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Community Member

Why Do I Have Two Accounts?

I have a new instance of Canvas and I have two accounts. I cannot delete either of them and they are not a sub-accounts. In one account I can create courses and in the other I can't. From what I read you should start with one account at the highest level of the hierarchy and create your courses from there. Please tale a look at my uploads so I can figure out what is going on.  



263081_site admin list.png


9 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi ravmitterhoff,

Can you please advise if you are using an Instructure hosted instance of Canvas, or a self-installed and hosted version?

Also, can you please let us know if you are the top level administrator? I assume you are based on our previous conversations, but it never hurts to check. Also, is your Canvas instance part of a larger instance at all?

Look forward to hearing from you.


1. Pre installed by the people at Canvas LMS Hosting Service - VPS with Canvas LMS Installed  

2. Yes I am the only admin

This is what I just wrote them:

Sorry but from what I have read and seen it is not true that canvas has to have two accounts and there is something wrong with my installation because:
1. I cannot delete either account.
2. One account is not a sub-account of the other one (this makes no sense)
3. The "site admin" account cannot create courses so what kind of account is it?

I am putting a lot of hours into this project and I do not want problems down the line. Please delete the "site admin" account or reinstall canvas because there appears to be a problem. See the attachment showing canvas with one account.


Can someone figure out what is going on here? This is what my hosting company wrote me:

"You see "site admin" account because you are a superuser in your canvas installation."

Does that make sense? Is there such a thing as a site admin" account that cannot make courses and only has this list in the settings:

Developer Keys

A normal account has more listed settings like this:

Question Banks
Developer Keys
Admin Tools

It says clearly on What is the hierarchical structure for Canvas accounts? 

Every instance of Canvas has the potential to contain a hierarchy of accounts and sub-accounts but starts out with just one account (referred to as the top-level account).

Something is wrong and I do feel like putting hours in canvas if all my work could potentially lost. Is there a canvas expert out there who can clarify this for me?

We host through Canvas so it may be different depending on your host (who may need to provide even more clarification to you).

But it doesn't look like you have 2 accounts, but one "account" that has separate access points or roles. As our institution's admin, I can give people access in different ways (teacher of their own courses, access to multiple sub-accounts, etc). Can you find any clues in your permissions in looking at the account roles?

With different hosts, we may be talking apples & oranges here...but it looks like you have 2 account "roles" within your account.

Community Member

This is what my host wrote:

Yes, we are absolutely sure that everything is OK with your canvas installation. Documentation which you are referring to is related to canvas hosted by Instructure. Of course "Site Admin" access level is not available there.

So I guess thats it.

Yep I think  @kbickell  is spot on. It looks like this is the way they just happen to configure their particular installations. Given that it is self hosted (and quite flexible) there may be a reason for this. 

I will admit I am only just starting to play with the Self Hosted version to try to learn a little about it, so it is entirely possible that this is a standard for all self-hosted installations, though I would find that unlikely.

You may want to ask them specifically if the 'Site Admin' is an option that they set up differently to the default out-of-box self-hosted installation, and if so, what the specific reasoning is. While this won't change anything, it may help for you to know the reasoning and for which cases you should use the different accounts.

I will also put out the possibility that this is standard for Canvas, and for hosted installations by Instructure, we simply do not need or see the Site Admin sub-account.

Glad they were able to help out, but if you are curious, never hurts to ask more questions.


We have a self hosted instance and this has 2 accounts too. Our servers are on premises and we pulled the source code direct from the Canvas github repo. The Site Admin is as it says, a site admin, used to configure the site itself. The other account is your main instance account used for courses, sub-accounts etc. I'm not sure but I believe in hosted Canvas instances you would not have access to the Site Admin, but your CSM probably would, and when you ask for additional features to be turned on (i.e. International SMS) that are not in your list of feature options, this is probably where they would turn it on for you.

I suspect that the similarities in the 2 accounts are where they share the same class, rather than developing new classes just for the site admin account e.g. the ability to add sub-accounts in site admin is pointless, but is probably built in to the class.

Anyway, the short answer is I believe this is quite normal for self hosted instances, you just don't see it in the SaaS version.

Hope this helps

Adventurer III

Hi --

The existence of the Site Admin "account" is normal; you can think of it as a special root-level account that has access to certain instance-wide settings, but it's above the level where you'd create courses.  In Canvas instances that are hosted by Instructure, only Instructure has access to the Site Admin account, and customers only see the next level down. 

Our production instances of Canvas are hosted by Instructure, and there we don't even see the Site Admin account. We also operate a local instance of Canvas that our development team uses for testing purposes, and there we do see (and have access to) the Site Admin account.

In any case, as others have said, this is a normal setup; there are only a few settings that can only be done at the Site Admin level, and most of your work will be done at the "Global Yeshiva Courses" level (or lower). 


Community Coach
Community Coach


Were you able to find an answer to your question? I am going to go ahead and mark this question as answered because there hasn't been any more activity in a while so I assume that you have the information that you need. If you still have a question about this or if you have information that you would like to share with the community, by all means, please do come back and leave a comment.  Also, if this question has been answered by one of the previous replies, please feel free to mark that answer as correct.