SharePoint Online Limits: The Complete Guide [Updated]

SharePoint Online Limits: The Complete Guide [Updated]

What limits does SharePoint Online have?

Well, it’s important to know the limits you may encounter in SharePoint Online, especially when you’re about to use it for your business.

In this article, let’s talk about the limits you will find in SharePoint Online and how to resolve these limits (only when possible).

Let’s get started.

Breaking the limits of SharePoint Online

Before we start, I would like to mention that SharePoint Online has many limitations, and I only included the most significant ones.

As you may know:

It’s possible that these limits will go away in future versions — like some of the limits the previous generation had that went away with the modern experience.

Now, when those moments come, I will update this article to reflect the current changes in the limitations of SharePoint Online.

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    What are the most important limits to know in SharePoint Online?

    Naturally, the limitations you will find in SharePoint Online are not created equal — some are more glaring and annoying than others.

    Here are the most important ones that you may encounter:

    1. Item limit threshold in a document library

    This one is a long-standing limitation that has existed for more than a decade already. In fact, this error is already present since the 2010 version!

    Now, to be precise:

    The famous “SharePoint 5,000 item limit threshold” doesn’t mean a list or library can’t have more than 5,000 items or files.

    It’s clear from the documentation that a list or library can have up to 30 million documents or items.

    Note: If you want to read more regarding the item limit threshold, check out this article I wrote where I also included how you can avoid such a scenario.

    The list or library can hold up to 30 million documents or items

    The issue here is when you want to see all those items or files. These things can happen if you hit the item threshold:

    • Degradation of performance (some users report that the list or library practically becomes unusable)
    • Inability to see all the items or files (unless you create a view where less than 5,000 items are shown)
    • Various errors may show up in some instances (like when you create unique permissions or add a calculated column)
    List View Threshold Error

    How to resolve the item limit threshold in SharePoint

    There are some things you can do here — but none will actually fix the threshold itself since it’s already built-in to “maintain the performance” of the list or library.

    Here are some things you can do to resolve the issue:

    1. Bring down the number of files or items to less than 5,000. This is easier said than done, especially when you have thousands of files. Unfortunately, you will not be able to do any “fixes” until you can properly use the list or library.
    2. Once you bring down the number of files and items, you must reorganize your whole library and move items and files to different lists or libraries. Make sure to delete those you won’t be using anymore.
    3. To avoid any repetition, make sure to create metadata properties and tag the files or items so you can create effective views from the start. You can also hide some folders from users who don’t need to see them.

    One valiant reader of the blog also recommended a workaround to the issue. In the author’s words:

    Create a view with the columns that you wanted to export. Make sure that the view contains less than 5000 items initially. Then use the export to excel feature in the list and export all the data as per your view to excel. 

    The author continues:

    Go to the view, and change the filter to show all the data. You will get the threshold message. Then go to the excel list that you have created, go to the “Data” tab, and refresh all connections. It will pull all the data in your list irrespective of the threshold error. You may configure the list connection to refresh at the time of opening the document, where the data in the list would be synced with your excel every time you open it.

    This is a solid tip and might help you reorganize your list. Unfortunately, if your issue is with document libraries and files, this workaround will not be able to help.

    2. Item sync limit on OneDrive Sync

    This next one is also a little related to the item threshold. That is, you will hit the 300,000-limit when syncing through the OneDrive Sync app.

    Microsoft used the word “guideline” when it comes to this. Unfortunately, once you reach that limit, you will experience severe performance problems.

    This is what you will find in the documentation:

    Although SharePoint can store 30 million documents per library, for optimum performance we recommend syncing no more than 300,000 files across all document libraries. Performance issues can occur if you have 300,000 items or more across all libraries that you are syncing, even if you are not syncing all items within those libraries.

    This is related to the item threshold since the files that will be syncing through the OneDrive Sync app are obviously stored in a library.

    Once you hit the limit, you will experience the following:

    • OneDrive Sync app will continue to sync without ever being able to finish
    • Files will not sync to your computer and on the document library properly
    • Conflicts during the syncing

    Note: If you want to read more about OneDrive sync, I wrote an article about how it works (installation and configuration) and some questions about it.

    How to resolve the item sync limit on OneDrive Sync

    Like with the first limitation, the likely solution for this is to reorganize your libraries and make sure you’re syncing less than 300,000 items.

    Here are some suggestions too on how to handle this problem:

    • Make sure to train your users to adhere to the guidelines. In fact, it might be worth creating some sort of checklist or guide for your users to follow in terms of storing data on OneDrive and SharePoint.
    • To avoid reaching the sync limit, it might be worth it to unauthorize syncing in some of your bigger libraries, especially those that don’t need to be synced in the first place. Prioritize those with files that you regularly need.
    • Use the web interface instead and avoid the sync client at all. You can always download the files from the web interface since the item sync limit doesn’t apply there. Take note, however, that you can only download 250 GB worth of files at a time.

    3. Character URL length limit

    Another limitation that many users encounter is the character URL length limit (which others also call the “file path length limit”.

    Basically, the file or folder path can’t have more than 400 characters — which typically happens after migrating from file shares.

    In the words found in the documentation, it states that:

    The entire decoded file path, including the file name, can't contain more than 400 characters for OneDrive, OneDrive for work or school and SharePoint in Microsoft 365. The limit applies to the combination of the folder path and file name after decoding.

    To be precise, the limit only applies to the folder path and file name after the name of your site and tenant.

    If you do, you will see the following error:

    The specified file or folder name is too long and must be 400 characters or less only

    For example, if the link is:

    https://tenantname.sharepoint.com/sites/example/documents/sample%20document/sample/sample%20file.doc

    The limit only starts after:

    https://tenantname.sharepoint.com/

    What this means is that if you have a long name for your site or tenant, it won’t affect the character URL length limit.

    Note: I mentioned this particular limit in my guide on how to upload files and documents to a SharePoint Library. Make sure to check it out.

    How to resolve the character URL length limit

    Compared to the first two limitations, this one is fairly easy to solve. Unless you have thousands of files experiencing this problem, then solving this will not take you a few seconds.

    Here’s what you can do when you encounter this problem:

    • If you migrated from file shares and other file repository apps, then you need to make sure that you remove multiple layers of folders. As much as possible, make the folder hierarchy flat and simple.
    • Another obvious fix here is to change the name of the file, folder, or document library to a shorter one. However, this is only possible if the character length of the item’s name is the problem here.

    If you need help with counting the characters, there’s an awesome site called lettercount.com that you can use:

    Just paste the file path (or the item’s name) in the form on the site and then click on the “Count characters” button.

    Free online letter count and character counter

    The number of characters will be shown on the little box at the bottom near the “Count character” button.

    Do this on all the files and folders that trigger the error and adjust the length as you see fit while making sure your folder hierarchy is flat.

    Note: There is a similar error that occurs on Windows when the character length of a document, file, or folder on a synced document library exceeds 256 characters. Simply follow the same solution outlined in this section.

    4. Recycle bin threshold

    Another limitation in SharePoint Online that you must be aware of is the fact that deleted items only remain for 93 days in the recycle bin.

    According to the documentation:

    In SharePoint in Microsoft 365, items are retained for 93 days from the time you delete them from their original location. They stay in the site Recycle Bin the entire time, unless someone deletes them from there or empties that Recycle Bin.

    Why is this a “limitation” important for you to know? Well, that’s because there might be an instance when a user will request a file recovery from you.

    Sometimes, they will even tell you that it’s only recently that they deleted the file. Then you will discover it’s almost half a year since they actually did so.

    How to resolve the recycle bin threshold

    Well, when you need to recover a file that’s been deleted for so long, it will be impossible for you to recover it.

    However, there may be hope if the user only deleted it in less than 180 days. That’s because there is still what’s called the “second-stage recycle bin”.

    It’s also called the “site collection recycle bin” and can be found in site settings:

    Find recycle bin under site collection administration

    After 93 days in the “common” recycle bin, the files will be deleted there and will move on to the second-stage recycle bin and will stay here for another 93 days.

    The only caveat — only site admins can restore files from this recycle bin.

    If you want to avoid scenarios where site users will approach you to restore a deleted file, then you may want to follow these suggestions:

    • Educate your users about the recycle bin threshold. Even the second-stage recycle bin will not be able to save them if it already exceeded its quota.
    • If this has been a repeating problem in your organization, then consider learning how to set up an alert for deleted items. This way, you will know beforehand when somebody deletes a file in a library.
    • Consider a third-party backup solution. Well, this is another option that you may want to go to if priority files keep getting deleted.

    Note: If you want to know more about SharePoint recycle bin, check out this article where I share everything you need to know about it.

    Other limitations to be aware of

    The four limitations earlier are the likely ones you will encounter. There are also other limitations that you might be aware of so you can plan your intranet accordingly:

    • Coauthoring a document in SharePoint Online is possible even up to 99 users at a time. However, actually doing it with more than 10 people will result in a poor experience.
    • In terms of file size, there is a SharePoint file upload limit of 250 GB, which also applies to Microsoft Teams and OneDrive folders.
    • When attaching a file to a list, the maximum size allowable is only 250 MB (applicable to both SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists).
    • You can only have a maximum of 2,000 lists and libraries in a site collection (down to the subsites of the root site).
    • For subsites, there is a limit of 2,000 subsites per site collection. Organizations are also limited to 2,000 hub sites only.
    • For versioning, you can have as many as 50,000 major versions and only 511 minor versions.
    • Overall, you can only have 1,000 GB of site metadata (though rest assured, metadata can barely reach half this figure).

    That’s most of it! Have you encountered any other limitations not listed in this article? If so, please share it in the comment section.

    For inquiries and other concerns, kindly use the contact form here and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

    About Ryan Clark

    As the Principal Solutions Architect at Mr. SharePoint, I help companies of all sizes better leverage Modern Workplace and Digital Process Automation investments. I am also a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for Office Apps & Services.

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    Max1981
    Max1981
    1 month ago

    I’m searching the limitations for “how many columns are possible” or “how many items can be stored in a multiple select choice column” etc.
    I only found this: Maximum number of columns for a list on SharePoint Online – Microsoft Community

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