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What is Restricted SharePoint Search?

SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft Office. Launched in 2001, SharePoint is primarily sold as a document management and storage system, but the product is highly configurable, and usage varies substantially among organizations. SharePoint provides a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from any device.

SharePoint features include an interface that closely approximates Microsoft Office, sites for team collaboration, email integration, and templates for standard business processes. It is designed to increase productivity by providing robust collaboration tools, seamless integration with other Microsoft products, and powerful search features that help users find the information they need.

What is Restricted SharePoint Search?

The following section will explore how to set up and use Restricted SharePoint Search, its implications, and best practices for its effective use.

What is Restricted SharePoint Search?

Restricted SharePoint Search is a feature in SharePoint in Microsoft 365 that allows Global and SharePoint administrators to maintain a list of SharePoint sites (known as the “allowed list”) that they have checked the permissions and applied data governance for. This allowed list defines which SharePoint sites can participate in organization-wide search and Copilot experiences.

By default, the Restricted SharePoint Search setting is turned off and the allowed list is empty. This feature is currently available as a Public Preview for customers having Microsoft 365 and Copilot licenses.

The main reasons to use Restricted SharePoint Search are:

  • It gives you time to review and audit site permissions.

  • It helps maintain momentum with your Copilot deployment while implementing comprehensive data security with SharePoint Advanced Management, and Microsoft Purview.

  • It addresses oversharing concerns by allowing organizations to prevent sites from showing up in organization-wide search results and Copilot experiences until your admins or site owners can check the permissions on the site content.

Setting Up Restricted SharePoint Search

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to get started with Restricted SharePoint Search:

STEP 1: Get the current mode that is set for Restricted Search

It is typically done using a PowerShell script. To verify the status of the Restricted SharePoint search, run the following script in PowerShell:


This command will return either Enabled or Disabled based on the current settings.

STEP 2: Enable Restricted SharePoint Search

If the status is disabled, then you can enable the status using the below PowerShell command:

Set-SPOTenantRestrictedSearchMode -Mode Enabled

STEP 3: Add Sites to the allowed list by providing the URL

You can add site URLs to the allowed list when the Restricted SharePoint Search is enabled. You can do this by running the following command in PowerShell:

Add-SPOTenantRestrictedSearchAllowedList -SitesList <List[string]>

Replace <List[string]> with the list of site URLs that you want to add to the allowed list.

Note: You must be SharePoint Online or Global Administrator to run these scripts. Also, before you use the PowerShell scripts, you need to download the latest SharePoint Online Management Shell and connect to SharePoint as a Global Administrator or SharePoint Administrator in Microsoft 365.

Implications of Using Restricted SharePoint Search

Enabling Restricted SharePoint Search has several implications:

Impact on the Overall Search Experience

  • When Restricted SharePoint Search is enabled, the search results are limited to sites on the allowed list. This means that users will only see search results from the sites explicitly added to the allowed list by the administrators.

  • In addition to the sites on the allowed list, the search results will include users’ frequently visited sites, sites that users already have permission, and users’ recently accessed files.

Effect on Non-Copilot Users

  • Non-Copilot users will also experience the same limitations in their search results. This means that even if they are not using Copilot, their search results will still be limited to the sites on the allowed list, their frequently visited sites, sites having permission, and their recently accessed files.

  • This could potentially limit the information that non-Copilot users can access through search, especially if they are looking for the information from sites, that are not on the allowed list.

Impact on Copilot’s Ability to Provide Accurate and Comprehensive Responses

  • Restricted SharePoint Search also impacts Copilot’s ability to provide accurate and comprehensive responses. Since Copilot uses the search results to respond, the limitations in the search results will also limit the information that Copilot can provide.

  • For example, if a user asks Copilot for information on a site that is not on the allowed list, Copilot will not be able to provide that information.

  • Therefore, while Restricted SharePoint Search can enhance data security and governance, it can also limit the effectiveness of Copilot.

Best Practices for Using Restricted SharePoint Search

  1. Understand Your Requirements: Before enabling Restricted SharePoint Search, understand your organization’s data security and governance. This will help you determine which sites should be added to the allowed list.

  2. Review and Audit Site Permissions: Use Restricted SharePoint Search as an opportunity to review and audit site permissions. This can help ensure that only appropriate content is available in search results.

  3. Curate the Allowed List: Start by creating an initial list of sites for the allowed list. This list can include known sites that are safe to participate in organization-wide search and the Copilot experience, as well as the top active and shared sites.

  4. Work with Site Admins and Stakeholders: Collaborate with your site admins and stakeholders to assess permissions and review the sites. This can help ensure that the sites on the allowed list are appropriate for your organization’s needs.

  5. Use PowerShell Scripts: Manage the Restricted SharePoint Search settings using PowerShell scripts. This includes checking the current status, enabling or disabling Restricted SharePoint Search, and managing the allowed list.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  1. Neglecting to Implement a Governance Strategy: A common mistake is neglecting to implement a governance strategy. This can lead to issues with data security and governance.

  2. Failing to Account for Change Management: Change management is crucial when implementing new features like Restricted SharePoint Search. Without proper change management, you may face resistance from users and other stakeholders.

  3. Overlooking the Impact on Search Experience: Remember that enabling Restricted SharePoint Search impacts the overall search experience, even for non-Copilot users. Make sure you communicate this to your users and manage their expectations.

  4. Ignoring the Impact on Copilot: Restricted SharePoint Search can impact Copilot’s ability to provide accurate and comprehensive responses. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to enable this feature.

  5. Failure to Understand Regulatory Requirements: Failure to understand regulatory requirements for data retention and preservation can lead to non-compliance, resulting in fines, legal actions, or reputational damage.


Restricted SharePoint Search plays a crucial role in enhancing data security and governance. It provides organizations, a way to control which sites can participate in organization-wide search and Copilot experiences, thereby helping to prevent oversharing and ensure that only appropriate content is available in search results. However, it’s important to carefully consider the implications of enabling this feature, as it can also limit the search experience for both Copilot and non-Copilot users.


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