:  In the root site,  if you navigate to “Site Settings” you would notice that some of the most common links would have gone missing such as Themes, Composed Looks, Save as Site Template, Delete Site etc.,  Even though you are the “Global Adminstrator” / “Site Collection Administrator / Owner”, it would still not be available and this is due to the fact that “Custom Scripts” are not enable in Root site”.
  3. Custom Scripts Not Enabled in Root site: By design Microsoft has turned off the option to run “Custom Scripts” in the default site, for the sake of preventing users from adding scripts in their My Sites, which could have ill effects on the overall health of the tenant.  It should also be noted that “My Sites” are dependent on the root site and use the settings as applied on the root site for enforcing it onto itself as well.
  4. Cannot create a Default/Root site using PowerShell : Microsoft has disabled provisioning root sites in SharePoint Online using Powershell and it can only be created through the “SharePoint Admin Center”.
  5. At times, when you try to re-provision a root/default site (which you have deleted for some reason), even after you select the “Permanently delete the site collection from the recycle bin and continue“, it might still throw an error saying that the “A site with that name already exists”.  In such instances, you simply have to wait for 1 or 2 hours for it to complete its pending activities.

Taking into consideration the above effects, its advisable to create new sites and perform customizations on them, rather to work directly on the root site.  Not sure as to why Microsoft documentation doesn’t warn about its effects, but from all practical purpose, its better if we plan the site hierarchy by including a “\sites” or “\teams” in the URL (which gets added when provisioning new sites in the admin center).

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