Microsoft Teams is a team chat app—essentially Microsoft’s answer to Slack. Until recently, it was only offered to companies that paid for the upper tiers of Microsoft 365, but now there’s a free version that is, in many ways, more generous than Slack’s free version.
The problem? Getting started with Microsoft Teams is really confusing. I’ve been setting up and testing software professionally for over a decade, and I struggled to log in for the first time. So did a few of my colleagues, including a senior engineer.
"Free" doesn’t mean "consumer-friendly." Microsoft Teams feels like it’s built for organizations with a company-wide Microsoft 365 subscription and an IT staff responsible for rolling things out. But if you’re using the free version of Teams, it’s just you against the app.
Here’s our guide to setting up the free version of Microsoft Teams, with a breakdown of what is and isn’t offered in the free version.
Not sure if Microsoft Teams is the right tool for you? Check out our list of the best team chat apps.
How to set up the free version of Microsoft Teams
The best place to get started with Microsoft Teams is on this landing page. Click the Sign Up for free button. You’ll be asked to sign in using a Microsoft account (i.e., your personal Microsoft account) or to create one.
If you don’t have a Microsoft account, just enter your email address. You’ll be asked what you plan to use the free Teams account for.
Choose whatever is accurate, then finish creating your new Microsoft account by adding a password, confirming your email address, and filling in some contact information. Eventually, you’ll be asked whether you want to use the desktop app or the web app.
Use whatever you prefer for now—you can always switch later. Teams will eventually launch. One important thing to keep in mind: you are now the admin of both an org and a team named after the company name you provided when you filled in your contact information. For example: I used "Zapier Content" as my company name. Microsoft Teams made an "org" called "Zapier Content" and a "team" called "Zapier Content." I can make more teams, if I want, and they would be part of the "Zapier Content" org.
It’s a little confusing, but basically the org is the larger organization and the teams are the smaller sub-groups inside that. Why get into all of this now? Because Teams is built around the assumption that you’re part of an org that is made up of already active Microsoft 365 users. This becomes evident if you click the prominent Add more people button in your team.
The interface that comes up offers to search your org, which is currently empty.
New free users have no organization to search—they’re building a new org from scratch. The solution is to invite people to your org instead, which you can do by clicking your profile picture in the top-right corner, then clicking Manage org.
From here you can add more members using the Invite people button.
This will bring up a few options.
There’s a link you can copy and send to people, but in our testing, this worked inconsiste