Issues when renaming channels in Microsoft Teams

When you create a new team from scratch, you will have only one channel called General. It’s a good practice to create other channels to structure the conversations and the documents that are shared in your Teams.

By default, all team members can create, modify, and delete channels. It is recommended to remove this permission to the member by going to the Teams settings.

You might ask why should I not allow members to create, edit and delete channels? I’ll explain why in this post.

How to rename a channel?

It’s easy enough to rename any channel in Microsoft Teams, assuming you have the right permission.

  1. Go to the channel that you want to rename
  2. Click the Ellipsis (…) at the right of the channel name
  3. Click Edit this channel

4. Change the channel name
5. Click on Save

The new channel name will be displayed in your list of Team channels

So what’s the problem?

As you may already know, when a Team is created, a SharePoint site is also created and associated to this new Team in order to store all related documents (including OneNote Notebooks and Wiki pages) that are shared in your Team.

When a channel is created in Microsoft Teams, a folder with the same name of the channel is created in the SharePoint Document library and named ‘Documents’.

Here are the problems…

Problem 1: When you change the name of the channel, the name of the folder in SharePoint is not changed and will retain the name of the original channel.

When you go to the Files tab in the channel that was renamed, you will see the new channel name at the top, but the original channel name is still displayed below.

Problem 2: If you Synchronize the files from the channel, in Windows Explorer you’ll see the original name of the channel instead of this new name.

Because this can cause confusion to the user, they might try to change the name of the folder in SharePoint that is associated to the chann

Don’t do this!!!

Problem 3: From SharePoint you will see the new folder name with its content, but Microsoft Teams will not like the renamed folder!

Why you should not rename the SharePoint folder associated to a Teams channel

The Teams channel files tab is linked to the original name of the channel. When you click on the Files tab, it will look for the folder with the original name of the channel in the associated SharePoint documents library.

Problem 4: After renaming the folder in SharePoint, the first time you will click on the Files tab in the Channel, it will display this error:

Problem 5: After a short time when you will click Retry, or if you leave the Files tab and then come back to it, you will no longer see any documents.

If you go to SharePoint, you’ll see a new empty folder with the original name of the channel. This is the content of this folder that is displayed under the channel’s Files tab.


Problem 6:
Users might think they lost their documents, but this is not the case. The documents will simply be in the SharePoint folder that was renamed yet is not linked to the related Teams channel anymore.

To make the original documents available in Teams again, you will need to move the documents from the renamed folder in SharePoint over to the new empty folder with the original name of the channel.

I know it’s not fun, but that’s how it is ☹

Therefore, you should train your users, and make sure you do not allow members to rename channels. Unfortunately, it’s much more complicated to disallow users from renaming the folders in the SharePoint site ☹

It’s a little bit different with Private Channels

From Microsoft Teams, members and owners can rename channels, but if they go to the associated SharePoint sites they will not be able to rename the folder that is associated to the private channel.

When members or owners try to rename a SharePoint folder, they will be able to enter the new name and click Rename.

After clicking on Rename, there will be a X on the SharePoint tool bar to indicate that there is an issue.

When you click on the X you’ll see the message that you cannot rename the folder from SharePoint, and that you should go to Teams to rename the channel. This is different from standard channels where you are allowed to rename the SharePoint folder that is associated with the channel.

Conclusion

You should be very careful about renaming Microsoft Teams channels, as you have seen:

  • The name change that you perform in Teams is not reflected in SharePoint
  • In SharePoint, if you change the name of the folder that is associated to a Teams standard channel, this will temporarily break the Files tab of the channel. Then it will create an empty folder with the original name of the channel and link that empty folder to the channel’s Files tab.
  • The documents that were originally shared in the Teams standard channel will be in the folder that was renamed and will need to be moved to the new empty folder to be visible in Teams.
  • Finally, we saw that the SharePoint folder that is associated to a private channel cannot be renamed in SharePoint, thus partially solving the issues related to renaming channels or SharePoint folders that are associated to Channels. This feature might eventually come to standard channels.


Disclaimer:This article was originally written in July 2020. Since Microsoft regularly updates Teams, I will do my best to update this article as new features are added concerning renaming of channels.