We have a hybrid deployment with users using Exchange on premise and Sharepoint Online without Exchange Online. When you try to synchronize a picture to Sharepoint Online from on premise AD, the usual way is AD->online AD->Sharepoint Online
From what I have researched it is not possible to do synchronize the photos between AD and SPO without EXO: http://community.office365.com/en-us/f/148/t/193311.aspx
What I have tried:

The question:

  • In what way I can upload 580 profile pictures from my AD to SPO if I don't have EXO license?
  • What is the behaviour of such pictures later on? Are there any issues with SPO trying to overwrite the uploaded photos from non-existent online AD?

2 Answers 2


According to the same thread you linked to, Exchange Online is not required:

Sorry for the confusion. I can understand your concern. To sync the picture from local AD to SharePoint Online, the users do not have to use Exchange Online. I mean if there is no Exchange Online service, after the picture is synced to cloud-based AD, it will also be synced to SharePoint Online.

Are the users photos under 10KB in the on prem AD? If so they should sync.

  • Thanks but there Microsoft is wrong. You can see it in the post just below the one you quoted: "Unfortunately this is not the behavior I am getting in 3 different tenants. (...) There is an open thread where another MSFT rep states that this is a known issue."
    – grisha
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 8:10
  • You might be right. I've been working with Office 365 support on this for two days now. They tell me that the photos are processed via EXO but that EXO is not required for photos? And now they're passing the buck to the Portal team since they say the Portal is the hub for properties between Azure AD and SPO. I'll report back when I resolve this, one way or another.
    – Chris Romp
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 5:52

This is by no means an official answer and I cannot guarantee that it will work for everybody, but it seems like acquiring 1 (in words: one) Exchange Online license solves the issues and synchronizes pictures for all the users. 3 tenants with positive results (600+ users, 20+ and 1000+), one unfortunately not. Good luck, guys.

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